Brown County Commissioners, in lieu of Brown County Judge Paul Lilly, voted Tuesday morning to approve the resolution of the executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott to open bars and similar establishments at up to 50% capacity.
Among the conditions of the reopening, hospitals in the area must have had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of all hospitalized patients has not exceeded 15% – which is the case at Brownwood Regional Medical Center. Therefore, the county judge can opt for the county to open bars beginning Wednesday, Oct. 14.
Three commissioners present were present Tuesday – Joel Kelton, Larry Traweek, and Wayne Shaw. Gary Worley was not at the meeting, nor was Lilly who continues to recover from heart surgery.
County Attorney Shane Britton spoke during the meeting and explained why the commissioners were handling the situation in Lilly’s absence.
“To clarify this, the executive order specifically mentions the county judge as the one that has to formally approve it,” Britton said. “Since we know the county judge in unavailable currently, the reason the county commissioners are taking this step in lieu of waiting for the county judge is it wouldn’t be fair to a bar or restaurant that is affected by it to wait until the county judge returns, so the county commissioners are taking his place.”
Prior to the vote, retired Lt. Col. James Masters, VFW Post 3278 Commander, addressed the commissioners with a request to reopen the VFW post, which has been closed for months because it houses a canteen, which qualifies as a bar.
“Way back it had a bit of reputation, but they cracked the whip and started booting people out,” Masters said. “It’s a first-class act, there are highly-trained employees up there that require bi-annual TABC instruction so they know what they’re doing. We’re not going to have to anything go wrong with our post.”
Masters discussed monthly fish fry donations that have not been made to local programs within the community, the closure of the VFW health clinic for two months and the lack of mental health care provided in recent months.
The action taken by the commissioners will allow the VFW to re-open all its facilities.
Also Tuesday, Coordinator of Grants and Government Affairs Bob Contreras shared with commissioners an update on coronavirus grants.
In other items of business:
* No action was taken regarding the burn ban, which is currently not in place.
* Lisa Dick with the Brownwood/Brown County Health Department gave an update on the county’s COVID-19 cases.
Since her last trip to the commissioners court, there have been 62 additional positive results – 23 PCR and 39 antigen – and 1 death. There are currently 67 active cases with 3 hospitalized, up from 60 two weeks ago. Also, 15 school aged-cases during were reported over the last two weeks. As of Tuesday morning, 897 positive test results have come in, 797 people have recovered, and 33 have died. The age group with the largest numbers of positives is currently 20-29, accounting for 16 percent of cases.
* Roy Parrack, Precinct 3 Constable, suggested no fee schedule changes for 2021, which was approved unanimously.
* Vance Hill, Brown County Sheriff, suggested two fee changes – increasing the fee for housing inmates in county for other municipalities from $25 to $35 per day, and increasing out of county, non-contract fees from $45 to $50 per day. The changes were approved unanimously.
* Contreras also reported Brown County did not receive an EDA grant due to “demographics. The county just didn’t measure up,” Contreras said.
The county has received the order to commence construction on County Roads 154, 381 and 411 under the county infrastructure fund grant.
Also, the county is waiting for the commence construction order on the low water crossing grant and, regarding the backup generator grant, “There’s been some personnel changes in the upper echelon in TDEM, some of the paperwork got lost, so we’re waiting any day for them to give us the go-ahead order.”