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Court votes to buy 30 additional ballot marking devices for upcoming election

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HENDERSON COUNTY–Henderson County Commissioners’ Court voted Jan. 14 to buy 30 additional ballot-marking devices, in expectation of even higher voter turnout in 2020.
County Election Administrator Denise Hernandez said increased turnout for the 2019 state constitutional election, coupled with an upcoming presidential election, was the impetus to add the devices, which would give the county a total of 170.
The 30 additional devices can be moved to different polling places and include canopies and software, Hernandez said. The devices have been leased previously, she added, lowering the cost about $20,000, to $91,948. The county will pay that price over three years at less than 1% interest.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Scott Tuley said device rental costs about $2,000 each and expects the 30 machines to be paid off over the equivalent of two elections. County Judge Wade McKinney added that the 2020 general election will be the first in his memory during which there will be no straight-ticket voting – a function of state law change – so he anticipates slower voting lines.
In other court action, $16,049 for the fiscal year 2019 State Criminal Alien Assistance Program for Henderson County was accepted. Jessica Brown of the county auditor’s office said the funds apply to those in the country illegally who are incarcerated in the Henderson County Jail and who have at least one felony or two misdemeanor charges.
The county received about $6,000 through the program in 2016, prompting Precinct 1 Commissioner Scotty Thomas to ask about the increase. Sheriff Botie Hillhouse attributed the increase to more federal immigration holds.
McKinney said 46 inmates were counted under the program in 2016 while 94 inmates were under the program in 2019. The county judge said those numbers fluctuate, but 2019 saw “a larger spike.”
The court also issued a right-of-way permit to East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District to bore under county roads in the Leisure Land subdivision. Tuley said this project will add sanitary sewer options to available customers in the area, of which about 70-75 have pre-paid for the service.
As part of the project, AAA Sanitation Inc. received a special-use indemnity agreement and permit. McKinney said the water district is undertaking its second large project in the past three years and is “aggressively addressing utility needs of their service area.”
Also, the court approved transferring two Chevrolet Tahoes to the county Juvenile Probation Department, as well as a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado to Precinct 3. Hillhouse said those vehicles were being retired from the sheriff’s office fleet and auctioned off before the requests were made.
Precinct 2 also got an Arrowstik Lightbar and Havis Console from the sheriff’s office, while the county animal shelter received a 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe. Shelter Director Amy Lambert said the Tahoe would enable taking animals and materials to off-site adoption events.
The court also approved the 2020 road materials contracts, which includes flex base, cold mix, oil sands, emulsion oils and pea gravel. Each precinct gets about $800,000 for those costs through the county budget.
Also approved was transferring Road and Bridge Precinct 2 employee Tom Manning from part-time status of 4 days to a 5-day, full-time position at Step 4 pay scale. The move fills an empty position. Commissioner Tuley said Manning is a former Kaufman County commissioner who “knows the roads” and is “a great asset.”
The court also issued a right-of-way permit for Oncor Electric to string utility lines across County Road 1313 in Precinct 1 and voted to replat two lots into one at Brown’s Landing subdivision’s second phase in Precinct 4.
The court also voted to pay $147,502.27 worth of bills for fiscal year 2019 and approved paying $93,458.55 in fiscal year 2020 bills.