Brownwood News – In the June 15 meeting of the Brown County Commissioners Court, approval was given to the assignment of the TrueCore lease at the Oaks juvenile detention facility. Commissioner Joel Kelton presided over the meeting, as County Judge Paul Lilly was absent. Present were Commissioners Gary Worley, Larry Traweek, and Wayne Shaw.
For many years the juvenile detention facility on the western edge of Brownwood was operated by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, known as the Ron Jackson Unit. A few years ago the State scaled back their operations and turned over part of the facilities to the County. The County leased some of those facilities to TrueCore, a private juvenile detention operator, which calls it The Oaks. Now TrueCore has announced that they are exiting all operations in Texas, and have reached an agreement to assign their lease to another private operator known as Rite of Passage. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department has approved assignment of the lease.
At the last Commissioners Court meeting County Judge Lilly suggested this might be a good time to put the lease out for bid, but no action was taken at that meeting. Today County Attorney Shane Britton reported that the contract with TrueCore does not prohibit assignment of the lease to another operator, and in fact the Commissioners Court has no authority to prohibit. He said that while the Commissioners Court approval is not required for assignment of the lease, that it is a good idea to do so. On a 4-0 unanimous vote, the Commissioners did approve the assignment of the lease to Rite of Passage.
Rite of Passage Michael Cantrell said that TrueCore currently employs 82 persons. All will be offered jobs with Rite of Passage, and the transition should be seamless. Rite of Passage plans to take over operations on June 30. One-hundred twenty juveniles are currently housed at The Oaks.
In other business:
*** The Commissioners voted 4-0 to keep the existing burn ban in place.
*** County Tax Assessor-Collector Christine Pentecost sought and received approval on employee changes. Chief Deputy Clerk Darlene Hair is retiring, she will be replaced by Deputy Clerk Gaye Botts. Regina Cunningham, a new employee, will replace Botts.
*** The Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the installation of a private line on CR-235 by Brookesmith Special Utility District.
*** Justice of the Peace Jim Cavanaugh sought approval to use monies from the JP Technology Fund for personnel expenses. Cavanaugh explained that the case docket for JP court is severely backlogged (currently 3347 cases), partly because of delays forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and partly because of a new state law that increased the limit for civil suits in JP court from $10,000 to $20,000, thus moving some cases from District Court to JP Court. As the courthouse is now starting to re-open, his staff has been putting in many extra hours to get the cases ready for court. The money in the JP Tech fund is collected through filing fees, and is intended for technology expenditures. But Texas law SB-1840 does allow for that money to be used for other purposes, subject to approval from the Commissioners Court. Cavanaugh proposed a $1000 bonus for each of three staff members. The Commissioners approved 4-0.
*** City of Brownwood Fire Marshall Buddy Preston addressed the Court concerning the City’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. The City’s plan is currently filed as an extension of the Mills County Hazard Mitigation Plan. They would like to change that to be an extension of the Brown County plan, which itself is an extension of the West Texas Council of Government plan. The change cannot be done until 2022, but Preston would like a resolution from the Commissioners to accept filing the City of Brownwood’s plan as an extension of Brown County’s plan. No vote was taken, as the resolution was not ready for today’s meeting. The issue will be considered again at the next Commissioners Court meeting.
***The Court was addressed by Aaron Meyers of Nobles Road Construction. Meyers said his company has done some road work in Precinct 4, but has not been paid. The County owes Nobles Construction about $600,000, and payment is 90-120 days in arrears, causing serious problems for his company. Meyers was informed that the road repairs are being paid with a grant from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration). The money from FEMA was recently received, and the County will pay the bill very soon.