WEATHERFORD — Two precincts in East Parker County will be moved from Precinct 4 to Precinct 2 after unanimous approval by commissioners Monday.
The proposal — to move precincts 405 and 425 — was one of three that the county was considering, after the latest census numbers revealed that Parker County was not in compliance with population requirements for Precinct 2 (population 30,946) and Precinct 4 (42,328).
Speaking Monday, Hudson Oaks City Manager Sterling Naron echoed comments last week from Mayor Marc Povero that they were not in favor of that option, which would split the city among two precincts.
“We have expressed our desire to keep Hudson Oaks intact and in one precinct,” he said of the 2.5-square-mile city.
Parker County Democratic Party Chair Kay Parr expressed her support for the first proposal, moving precinct 405 out of Precinct 4 and into 2, because of its simplicity.
“I support this because I see Hudson Oaks as a ‘community of interest,’ which is one of the rules we’re trying to follow,” she said. “They have a lot of need to be supported by one commissioner when they’re dealing with water and utility issues, and that just makes more sense to me.”
Republican Chair Scott Utley said in looking at the least amount of impact to the voting base and community, it would be easiest to move precinct 405 and leave 425 intact.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden questioned if there were other communities that were split among precincts. Precinct 1 Commissioner George Conley said that Springtown is split along Highway 199. Weatherford is also split.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Dugan said he believes a common misconception is that if Hudson Oaks were split, it would have an impact on utilities and water lines.
“Personally, I think it’s in the best interest for the future and for today to go with draft No. 2 and give 425 and 405 to Precinct 2,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do and that’s my motion.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Craig Peacock seconded, adding it would help his precinct in the future both with the tax base and considering the next U.S. Census.
Commissioners Monday also approved contract renewals with the Azle Public Library, East Parker County Library and Springtown Public Library, in the amounts of $5,072, $22,770 and $18,320, respectively. The allocations were part of the county’s budget process for FY 2021-22.
A contract renewal in the amount of $51,865 had also been budgeted for the Weatherford Public Library, but Weatherford City Manager James Hotopp, addressing commissioners, said the city had presented a new contract to the county judge’s office on Sept. 15 after council members approved a proposal for the county to fund $250,000, roughly half of what it costs the library to maintain services.
The Weatherford city council in mid-October voted on a $50 annual household fee to be paid by residents outside of city limits who wish to use the library’s services. In previous meetings, city staff revealed that roughly 54 percent of county residents use the WPL compared to city users.
“Communication is the most important thing and to that end, we need to have further discussions,” Walden said, prior to making a motion to form a committee with county officials to visit with the city more about the issue. “I don’t think that handling that through the news media or taking action without talking is a good thing.
“I’d be willing to discuss that with you and representatives from the city and see if we can find some common ground. And to be quite honest, we’ve had very little pushback from the $50 fee.”
Hotopp said there had been discussions since the mid-90s about the city requesting more funding from the county, and that calls to the county judge’s office in August and September did not reveal the county’s intent of the city’s proposal.
The contract presented by the city was $250,000, escalating by $50,000 per year for five years and capping off at $500,000.
“The intent was to try and make it a more equitable situation. All we’re trying to do is provide professional library services, and we don’t have the ability to continue providing those without some mechanism to recover more of those costs,” Hotopp said. “The $50,000 agreement is not something the city is considering at this time.”
Dugan said the county would have to raise its tax rate in order to meet the city’s proposal.
“I just want that to be brought out that people understand that it’s still not going to be a free library if we raise their taxes to pay for it,” he said.
Walden pointed out that the $50 annual fee collected would not meet the figure the city has proposed.
“The intent behind the $50 fee is not to have a complete recovery of those costs,” Hotopp said. “As you would expect, there’s certain services which you cannot have a complete cost recovery model, and the library’s one of those.
“It’s not an enterprise fund where you can have a true cost of recovery on those.”
Conley asked if they knew of any other counties who contribute to a library, and Dugan questioned how county residents added to the cost of library maintenance and operations.
“The simplest aspect is from personnel and materials,” Hotopp answered. “There are over 73,000 check-outs per year and approximately 55 percent are attributed to residents outside of the city.
“What we are trying to do is simply control the growth of that long term because as the county and city continues to grow, there’s going to have to be additional dollars funded to the library. And those are coming from Weatherford taxpayers.”
To the question by Dugan of whether those same county residents are spending money inside the city, Hotopp answered that they are, but there is also approximately $18 million generated from city residents that are spent for county government as well.
Dugan made a motion the county still offer the $51,865 that was budgeted to the city of Weatherford for the library, which was unanimously approved.
Commissioners Monday also:
• Approved the installation of “no thru truck” signs on Church Road while construction on repairing the road is underway.
• Approved the allocation of $19,600 to Child Protective Services; $42,513 to CASA - Hope for Children; and $73,156 to the Children’s Advocacy Center from fees collected off auto registration.
• Approved a renewal contract in the amount of $341,000 between the Parker County Sheriff’s office and the city of Aledo.
• Approved a $9,800 contract with the Abandoned Cemetery Association.