Taylor County commissioners Tuesday approved an engagement letter with FTN Financial Capital Markets to serve as a bidding agent for tax notes that will fund new voting machines for the county.
The new touch-screen machines are anticipated to cost $2.1 million.
“I think the necessity to purchase new voting equipment is pretty obvious,” Commissioner Chuck Statler said. “Our current equipment is 17 years old, it’s been through a lot of elections. The current machines that we have, you can’t get parts for them.”
Concerns expressed by some about the security of voting information are not founded, he said, the system being purchased boasting redundant, secure storage for results and the ability to produce a “paper recap” at the end of the voting period, he said.
“I think this is a very secure system, it’s a safe system,” Statler said.
More: Taylor County elections chief defends security of new voting system
Move to old courthouse
Commissioners also received an update on their planned move to and the renovations of the 1915 historic courthouse.
They will move to the structure later this month to make way for a new Child Protective Services courtroom.
The old courthouse will be renovated, hopefully with the help of an up to $6 million grant to help cover costs. A condition of receiving the grant from the Texas Historic Commission is for commissioners to be using the historic space.
More: Taylor County’s plans for renovating 1915 courthouse striding forward
The cost will be between $10 million to $14 million, the grant potentially lowering costs but requiring a full historical restoration. If the grant isn’t received, commissioners could scale back on the restoration to shave off some expense.
A substantially complete set of plans should be crafted by November, while a final review will be in February.
If awarded a grant, the county likely will receive it in July 2020, with an initial demolition phase planned for that fall.
County ambulance service
Commissioners also voted to take proposals for ambulance service for the county. Sealed proposals will be due Aug. 1.
More: Taylor County EMS looking to a tax district to fund improved ambulance services
The process is not new to the court, Statler said, adding that Taylor County EMS has done good work for the county in recent years.
“(But) because of the changes in our unincorporated areas, we just need to assess what we have and increasing costs that are there,” he said.
Commissioner Kyle Kendrick said that as the county was facing revenue caps next year, commissioners were trying to figure out “what was going to be the best solution for the county.”
County Judge Downing Bolls said the idea of taking requests for proposals has been around for about a year.
“We know that we’re going to be capped next year, we’re going to be capped 3.5 percent,” he said. “So we’ve really got to start looking at what our expenses are and how we’re going to make this better and make these things happen. This is nothing against the ambulance service we currently have.”
The county does not have to accept any of the submitted proposals.
Commissioners will have a public hearing at their July 23 meeting related to a petition by Taylor County EMS to put on the Nov. 5 ballot a proposed Emergency Services District for Taylor County.
The district, which would be similar to a school or hospital district, could impose its own, sales and use tax and/or property tax to support provision of emergency services.
For newly-created ESDs, the maximum tax rate that could be imposed is 10 cents per $100 of property value.