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Bexar County Commissioners Approve Tax Break For Navistar, Address Jail Overtime Costs

Navistar's main South Side facility could produce its first electric truck in a year.

Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a six-year property tax break incentive to lure a second Navistar truck facility.

The property tax savings for the fourth largest commercial truck maker in the nation will amount to more than $233,000.

The truck validation facility will take over the former Halliburton site at Loop 1604 and Highway 37 on the Southeast Side.

The $28 million facility will employ around 80 workers with annual salaries of $50,000 or more. The county's executive director of economic and community development — David Marquez — said trucks built at the main Navistar plant near 281 and I-35 on the South Side will be transported to the Southeast location to be outfitted. The main plant is a $250 million project that will employ 600.

"This site will be an area where the customers can come in and customize their trucks. Think of fleet owners who need specific characteristics in their truck," said Marquez.

He said the main plant may see its first electric truck come off the line a year from now.

In other action during their Tuesday meeting, commissioners approved $1.2 million in overtime costs for jail staffing through April. They also approved a $2,000 hiring bonus to attract more detention deputies to reduce overtime costs. The deputies association has already accepted a county proposal for a $2,300 annual pay raise to retain new deputies.

County staff also briefed commissioners about the root causes of the overtime, which last year amounted to $10 million, raising the ire of commissioners. High turnover has left the jail with 266 vacant positions and living units set aside for COVID-19 quarantines also require additional staffing.

Staff recommended overtime be spread more evenly among jail detention deputies to reduce the potential for job burnout and using 88 deputies assigned to courtrooms as bailiffs or inmate transport to be reassigned to duties at the jail since the vast majority of court hearings are virtual due to the pandemic.

Commissioners also approved an $18 million agreement with Kofile Technologies Incorporated for restoration and preservation of the county's old Spanish archives. The archives, including colorful maps and decrees, will be better protected from fire and mold.

The project is expected to take two or three years, but County Clerk Lucy Adame-Clark said the process will include the digitalization of the historic records of San Antonio's past under Spanish and Mexican rule, giving historians better online access for research.

Commissioners also heard how local health officials can track administered COVID-19 vaccines by zip code to help determine where under vaccinated neighborhoods are located. University Health is considering notifying residents in those areas about vaccine availabilities by "pinging" their cell phones.

University Health is considering using an app to notify just residents in underserved areas when blocks of vaccination appointments open up.

UH President and CEO George Hernandez updated commissioners on its efforts to battle the virus.

"We haven't tried it yet. We've been experimenting with it. But we'd like to figure out when we look at the city data what's the best areas to target because again we want to create a system that's fair, fair for everyone," said Hernandez.

A majority of commissioners stressed the need for a taking shots to the people approach. Hernandez said the arrival of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and its less stringent frozen storage requirements will make it ideal for neighborhood drive through vaccinations.

Hernandez praised the work of the UH staff and remembered those staff members lost to the virus, including 61-year-old Safety Analyst Herman Munoz, 79-year-old Engineering Tech II Raul Lara Vasquez, 51-year-old Registration Access Specialist Francisco Pesina III, and 51-year-old Staff Nurse III Simon Fonseca Jr., who all died during the winter surge months of January and February.

The general manager of Freeman Coliseum, Derrick Howard, provided commissioners with a summary of its efforts against the virus since last spring. He said more than 200,000 tests have been administered and not a single patient treated with Regeneron at the infusion center on the grounds died of the virus.

He also said while the backup hospital space was never used to treat virus patients, it was used to assist residents of the Texas coast who fled their homes before Hanna and Laura last summer. He also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requested the coliseum be used for six months to disinfect N-95 masks for reuse when masks were originally in short supply at the start of the outbreak.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian