County extends local disaster declaration

Liberty County Judge Jay Knight signs an extension to the local disaster declaration while Emergency Management Director Krista Beasley-Adams looks on.

While Texas waits for a federal disaster declaration for damages related to Tropical Storm Imelda, Liberty County commissioners on Thursday extended the local disaster declaration, which was only in effect for seven days immediately after the storm.

The County’s Office of Emergency Management is still compiling the total dollar figure of damages as residents report their claims to authorities. As of late last week, the county was just below the threshold for a federal disaster declaration, but county officials were expecting the number to climb as residents finished assessing their homes and businesses.

The County is asking anyone with damage to their property as a result of Tropical Storm Imelda to call the County OEM office at 936-336-3219.

Commissioners Court also voted to seek requests for proposals (RFPs) for a new jail contractor. The County’s contract with GEO Group, Inc., which was extended by two years in 2018, is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2020.

“I am asking you to go out for RFPs, so we can get some ideas of what we might be looking at in costs for Oct. 1, 2020,” said County Judge Jay Knight. “At least this way we will be ahead of the game.”

The County is considering other options for the jail’s operation after GEO Group, Inc., failed two jail inspections that were performed on April 22 and June 28, 2019. The Jail Commission in April found that the county jail needed preventive maintenance to lock panels, lights, dayroom showers, intercoms, unsecured breaker boxes and phone partitions. The April inspection also revealed that some inmate medical files pertaining to mental history checks were not being kept on file and that the procedures and paperwork for identifying inmates with mental health issues and those potentially suicidal were not being properly documented by jail staff.

When the jail was reinspected in June 2019, some of the same issues were still ongoing, particularly those related to identifying mentally disabled or potentially suicidal inmates. Other issues highlighted in June were the length of time it took for inmates to receive their physician-prescribed medications, and the presence of contraband items, such as razor blades, homemade Sterno flames, tattoo gun, water weights and pornographic photos.

In other business, Commissioners Court approved the installation of electrical lines at the new tax office at a cost of $5,100; refunded monies to two residents for overpaid or erroneously-addressed tax accounts; and amended a contract with Houston El Norte Property Owners Association, which regulates the properties in the Colony Ridge communities in the Plum Grove Area. The contract amendment with the POA brings the total number of deputies patrolling the community from four to eight.

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