JEFFERSON — Marion County approved, this week, a resolution between the state for a HAVA (Help America Vote Act) Election Security Sub-Grant that will save the county significantly on new, upgraded election equipment.
“That $120,000 we get, obviously that relieves the taxpayers some of the burden of that,” Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur pointed out.
The grant award agreement is between the county and the Office of the Secretary of State. The county’s matching requirement is $16,000.
According to the grant application, the purpose of the award is to improve the administration of elections for federal office, including enhancing election technology and making election security improvements to the systems, equipment and processes used in federal elections.
“We’re looking at doing a quarter of a million dollar upgrade on election equipment,” Judge LaFleur said. “We’ll be signing a contract the last meeting of the year.”
He said the commissioners court will conduct a public hearing during that time to allow residents to come and test out the proposed voting equipment.
LaFleur said the upgraded equipment will work much like a smart phone.
“It is touch screen instead of the wheel spinning,” he explained.
Voters will vote electronically, print a paper copy of the ballot, scan the paper copy and deposit it.
“So, there’s always a paper trail,” LaFleur said of the process.
The county judge said neighboring counties who are all customers of the vendor, Hart InterCivic, were able to partner up to get a great deal on the upgraded equipment.
“A really neat thing is myself and the county clerk were invited to a showing of these machines in Cass County to their commissioners court meeting, in early 2020,” LaFleur shared. “And the gentleman was talking about pricing. Cass County was talking about buying new machines, too. I asked the vendor at HART if both counties bought equipment at the same time will we get a discount for doing it, he said absolutely.
“We got it down significantly,” said LaFleur.
LaFleur said the city of Jefferson and Jefferson Independent School District were able to benefit from the deal, too.
“Being in rural Texas, we’ve got to collaborate with each other to have the big buying power like larger counties,” said LaFleur. “It’s important we do that whenever we can.
“It’s a good thing for the taxpayers all the way around,” said LaFleur.
In other business, the commissioners court approved another cost-saving measure — a TxDOT Airport Project Participation Agreement to complete upgrades at the county’s Cypress River Airport, in Jefferson.
“That’s going to be for runway improvements,” said LaFleur. “We started working with TxDOT on our airport a couple of years ago. It’s a phase project.
“This is the third and final phase of this project. This is the last one for this actual project,” he said. “It’s a $300,000 project and we match 10 percent of that.”
Shanna Solomon, county auditor, explained before that the grant funds were already budgeted and is an extension of a grant project that started back in 2017.
At that time, “they designed the lights and then replaced the lights and then the third part was going to be the rehabilitation (of the airport runway),” she noted previously.
Tim McKinnon, airport manager and board president, explained to commissioners during a January meeting that the lighting upgrades included upgrading all the runway lights and the taxiway lights. It also included installing a PAPI (Precision Approach Path Indicators) system at each end of the runway to provide a safer landing experience for pilots.
In other business, the court approved a $1,000 payment to Wood Engineering Company to seek bids for jail foundation augmentation.
“At this time, Woods Engineering Company is going to start the advertising process to receive seal bids for that,” LaFleur informed. “We’re still in the infancy of the project, but it’s important just the same.
“We’ve put a band-aid on it for long enough and it’s time that we actually fix it,” he said.
The jail elevator project is estimated to cost the county up to $150,000. The wall that’s attaching the elevator structure against the existing jail is in need of attention. Judge LaFleur previously explained that the wall was added onto the jail in the late ‘90s.
“It is having some foundation issues that need to be addressed before they get non-corrective,” Judge LaFleur noted before.
“Overtime, for whatever reason it has happened, the elevator structure has separated from the jail structure,” David Wood with Wood Engineering, of Longview, previously explained.