The Harrison County Commissioners Court approved several interlocal agreements, on Wednesday, but not without dissension regarding contracts with Longview Public Library and the city of Marshall, for the animal shelter.
The annual contract for the Longview Public Library and Waskom Public Library for the fiscal year was approved in a 3-2 vote, with Harrison County Judge Chad Sims, Pct. 2 Commissioner Zephaniah Timmins and Pct. 3 Commissioner Phillip Mauldin voting for it. Pct. 1 Commissioner William Hatfield and Pct. 4 Commissioner Jay Ebarb voted against.
The annual contract for Waskom is $8,500. The contract for use of Longview’s library is $5,321.
“They asked for a dollar per user, which seems pretty reasonable,” Judge Sims said of Longview Library’s contract. “That’s our western end of the county, utilizing the Longview library. That’s how many Harrison County users they have.”
Sims said funds were already set aside for both items in the new fiscal year budget.
Commissioner Mauldin brought the need for a contract for the Longview library to the court’s attention, during the budget workshop season.
“The money was dedicated back then,” Mauldin reminded.
Ebarb said the only problem he has with supporting the contract is the fact that he’s never seen funds earmarked for the Longview library, in prior budgets.
“My only question is, as a county, if this is going to be the way we’re going to handle it, then we need to start keeping records and reaching out to counties that use services that our taxpayers locally pay for, that come into our county,” Ebarb suggested.
A prime example would be the use of the county’s veterans office, for instance, which provides services for Harrison County veterans and those in surrounding areas.
“If we’re getting people from surrounding counties and out of state and everywhere else, it looks to me like we’re missing the boat, too,” said Ebarb. “If we’re going to reach in and pay another county, then we need to be compensated at the same time.”
Ebarb believes Longview should’ve already been benefiting from the $1.50 child safety fee that was added to residents’ vehicle registrations, starting in 2016. The money is disbursed to municipalities Harrison County serves and is used for youth-related programs, such as literacy.
“We send just about as much around $4,600 to the city of Longview,” Ebarb said of the child safety fees that are given to Longview, since part of the city lies in Harrison County.
“One of the ways that money could be used was in a reading children’s program, so they were already getting money that we created in the tune of about $4,500,” said Ebarb.
Hatfield expressed he hopes the county isn’t setting itself up.
“I just hope we’re not opening up a can that we can’t get the lid back on, because Panola County borders some of Precinct 1 and Commissioner Ebarb’s (precinct) borders Marion County, so where would this stop?” Hatfield inquired.
Mauldin said being the first year for the support of the Longview library, he’s sure they can reexamine it in the next budget cycle.
Ebarb said he knows they unanimously approved the entire county budget, but must’ve overlooked that particular budget item.
“I called myself looking at that, but I missed it,” he said. “We all voted 5-0 to approve the budget, so it’s in there; so it is what it is.”
With the vote for the interlocal agreement between the city of Marshall and the county for the animal adoption center services, the action passed in a 4-1 vote, with all in favor, except Timmins.
Timmins said he voted against the contract because he was under the impression that the county wasn’t paying the standard $39,100 to the city since the court amended its 2020 fiscal year budget, this past December, to approve a one-time $250,000 contribution in support of the construction of the new Marshall Animal Shelter.
“I just thought this was null and void when we gave them $250,000,” said Timmins.
“(The) $250,000 was for building the animal shelter. This is for animal control,” Judge Sims explained.
Sims said the agreement approved on Wednesday is a standard interlocal agreement the county has with the city.
“This is where the county pays the city $39,100 to help with animal control, in this document that states for county citizens bringing animals in and for them also helping with rabid animals outside the city limits,” said Sims. “This was in our budget.”
Timmins said it’s been in the budget for years, in case there was a rabid animal in the county, but never used.
“Next year it’s going to come at $50,000,” he suspects the city will ask for. “The year after that they’re going to come through with $75,000. The next year after that, they’re going to come with $100,000.