Commissioners reluctant, approve HAVA Grant Award


Commissioners reluctant, approve HAVA Grant Award
By Cynthia Lytle


The Caldwell County Commissioners approved Monday, a resolution submitting an application for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Grant Award to the Secretary of State.

According to the act, HAVA, which was established in 2002, was created to provide funds to states to r

eplace punch card voting systems. It was also established to create the Election Assistance Commission that provides assistance with federal elections and to establish minimum election administrative standards for state and local governments with responsibility for federal elections.

Under the act, states must install at least one election voting machine per polling site by January 2006. These systems will provide help such as permitting voters to review selections before casting votes, preventing voters from over-voting on the ballot, allowing individuals with disabilities similar privacy and independence as other voters, providing alternative language accessibility and maintaining consistency in the voting system.

According to the agreement, if compliant, the grant will award counties with $7,000 for a County Education Fund, $30,643.76 for General Compliance and $60,000 for Accessible Voting Systems in each polling place.

Yet the county must purchase the machines beforehand, which could raise taxes and create other problems.

“[We] may have to reduce the number of polling places,” stated County Judge H.T. Wright, while discussing the resolution.

The funding awards, as stated in the grant agreement, are actually reimbursements. The County Education Fund is a reimbursement of costs from attending professional election training and expenditures incurred by the offices of the county election officials, the General Compliance award is for reimbursement of the purchasing of equipment or software for the voting system and educating voters and the Accessible Voting System award is for reimbursement of costs incurred as a result of acquiring a HAVA-compliant accessible voting system, which is required by federal law.

Although they were reluctant due to the possible problems posed by the agreement, the commissioners unanimously approved the resolution.

In other voting news, the commissioners approved the appointment of the Central Counting Station, Resolution Committee, Early Voting Ballot Board and Signature Verification Committee for the November 2004 General Election. The appointment includes Fred Bell as Presiding Judge of the Central Counting Station with Louis Berry as the alternate, Milton Shaw as Resolution Committee Chairman, Florence Bell as Presiding Election Judge of the Early Voting Ballot Board, with Royce King as alternate and Barbara Huff as Signature Verification Committee Chairman.

In lighter news, the commissioners approved the installation of two new 30-foot flagpoles and sleeves for five 25-foot removable flagpoles on county courthouse grounds. The plan was presented by Pat King, who used the inability to raise the South Korean flag when the Korean consulate presented 29 medals to Caldwell County veterans as an example of the county’s need to add the poles. With the new flagpoles intact, the U.S., Texas and any visiting country’s flag will have the ability to fly in Caldwell County. The five surrounding flagpoles will represent each division of the armed services.

In other news, the court approved a public hearing for Oct. 25.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m., the hearing will be regarding the proposed Pebblestone subdivision, which is located off CR 90 and CR 158. The hearing will continue at 9:40 a.m. with discussion regarding a request to set a speed limit on CR 171, Seminole Trail.

The commissioners also discussed whether or not the county could take over roads in the Skyview subdivision, located off of Highway 80 in the city of Martindale. During Monday’s discussion, District Attorney Chris Schneider suggested the county consult with the attorney general before taking any further action.

The court approved the use of county equipment to removed excess dirt from cemeteries in unincorporated parts of Caldwell County. This decision was based on an earlier law that allowed the digging and closing of graves using county equipment. The stipulation was that the grave is at least 50 years old and the requesting organization was not fraternal or religious.

In brief court news, the county employees will be switching benefits and insurance companies. With the new company, the county will be able to save between $10,000 and $12,000.

The County Auditor’s Office released a Financial Statement Analysis and Statement of Financial Condition of Caldwell County for the nine months ending June 30. The statement showed revenues are up 9.29 percent over the same period last year with an increase of $639,554. Sales tax and ad valorem taxes are contributors to the revenue while the county jail and indigent health care are cited as the largest contributors to the expected expenditure deficit.


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