Talks continue on county buildings

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An Austin County resident literally kicked a can through the commissioners’ courtroom during a June 25 meeting as he pleaded with elected officials to move forward with plans for a new justice center complex.

“We’re kicking the can, putting it off, don’t want to face the problem today,” said David Wendt, who addressed the court during the “public comments” portion of the meeting. “It’s passed over on the left and they don’t want to do nothing, so it’s passed over on the right, and they don’t want to do nothing. So let’s just table it for a while and put it over here. The problem gets worse. Let’s put a Band-Aid on it. That costs money. Let’s patch it. That costs money in the long run. Let’s straighten it out. Maybe we can fix it. Let’s put a top on it. That costs money, down the tubes, never to be seen again.”

Wendt used the analogy to explain that the patch jobs on the jail and courthouse are hurting taxpayers.

“You can’t clean up this old rusty can and make it last,” he said. “It’s still an old can. Our jail is absolutely deplorable. We’re renting space from Fort Bend County. Let’s not spend $10 million; let’s not spend $25 million to try to clean it again and we still end up with a little puny can on the hill. Let’s spread the word and get people on board. When Houston gets here and crime increases, [Sheriff Jack Brandes] isn’t going to have any hair left on his head.”

He said he would support a bond issue so a new complex could be constructed, replacing buildings that have been plagued with mold and leaky roofs.

Commissioner Mark Lamp said he’s been working with architect Kenny Burns, and commissioners agreed in a previous meeting to work with Lower Colorado River Authority on moving utility lines in order to make way for expansion of county buildings.

County Judge Tim Lapham clarified that the commission has to make a decision in July if it wants the matter to go before the public as a bond election in November.

In other matters during the June 25 meeting, commissioners:

• Heard an update that about $213,000 has been recovered from insurance and bonds to reimburse the county for funds that were stolen or misappropriated between 2013 and 2016, while Marcus Pena was the county’s tax assessor-collector. Pena was sentenced in March to 10 years in jail for felony theft.

• Awarded the 2018 Distinguished Service Award to Grace Holtkamp of the Austin County Historical Commission.

• Introduced Kailyn Capps, who is joining the Austin County 4-H staff.

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