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Palo Pinto County, Texas, Buys Elections Security Software

The County Elections Administration was approved to purchase several pieces of election software. The $42,800 purchase will be made with money from $120,000 the county received under the Help America Vote Act with a county match.

a line of voting booths
(TNS) — County Elections Administrator Laura Watkins on Monday won approval for a laundry list of mostly technical voting software aimed at boosting election security.

Watkins also told commissioners that polling had started out brisk on the first day of early voting, including at the newly opened Courthouse Annex in Mineral Wells where her office now is located.

Early voting for the Nov. 8 general election continues through Friday.

Some elections tools purchased Monday will be in use during this election. Others will be delivered and installed by the time city and school elections arrive or the 2024 cycle, County Judge Shane Long said.

The elections software, from Vista Solutions Group, included a Department of Public Safety security sweep allowing Walker to print and see complete elections records rather than pull one at a time like she does now.

An audit tool on the list "helps us keep the voter rolls clean," she said. Backup Pro software will automatically back up records for storage or to ensure retrieval for recounts, a Vista SG search indicated.

The $42,800 purchase will be made with money from $120,000 the county received under the Help America Vote Act, plus an $8,600 county match. Watkins said HAVA administrators will refund the county match if it is spent this year.

Watkins also reported that newly installed computers at the Mineral Wells annex, also bought with the HAVA grant, are working well.

In other action on Monday's 46-item agenda , commissioners

  • Took no action on the burn ban for unincorporated parts of the county, despite heavy rains passing through on Monday.

    "It's raining out there, commissioners, right now," Long said. "But I'm not sure it's raining everywhere. The burn ban is on, still."

  • Agreed to seek applications for two board spots each on Emergency Services Districts 1 and 2. ESD 1 handles county fire and ambulance calls outside Mineral Wells while its younger sister runs ambulance calls for the Santo, Brazos and Lone Pine communities.

    Applications will be accepted at Long's office in Palo Pinto until noon on Nov. 10, and commissioners agreed to interview applicants on Nov. 14.

  • Decided the Mineral Wells annex will have Christmas lights its first holiday season.

    The man in charge of decorating the courthouse in Palo Pinto, Randall Latham, will handle the job for no more than $6,000 job, Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Glover said.

  • Renewed the county's agreement with Indigent Health Care Solutions to provide medical services to residents in poverty.

    It is unknown each year what that financial burden will be, with state funding helping but typically far less than the expense.

    That county was billed $230,200 for indigent care in the recently ended fiscal year

  • Encouraged the general manager and two board members of the Lake Palo Pinto Area Water Supply Corp. to seek more information by year's end on a federal grant to lay larger pipelines and buy a storage tank.

    The Community Development Block Grant, which would need the county's blessing on the application but entails no risk of local tax funds, is challenged by demographics in the carrier's service area.

    While CDBG grants are designed specifically for low income areas, the water supplier's service area south of Lake Palo Pinto around Lone Camp has both poorer neighborhoods and high-dollar estates.

    Barring that funding source, General Manager Chase Lerma asked the court to consider using some of the $5.6 million the county received under the American Rescue Plan Act. His preliminary bid estimates ranged up to $230,000.

    Precinct 4 Commissioner Jeff Fryer said the county needs to learn first how much of the ARPA money the county will need to buy land to expand the boundaries of its wastewater treatment plant just east of Palo Pinto.

    The county owns and operates a sewage plant, a rarity for counties in Texas, to provide the service to its courthouse and jail in the unincorporated county seat. The plant serves the town's 174 residents and its namesake school district, too.

    "The process has been moving forward to expand the boundary at the facility," Long told Lerma.

  • Agreed to close parts of two county roads to accommodate upcoming fall festivals.

    The first will be a long running family fellowship in front of Indian Creek Baptist Church from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Oct. 31.

    "They've been doing it since my kid was a little bitty kid," Precinct 4 Commissioner Jeff Fryer said Tuesday. "And he's in his 20s."

    Commissioners agreed to close that part of Indian Creek Road, which is in Commissioner Gary Glover's Precinct 1, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the fall festival.

    The second is a daylong celebration, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 19 in Palo Pinto. The event takes place along Oak Street and Sixth Avenue, the respective south and west sides of the courthouse square.

  • Authorized $75,000 for Fryer to buy property to expand the yard at his road and bridge precinct headquarters in Santo.

    Fryer said County Attorney Maegan Kostiha had OK'd the sale and a survey has been performed.

  • Approved flu shots for county employees.

    That action immediately followed court approval of wellness checkups at the courthouse for staff participating in the Texas Association of Counties wellness program.

    The program awards the county money as employees meet health goals. It paid to convert the former veterans service office across Fifth Avenue from the courthouse into an employee gym last spring.

    First Assistant Auditor Melissa Mahan told the court of one recent success story from the wellness checkups

    "One of my employees went, and he learned he's diabetic," Maham said. "Had he not gone, who knows what could have happened?"

  • Applauded Precinct 3 road and bridge crew member Buddy Mahan, who is retiring after 16 years. Precinct 3 Commissioner Mike Pierce awarded Mahan a wood-burned plaque marking his service.

© 2022 Weatherford Democrat (Weatherford, Texas) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.