Waller commissioners discuss COVID-19, hear update on county library project

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 12/8/20

Waller County commissioners discussed the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Waller County and extended the county’s novel coronavirus testing efforts through Dec. 31 at their Dec. 2 meeting. …

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Waller commissioners discuss COVID-19, hear update on county library project

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Waller County commissioners discussed the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Waller County and extended the county’s novel coronavirus testing efforts through Dec. 31 at their Dec. 2 meeting. The court also heard a brief update regarding refurbishment and remodeling at the Waller County Library.

County Judge Trey Duhon provided an update on the case counts for the county in regard to COVID-19. He reported a total of 1,282 confirmed cases countywide, of which 1,075 patients were considered recovered. One additional fatality had been reported in the week prior to the meeting, bringing the county’s total to 19 since the pandemic began.

“Right now, we’re at 151 active cases, so still a higher level of active cases than what we’ve seen in many weeks,” Duhon said. “Not substantially higher than what we saw last week, so maybe the rate of increase is starting to taper a little bit hopefully, but still seeing quite a few cases.”

Testing provided by Waller County is still ongoing and free to Waller residents, Duhon said. Those seeking a test may visit the county’s website at co.waller.tx.us and click the links at the top of the page to schedule a test. Testing locations vary by week and tests are conducted Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through a partnership with AccessHealth.

Waller County Fire Marshal Brian Cantrell said that 53 residents were tested between Nov. 9 and Nov. 14 and that AccessHealth reported a spike in positive cases due to Halloween and was expecting another due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Duhon said he encourages residents to get tested whether that’s because they are experiencing symptoms, want to make sure it’s safe to visit a friend or relative in a nursing facility or any other reason.

“Folks, continue to … watch your social distancing and wear a mask when you’re in public and so forth,” Duhon said.

Commissioners approved a contract amendment with AccessHealth to continue COVID-19 testing through Dec. 31 to ensure the county maximizes use of CARES Act funding.

“We’re going to end on the 31st and that’s the last of our CARES Act money that we can put towards this,” Cantrell said. “So, the question, I guess, which I just want to bring to the court – I don’t need an answer now – but do we want to continue testing after going into the new year?”

To continue testing, the county would need to use its own funds barring state or federal action to fund the county-level testing, he said. Thus far, using CARES Act funding for testing, personnel and other related expenses, he estimated the county has spent about $60,000 in CARES Act funding over roughly two months.

Details on how any sort of testing in the new year would be paid for would need to be worked out, Duhon said. He then offered to speak with county staff regarding how the county might fund testing out of its budget if federal funding wasn’t available.

“Since public safety is one of our responsibilities, I don’t see how we cannot (continue testing),” Commissioner Walter Amsler said.

It could be up to six months before vaccines which have been in news headlines lately are readily available, Duhon said.

During the time between now and full distribution of the vaccines, the court agreed informally that it may be good to consider how testing could move forward to ensure the public had tools available to be safe.

“The general public needs to understand that it’s going to be a while before the vaccine becomes readily available to members of the general public,” Duhon said.

Prior to the discussion regarding COVID-19, commissioners heard an update regarding the status of the County Library renewal project from Waller County Construction manager Danny Rothe.

Rothe said roofing and finishing touches to the exterior of the building are being addressed and that the building is fully enclosed to allow contractors to finish interior work. He also said siding is going on the building and should be finished soon and drywall, window and door installations would be in the works soon. One of the few delays was planning for a different style of entry door due to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to move away from double doors that he needed to look into. However, he said that may save money in the long run because single doors are easier to maintain.

“I don’t expect any more problems,” Rothe said. “We’re dried-in now (so the contractor) should be able to go (forward easily).”

Payment to Dahvar Construction and Design for about $41,000 for work performed on the library already was approved by the commissioners court following Rothe’s construction update.

Other items:

  • Commissioners approved an agreement with Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP for services related to redistricting the county for voting purposes at a cost of about $36,700 for the initial assessment of the county’s population layout.
  • Commissioners approved a contract with Aftermath Disaster Recovery for debris removal. The contract would be utilized to help the county clean up after a natural disaster such as a hurricane or flood. Cantrell, who led the procurement process, said Aftermath was recommended to the court after comparing their costs and speaking with references.
  • Commissioners opted not to institute a burn ban per Cantrell’s recommendation due to a low fire risk index.

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