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County to eye new polling locations

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

A request from a teacher at the Gary Job Corps campus in western Caldwell County prompted a whirlwind of public response and left Caldwell County Commissioners spinning on Monday morning.

The request, which was presented by Precinct 3 Commissioner Neto Madrigal on behalf of the teachers and the voters at the campus, wa

s for the county to consider installing an early voting location at Camp Gary for the upcoming Nov. 2, 2010, General Election.

Under state and Federal rules, any such request must be submitted to the county election official, in this case, Mary Vicky Gonzales, in the form of a petition signed by no less than 15 voters. Gonzales could not confirm on Monday morning whether such a petition had been received.

The request, according to Madrigal, was intended to make it easier for students at Camp Gary to avail themselves of the election process, without having to disrupt their class schedules to be bussed either to Lockhart or Luling for early voting, or to Martindale on Election Day.

Many members of a standing-room-only gallery objected to the plan, for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, residents of other areas of the county which do not have early voting locations suggested it be unfair to place an early voting location at Gary, where historically voter turnout has been low, and when there is such a great need in other areas.

“Speaking as both a citizen and a candidate, I’m concerned about putting an early voting location in a place where we can’t go to campaign, and where a concentration of transient voters could have an impact on the outcome of local elections,” said Alfonso Campos, who is running against incumbent Precinct Three Justice of the Peace Mary Alice Llanas in November. Llanas said that she, too, was unable to access the facility, and even when she was called there in her official capacity, security guards stopped her at the gate.

Concerns raised by Llanas and Campos were echoed by others in the crowd, who reminded the Court that the Gary facility is accessible only to those who live and work there, an that a polling location on the campus could not be utilized by other residents of the county.

At the end of a lengthy discussion during which no decision was made, County Judge Ronnie Duesterheft summed up his opinion on the matter.

“I don’t want to deny anyone the right to vote, and I certainly don’t want to see anyone in Caldwell County that wants to vote be unable to,” he said. “But I’m also not sure about extending it to one person’s convenience over another person’s.”

In the past, requests have been made for extended hours for early voting in Luling, and Gonzales said she had also heard discussion, but not received petitions, for polling places in Martindale, Lytton Springs and McMahan.

In other news, the Commissioners engaged in discussion with Commissioners and Road and Bridge officials from Guadalupe County, along with Martindale Mayor Loraine Harrison, regarding the construction and maintenance of the bridge at Scull’s Crossing in Martindale.

For several years, efforts to rebuild or replace the bridge have been thwarted, often by disagreements between property owners on the Caldwell County and Guadalupe County sides of the river, and most recently as the result of a grant that was originally funded, and then rescinded by the Federal Government when plans between all the stakeholders could not be finalized.

Guadalupe County Commissioner Cesareo Guadarrama said Guadalupe County had the money in their budget this year earmarked for construction of a new bridge, which Guadalupe County will fund and maintain, provided the City of Martindale or Caldwell County pave the access to the bridge on the Caldwell County side.

Both the Commissioners and Harrison expressed interest in the project, which will likely be discussed at greater length with the Martindale City Council during their next regular meeting.

In brief news:
The Court received a report from the architectural firm Broaddus and Associates regarding the current use and availability of space in Caldwell County facilities, in particular the Historic Courthouse, the Judicial Center Annex, and the Caldwell County Tax Office. The presentation confirmed what many most county employers and leaders already know – that the County offices have far less space than they need. Although some suggestions to ease the space crunch were offered, Duesterheft suggested that further discussion be tabled until after the election, since four of the five seats on the court are up for election in November.

The Commissioners opted to leave the outdoor burning ban off.

They entered resolutions in support of the City of San Marcos to seek funds to upgrade the San Marcos Airport, which is located in Caldwell County, and in support of Rad-Tec., Inc., a scrap tire facility in Reedville.

The county paid bills in the amount of $177,962.51, which includes $1,475 in indigent legal defense and $31,144.84 in indigent health care.

The Caldwell County Commissioners routinely meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.

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