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Bexar County Commissioners Extend Virus Testing In Schools, Hire Stimulus Consultant

Artist rendering of planned Precinct 4 Office next to Randolph Air Force Base
Bexar County
Artist rendering of planned Precinct 4 Office next to Randolph Air Force Base

Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday approved funding to continue COVID-19 testing at businesses and schools and to hire an outside consulting firm to help manage incoming stimulus dollars.

The court approved $2 million for Community Labs to continue testing for the virus until the end of the school year. Chairman Graham Weston told commissioners testing into the next school year is especially important since federal approval has yet to be given on using vaccines on children below high school ages.

"We would love to keep the lab open and continue to do testing until its no longer needed," he said. "None of us want to waste money if it's not necessary, but this is a serious thing that could get out of control like a wildfire."

Local school leaders told commissioners the testing has bolstered the confidence of staff and students to increase in-class participation. Some area districts told commissioners 40% of their student bodies are now in class.

Commissioners also approved $250,000 dollars to hire consulting firm Guidehouse for 90 days to help manage $388 million in federal stimulus soon on its way to help the area recover from the pandemic.

In other action, the court approved a resolution to oppose passage by the Texas Legislature of Senate Bill 7.

County Commissioner Tommy Calvert said the bill's passage would end many of the benefits put into place for voters during the pandemic.

"This Senate Bill 7 would limit extended early voting hours, prohibit drive through voting, make it illegal for local election officials to proactively send out applications of vote by mail to voters even if they qualify," Calvert said.

County Judge Nelson Wolff said he does not "get it" when it comes to why the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature would want to put into place such voting restrictions. He said they won all the major statewide offices in recent elections.

Commissioner Trish DeBerry sparred with Sheriff Javier Salazar over a proposed rescue and recovery boat at the meeting. DeBerry said the sheriff did not properly brief commissioners in advance, and other commissioners agreed.

DeBerry also said it does not look good for money to be spent on a "shiny toy" for the Sherriff's department in light of overtime staffing costs at the jail.

The county spent $10 million on jail overtime last year, and it has started into the millions again this year. Salazar told commissioners the $20,000 for the boat would come from a donation from the nonprofit sheriff's department foundation and would end his department's reliance on other agencies during searches and rescues.

Salazar also said the boat would help spot submerged stolen vehicles. He said one vehicle stayed in a pond for months, which poses environmental issues.

The sheriff told commissioners he felt the comments were an attack on him. But DeBerry said the situation was not an excuse to attack him and suggested the sheriff better communicate with commissioners.

Commissioners directed the sheriff to provide them with more details about the operation, maintenance and liabilities surrounding the proposed boat before another vote in a couple of weeks.
In other action, commissioners:

  • Approved plans to proceed with the design and construction of a new Precinct 4 office to be located next to Randolph Air Force Base.

  • Okayed the expenditure of $200,000 to reopen the Candlewood Clubhouse of the Boys and Girls Club at Candlewood Elementary School. After school and summer programs will be offered at the clubhouse.
  • Passed a $50,000 innovation grant to grow operations by Culver City, California-based SafeRide Inc. The company provides a technology platform to connect non-emergency patients with a place to live and transportation while undergoing care. The company has plans for the Burns Building at 106 Jefferson Street. The company would receive the grant once 60 jobs, each paying $50,000 or more, are created and filled. SafeRide plans a $500,000 local investment. Austin, Salt Lake City, and Denver were also competing for the company's expansion plans, according to county staff.
  • Voted to honor late County Court at Law Number Four Judge Sarah Garrahan -Moulder, who sat on the bench for 30-years and helped successfully prosecute Charles Harrelson for the 1979 assassination of Federal Judge John H. Wood Jr. Commissioners approved a portrait of the judge to hang in her former courtroom and the planting of a tree in her memory. The judge died on March 26 at age 84.

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