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Commissioners address Bertram Library building, juror pay, political signs

Highland Lakes Crisis Network check

A check for $6,053 was presented to Kevin Naumann, director of the Highland Lakes Crisis Network, during the Burnet County Commissioners Court's regular meeting Tuesday, May 24. The money was raised at the recent county employees picnic. At the presentation were Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther (left), Precinct 2 Commissioner Damon Beierle, County Treasurer Karrie Crownover, Naumann, County Judge James Oakley, County Clerk Janet Parker, Deputy County Clerk Vicinta Stafford, Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery, and Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

The Burnet County Commissioners Court accepted a warranty gift deed for the Bertram Library building, increased pay for selected jurors, heard several presentations, including from the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, and set up a committee to regulate political signs on county property during its regular meeting Tuesday, May 24. 

The Bertram Library is operated by the county, but the county did not own the building until voting to accept it as a gift from the Friends of the Bertram Library group. The city of Bertram was responsible for buying insurance, but neither the city nor the Friends group had enough money on hand to meet the large deductible required to make repairs after it was damaged by sheering winds that also took down the old McGill Department Store building on Texas 29 in March 2021. 

“That started the discussion among the Friends group that the county could accept the building as a donation and take over the insurance and responsibility,” Burnet County Judge James Oakley said. “The only cost will be in a slightly higher premium for county insurance.” 

The building was fully repaired and paid for before the transfer was made, Oakley assured commissioners. 

“This will best serve the citizens in the long run,” County Attorney Eddie Arredondo said. “The Friends have done an outstanding job with that building. Services will not change, and the county is in a much better position to take care of it.” 

The Bertram library is the only place where some residents have access to free and reliable Wi-Fi service. It is also used as a voting location. 

IN OTHER BUSINESS

JUROR PAY

Commissioners voted to increase pay for selected jurors to $40 from $10. Jurors who report for duty but are not chosen to serve will continue to get $10. They are usually allowed to leave by noon on jury selection day, while selected jurors typically stay all day. The $40 is for the first day only. 

PEC UPDATE

PEC Chief Executive Officer Julie Parsley and Chief Operating Officer Eddie Dauterive appeared before the court for an annual update. Oakley is a member of the PEC Board of Directors and is currently seeking re-election to the District 5 position. Voting is underway through June 10 for PEC members. 

“We are growing at a crazy rate,” Parsley told commissioners. “We install 75 new meters a day. That number used to be 50 a day. We have grown 25 percent in the past 4½ years. It didn’t slow down during COVID, but it may be getting a little soft with insurance rates going up.” 

Currently, the cooperative has 371,000 meters on the rolls and is on course to install 20,000 additional meters this year, which creates a problem of supply. The cooperative is having to hold back replacing meters so it will have enough for new construction. 

“We pulled back on our smart meters because our meter suppliers couldn’t get chips,” Parsley said. “They are the same chips used in automobiles, and they are hard to get right now.” 

So are the huge transformers, which are backlogged two years. 

MEMORIAL DAY

The court also heard from Vietnam veteran Steve Anderson, who donated a 20-foot-by-30-foot flag to the county for Memorial Day ceremonies, which start at 11 a.m. Monday, May 30, at the county courthouse, 220 S. Pierce St. in Burnet. 

POLITICAL SIGNS

Oakley asked commissioners “if there was an appetite for moving forward” on establishing rules for political signs posted on county property. Those using T-posts have proven problematic, especially after one broke a county waterline. Also, the proliferation of signs at the north and south county annexes can create problems, especially if not picked up after the election. 

“What has passed a threshold for me are candidates driving T-posts in the ground,” he said. “I see three things we can do. One is to do nothing.”

The second option would be to form a committee to come up with regulations that would come back before the Commissioners Court for final approval. Arredondo would be a member of the committee to make sure regulations would not violate anyone’s rights. 

The third option, which Oakley called extreme, would be to ban signage on county property altogether. 

Commissioners voted 5-0 to form a committee, which will consist of Arredondo, Oakley, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther. 

EXECUTIVE SESSION

Commissioners went into a 50-minute executive session to discuss land acquisition but took no action after reconvening to open session. The item should appear on a future agenda again in about two months, Oakley told DailyTrib.com.

suzanne@thepicayune.com