Waller Co. Commissioners Court approves election measures, hears child welfare report

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 9/27/20

During its Sept. 23 meeting, the Waller County Commissioners Court formally approved the Nov. 3 election and multiple measures supporting the election, including COVID-19 safety measures for poll …

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Waller Co. Commissioners Court approves election measures, hears child welfare report

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During its Sept. 23 meeting, the Waller County Commissioners Court formally approved the Nov. 3 election and multiple measures supporting the election, including COVID-19 safety measures for poll workers. It also received an update on Waller County Child Welfare Board activities and needs.

Election

Commissioners approved the formal call for the upcoming Nov. 3 Election Day during the meeting and moved voting for Precinct 418 to the county’s new Precinct 4 Annex located between Brookshire and Katy on Hwy. 90. The voting location had been jostled around due to facility changes at prior locations and scheduling conflicts at the Houston Executive Airport where it had been held in July.

“I think it’ll be nice to have a new home for (precinct) 418 because it’s been a challenging precinct,” County Judge Trey Duhon said.

The court also approved a mandate for poll workers to wear face masks or shields during the meeting at the request of County Elections Administrator Christy Eason. Eason said the request came about because people who may have otherwise been interested in working the polls were refusing due to COVID-19 concerns after good turnout in the July runoff elections where voters were good about wearing masks but some election workers were not.

“The problems we did have were with our poll workers. AS you know, they sit in a very close proximity to each other,” Eason said. “We’re having a hard time signing poll workers – I would say that at least half of them have declined to work in the election if they are not – and the people beside them – required to wear a mask or a face shield.”

County Judge Trey Duhon said he had reached out Jim Allison, general counsel for the County Judges & Commissioners Association of Texas, to find out if such a mandate was legal and that Allison had confirmed it was due to the fact that the poll workers are an extension of the county in their capacity at the polls.

Duhon and Eason said they had been speaking with their counterparts in other counties who were having a similar issue getting poll workers.

“Wether you believe that masks work or you believe it’s an imposition or not, you have to deal with people, some of which don’t want to be in a situation if the person next to them is not wearing a mask,” Duhon said.

According to Pew Research, 58% of poll workers are 61 years of age or older, a high-risk group for COVID-19 complications if they are infected by the disease.

Funding for the necessary precautions needed comes from a Help America Vote Act CARES Act grant of about $47,300 the commissioners also voted to accept at the meeting.

Eason said dividers were also being set up at voting locations to protect poll workers and processes to sterilize equipment such as stencils used with voting equipment were well established to keep voters and poll workers safe.

Commissioners also approved a proclamation promoting voter registration.

Child Welfare

Waller County Child Welfare Board Chairperson Katina Harris provided a report on the county’s child welfare programs to the commissioners court, noting that reports of child welfare issues had recently increased, possibly due to school starting back up.

“In August we had 30 intakes,” Harris said. “We’ve seen a little spike that could be because we’re getting more eyes and ears on our kiddos.”

Those reports and other cases left the county with 33 children in its care, Harris said. Of those, 14 are 9 years of age or younger; 15 are 10-17 years of age; and the remainder are 18 years old or above. While 18-year-olds are legally adults, if they were wards of the state that attend college, they remain on the county’s rolls, she said.

Combined with that issue, the return to school had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris said. School clothing purchases had been complicated by suppliers no longer offering discounts to nonprofit organizations and some had also halted children’s clothing lines.

“With these considerations in mind – along with all of the COVID safety precautions – we’ve transitioned to allow the caregivers to shop on their own for the kiddos and to just send us any receipts,” Harris said. “That way, we don’t have to worry about things not fitting or whatever could happen.”

Harris said the nonprofit portion of the board was in need of additional volunteers to serve on the board or in other capacities. Anyone who wanted to volunteer can reach out to her by emailing her at waller.cwb.2017@gmail.com.

Additionally, fundraising to help the children was upcoming in the form of a clay shoot to be held Oct. 22 at the Westside Sporting Grounds in Katy. Those interested in participating in the event can find more information at www.co.waller.tx.us/page/wccwb_sporting_clay.

Other actions

In addition to the items reported above, the court also approved:

  • A utility permit for Comcast of Houston, LLC to install fiberoptic lines within the right of way for Owens Road near Prairie View.
  • An annual audit of the Waller County District Attorney’s Forfeiture/Seized Funds accounts – an event which occurs each year as a standardized practice.
  • Telecom improvements at the new Waller County Justice Center which county staff said would save the county about $200 a month.
  • An agreement with Halff Associates to allow the firm to apply for a grant to fund a study of the Spring Creek Watershed and participation in the Brazos River Flood Update Study.
  • The tabling of an agenda item that would have had the court considering a burn ban. The item was tabled after it was noted that fire risk scoring was very low.

The Waller County Commissioners’ Court meets Wednesdays at 9 a.m. at the Waller County Courthouse in Hempstead. Meetings may also be accessed virtually, including the public comments portion of the meeting. Local callers should call 979-921-6212 and non-local callers should call 800-576-1131. User code is 14329937.

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