County considers limits on ‘public events’
By LPR Staff
The Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court engaged in discussion on Monday that could impact events held in Lockhart.
Commissioner Tom Bonn initiated the discussion out of concern that the freshly-refurbished Courthouse Lawn was being damaged by vendor booths and pedestrian traffic. Though Bonn brought forward a list of
organizations that utilize the lawn for public functions, he admitted the discussion might be premature.
“We haven’t the chance to meet with any of the groups,” he said. “But some thoughts were, maybe imposing a time limit on how long they can use the grounds, and whether or not to allow booths on the grounds. The people aren’t really the problem – the booths are the problem.”
Bonn also posed a question about use of the electrical outlets around the Courthouse Lawn, and suggested that the County foots the bill for the power used by vendors during special events.
City of Lockhart Parks Director and Greater Caldwell County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce representative Bernie Rangel was on hand for the discussion. Rangel explained that, in the case of special events on the Square, the City of Lockhart provides electricity from the outlets in the medians, calling the electricity an “in-kind contribution,” particularly when the city is an event co-sponsor.
“I guess we all set up differently,” he said. “Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis are set up one way, and [the Hispanic Chamber] has never changed that. We set up all the food booths in the streets, and don’t allow warmers or cookers on the lawn. The electricity that the arts and crafts vendors uses is negligible – they may only run a little light or a fan.”
Rangel said the Hispanic Chamber has discussed the possibility of contributing to an earmarked fund to perform post-event maintenance on the lawn, but acknowledged other groups may not be able to do the same.
“The veterans and the prayer groups that use the lawn, they don’t do those events for money,” he said. “So they might not be in the same position as we are to contribute to that fund.”
Rangel suggested most organizations would be happy to work with the Commissioners to preserve the lawn, but they need direction from the County as to what is expected.
An initial suggestion organizations set up two rows of booths back to back was dismissed as impracticable.
“That would be hard for the vendors, because they load and unload through the back,” said Precinct Three Commissioner Neto Madrigal. “They also use the backs of the booths as prep area.”
A time limitation of a few hours at a time was also suggested, but Rangel pointed out a time limit would negatively impact the organizations.
“A limit of a couple of hours would basically alleviate everyone’s use,” he said. “[Hispanic Chamber] vendors set up in the morning and our events go for 12 – 14 hours.”
Madrigal was vocal about not wanting to see a policy that would exclude use of the Courthouse Lawn.
“This Courthouse belongs to the people of Caldwell County, not to us,” he said. “I don’t think that we should deny use to anyone.”
County Judge H.T. Wright agreed with Madrigal that use shouldn’t be limited, but suggested there were problems with Courthouse use.
“If organizations are going to use the Square and shut it down, they need to tell us,” he said. “They’re starting to close it earlier and earlier, and that affects our employees, our juries, and they’re doing it more and more.”
No decisions were made, but Bonn and Precinct Four Commissioner Joe Roland will continue meeting and discussing a possible plan with local organizations.
In other business, County Treasurer Lori Rangel-Pompa asked the Court to allow her to send a memo warning employees that they may not be paid if they don’t submit the proper paperwork.
“We have a problem with employees not turning in their timesheets on a regular basis, or not turning in their timesheets at all,” she said. “It’s gotten to the point that some employees aren’t turning in timesheets for two, three… five months at a time, or supervisors are hanging on to them.”
County policies allow for pay to be withheld if timesheets are not submitted in a timely manner.
Rangel-Pompa said her department uses timesheets to keep track of employees’ vacation pay and sick time more than to verify hours worked.
After confirming with County Auditor Sonny Rougeou that the Court would not face any legal ramifications stemming from withholding pay according to the policy, they allowed Rangel-Pompa to send the memo reminding employees and supervisors of the policy.
In brief Court news:
Under the recommendation of Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Parker, the Court opted to leave the outdoor burn ban off for the time being.
They had a brief discussion about naming the wetlands mitigation site being built at Plum Creek by the Texas Department of Transportation. Although the City of Lockhart has suggested naming the site “The Plum Creek Wetlands Park,” the Commissioners decided they would prefer to leave the word “park” out of the name, and simply call the site “the Plum Creek Wetlands.”
The County paid bills in the amount of $174,449.11, which includes $22,342 for indigent legal defense and $4,480 for indigent health care.
The Caldwell County Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Court.