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Commissioners split on relocating WWI monument

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    County Clerk and DAR member Vanessa Burzynski presents a Resolution from the Robert Raines Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to commissioners in recognition of Flag Day for the County's "proper use, correct display and patriotic presenta

In a 3-1 vote Wednesday, June 15, Grimes County commissioners approved the relocation of the World War I monument from Historic Anderson Park to the Grimes County Justice and Business Center. Voting in favor of the motion were commissioners Phillip Cox, David Dobyanski and Chad Mallett. Voting against was Commissioner Barbara Walker. Judge Joe Fauth was not present.

The request for approval of the $1,500 bid to move the monument was presented by Grimes County Historical Commission (GCHC) member and IT Tech III Andrew Duncan, on behalf of GCHC president and county Tax Assessor-Collector Mary Ann Waters and prompted lengthy discussion about employees circumventing the court’s authority to make this decision, whether or not the monument was considered in the construction phase and potential future requests for monuments on county grounds.

Commissioner Phillip Cox pointed out the lack of a monuments policy and stated that the authority for overseeing county facilities belongs to the County.

Cox said, “And in order to move that monument, it would have had to come before commissioners court and be approved for that task. The pedestal or concrete was not in the building plans and was an afterthought.”

Commissioner Walker stated her issue was a “controversial history” of monuments being placed on courthouse grounds and “how many more will want to move to the grounds.”

Elections Administrator and GCHC member Lucy Ybarra suggested the GCHC misunderstood the order in which the request was to be made but that there are already monuments on county property.

She added, “This property (monument) is Grimes County property, therefore, what’s on the property is Grimes County property. We’re merely saying this monument is located at one location owned and operated by Grimes County and we’re moving it to another location. The monument is ours, as a county.”

Commissioner David Dobyanski expressed his frustration at a conversation about moving a memorial to veterans.

Cox responded saying, “It’s less about the monument and more about the process.”

Commenting on the lack of court consideration, Commissioner Chad Mallett recalled discussion but said in the absence of cost-related information at the time, there was no formal agenda item.

The World War I monument project was initiated in 2017 by the Robert Raines Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to recognize Grimes County WWI veterans, and was prompted by the nationwide commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I. Two years of fundraising culminated in the memorial’s heavily attended unveiling April 6, 2019, at Historic Anderson Park.

April 22, 2020, commissioners court approved accepting the donation of Historic Anderson, Inc., property to Grimes County. GCHC expenses are now addressed in the county budget.

County to pay more for healthcare

Commissioners approved renewing the current county employee medical plan but the same benefits come with a 7.5% premium hike. The “per employee” cost increase is about $62.78. While Grimes County pays its employee’s premiums, employees are responsible for their dependent coverage.

According to Grimes County Human Resources Director Talitta Coleman, there will be no change to the $25 copay, $750 deductible or $3,000 out-of-pocket maximum provided by Plan 1100-NG, nor an increase to dental, prescription drug or life insurance premiums.

Two additional options presented to commissioners increased premiums at a lower rate but employee copays would have risen $5 and deductibles would have been as high as $3,500 for individuals and $4,500 for family members.

Coleman attributed the rate increase to more claims paid out for Grimes County by the Texas Association of Counties risk pool last year than premiums paid in by Grimes County and pointed out that statewide, Texas insurance inflation rate is 9.8%- 13.8%.

Commissioner Phillip Cox said, “I believe that the health insurance is one of the most valuable and important benefits that is offered in Grimes County. If we need to cut somewhere, I don’t think health insurance is where we need do it. I also need to point out that the taxpayers do contribute about $11,000 per employee to pay for the health insurance.”

Other court action:

•Approved Consent Agenda items which included a waterline installation permit on Cajun Ridge in Pct. 1 for Wickson Creek SUD, the treasurer’s list of claims and bills, payroll, budget amendments and/or line-item transfers.

•Presented employee service awards to Road & Bridge Engineer Harry Walker for five years, Emergency Management Services Coordinator David Lilly for 10 years and R&B Executive Assistant Patti Ermis for 15 years.

•Received an update on projects related to the jail, the Justice Center and the maintenance/storage building from Maintenance Administrative Assistant Elizabeth Vannolan.

•Approved surplus items unable to be utilized by the County to be placeed for auction at www.govdeals.net.

•Viewed a video presented by Johnny Sexton highlighting the need for more law enforcement in Grimes County.

•Accepted a donation of 1.229 acres of real property at 225 Fanthorp at Apolonia in Anderson from the estate of William Paul (Billy) Thomas, Jr., which includes a house and both metal and wood barns.

•Approved a request by Road & Bridge Engineer Harry Walker to adopt fee revisions in the Subdivision Rules related to replats, plan review and construction inspections.

Commissioners court may be viewed in its entirety at www.facebook.com/GrimesCountyCourtHouse.

Burn ban: Reinstated effective June 15, 2022.