Courthouse to undergo landscaping work

The weather may be getting colder, but the moisture doesn't seem to be coming just yet. The area is still dry and the burn ban was left on at the regular Nolan County Commissioner's meeting on Monday, at least for the time being. The topic of electricity was a hot one. Two presentations on possible ways to lower electricity costs were heard at the meeting; Bob Forman presented for Priority Power Management Company and Lee Washington also presented. Priority Power Management Company is an independent company with more than 270 years experience. According to Forman, the company serves 1,200 clients and manages about $1 billion energy spending a year. They are rated amongst the largest companies in Texas and have made a national footprint. They employee 25 plus employees, with half of them dedicated to customer care. They are focused on gathering data, risk management and demand management and finding the best price for their customer. Local customers include McMurry University, Sweetwater Travel Center, Enterprise building in Abilene, First National Bank and Abilene Christian University. Nolan County is currently one of their customers, with their contracting ending in May 2012. The data gathered showed a savings of 20 percent to 26 percent, for a 12 to 36 month period. Washington presented that the company likes to provide service from the light bulbs to the price management. He demonstrated how the light bulbs are cool to the touch, due to the fact that they are not producing as much heat, which in turn uses less electricity. After compiling data and obtaining five bids from their 29 companies, an estimated annual savings of 27.9 percent was figured. Their company also provides the information pertaining to the newest technology on the market and is responsible for serving two billion kilowatt hours per year. Tommy Morris, with BCBS, provided information regarding the possibility of retiree health insurance benefit coverage. According to Morris, other counties implement this coverage, but he recommended that the policy only continue until age 65. After the age of 65 Medicare and supplemental insurance coverage will provide sufficient coverage. If accepted, the coverage would only cover new retirees and be available to employees that have been there for 10 years or more. County rates could be affected, but no drastic rate would be incurred. According to Nancy Johnson, also with BCBS, the number of participants would grow gradually and eventually the growth and fall-off would balance out the costs. The Nolan County Sheriff’s Department received approval for the deputation of Daniel King. King is currently employed as a jailer, but has the qualifications to be a deputy. The deputation will allow the sheriff’s office to use him, if the need should arise. In another agenda item at the meeting, Richard Smola was appointed to the Sweetwater Municipal Auditorium Board, after a written request from president of the board John Spaulding. Bonds were approved for district clerk Patti Neal, Justice of the Peace Sharon Gardner, county commissioner Terry Locklar and county auditor, Judy Kasper, in the amount of $5,000. The Supreme Court of Texas requested that Nolan County enter into an MOU, for support of continuity of court operations in the event of an emergency. According to Lisa Peterson, county attorney, the agreement would provide a link between the Supreme Court and other counties and ensure the use of their facilities, in case of an emergency event. The courthouse would be opened and the court staff be available, if needed. Currently, Nolan County is in good relations with other surrounding counties that the need for this agreement is not present. There are 145 counties that have signed into this agreement, but Nolan County will abstain at this time. The courthouse will be undergoing landscaping maintenance in the near future. Double Mountain Landscape Company has provided a quote on the purchase of new grass. The grass will be placed around the courthouse in areas that have been damaged by the recent renovations to the concrete and in areas that are in need of sprucing up. The purchase of plants is also being considered. Due to the upcoming winter season, the time frame for planting is shortening, but might still be possible. Scavita will be recreating 32 books for the county clerk. The recreation will cost about $18,000 to be paid from the records archive fund. They will also be providing an offsite back-up service for the county clerk’s records for a fee of $50 to $60 per month. Currently, hard drives are having to be switched daily to serve as the backup system. The current storage area for the election equipment is in need of climate controls. The storage area will either be relocated or there is the possibility of installing insulation and vent systems.Next year's election could entail new equipment, which would lessen the amount of paper records and printing. A HAVA grant is available and could possibly be used to purchase ePollBooks. The ePollBooks would make the registration of voters quicker. The books come with a scanner, which could be used for driver's licenses or voter registration cards. Once the card is scanned it will pull up the voter's information, such as their voting precinct, registration information and which ballot they should receive. “This would be more thorough and help ensure there isn’t double voting,” County Clerk Pat McGowan said. With the purchase of the ePollBooks, during one election a savings of $1,100 is possible. It would also be able to return a quicker report of voters. The yearly maintenance fee would be $300. “This is the direction that the state will eventually push everyone towards,” McGowan said. “It will save lots of human error.”The community service program for the local area could possibly see some changes. A calendar system is trying to be implemented, to maximize the use of the program. New safety measures are in the works, which could include an orientation class and the recording of medical problems. The possibility of an insurance coverage plan, during the community service, is also being considered. If implemented, there would be a one-time charge of $10 and would provide a $2,500 coverage. The program is trying to instill more opportunities and education. Through the orientation, it would also help find more suitable probations for the designated projects. If signed with the 32nd Judicial Community Supervision agreement, then each county department would be able to set up their own terms. There is a possibility that the program could be receiving less funding after the new year. The next county meeting will be in two weeks, in the county courtroom.