By Bill Spinks

The method of choosing members of the Ellis Appraisal District board of directors drew lengthy discussion during Tuesday’s bi-weekly meeting of the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry proposed a non-binding resolution supporting the direct public election of appraisal board members, and possibly the chief appraiser. Any change to the current system will require the Texas Legislature to act, but County Judge Todd Little said the Commissioners’ Court has the ability to influence legislation through the local state senators and representatives.

Perry said quick action is needed to get to the matter before next year’s legislative session because committees are already beginning to meet in Austin.

"In the system we have now, there’s an implicit potential conflict of interest in how it’s done," Perry said. "You have people, for whom it’s to their advantage politically to have appraisals increase, appointing the appraisal board. There’s obvious issues with that."

The court, while in agreement that changes to the system need to be made, took no action on the proposed resolution and will consider it at a future meeting, possibly the next scheduled meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8.

"All I’m saying is we need reform," Perry said. "I think the public at large should have a bigger bite in this. I think we can craft that ... We need to give the public a bigger voice."

In the present system of filling the Appraisal District board of directors, each taxing authority — the county, a city or a school district — is assigned a weighted number of votes that city councils or school boards can award. There are six members of the Appraisal District board, and the board selects the chief appraiser.

"I don’t think this is a move at all against our chief appraiser," Little said. "This is a move for more accountability in the process of hiring the chief appraisers in 254 counties all over the state of Texas."

The court also set Sept. 8 for a public hearing on the proposed county tax rate for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The public will have the opportunity to comment at that time.

Other items

• The court approved a mutual aid agreement with Maypearl ISD in the event of disasters and emergencies.

• Commissioners added a 14th day and approved the holiday schedule for fiscal year 2020-2021. Two different calendars were submitted for approval, one designating Texas Independence Day and the other designating Columbus Day. Commissioner Perry suggested in the form of a motion that the county include both days in a 14-holiday schedule.

• Kyle Kinateder, president and CEO of the Midlothian Economic Development Corporation, spoke to the court about a proposed county tax abatement for the Earth Root Holdings LLC development in Midlothian Industrial Park. A separate city tax abatement will be before the Midlothian City Council on Sept. 8, and commissioners will consider the county’s abatement on Sept. 22.

• Lisa Heine was reappointed to the Lakes Regional Community Center Board for a two-year term beginning Oct. 1. Heine and Lakes Regional executive director John Delaney also spoke to the court about the services that Lakes Regional provides for mental health and intellectual/developmental disabilities.

• In development matters, the court approved the replat of an approximately 1.5 acre property at 6030 Chapman Ridge Drive in Midlothian’s extraterritorial jurisdiction; the release of a performance bond and acceptance of a maintenance bond for the Cross Fence at Oak Vista subdivision along FM 66 in the ETJs of both Maypearl and Waxahachie; a final plat of about 98.5 acres of land between Richard Road and Arrowhead Road in the Waxahachie ETJ, as well as the release of a performance letter of credit and acceptance of a maintenance letter of credit for the same property; and an amending plat of about 5 acres located west of the intersection of FM 875 and Skinner Road in Midlothian’s ETJ.

• An interlocal agreement with the city of Parker was approved. The purpose of this agreement is to allow that city to piggyback with the county for pricing for pavement rehabilitation and resurfacing services, county purchasing agent E.J. Harbin told the court.

• The purchase of voting equipment, accessories and installation services from Elections Systems & Software was approved at a cost of about $109,500, which will be reimbursed by the state. This will allow for 30 additional terminals for use during the upcoming November election.

• Commissioners agreed to advertise and solicit sealed bids for the Courts Building infill project, and also OK’d a separate authorization for professional services to perform facility needs assessment, long-range planning and construction management services for the county.

• A 2000 Etnyre chip spreader in Road and Bridge Precinct 2 was declared as surplus property.

• The court authorized American Medical Response to exceed the 250,000-mile limit before replacing transportation medical units. The extension was requested because the COVID-19 pandemic has created a high demand for new units. AMR representative Randy Vance said the mileage limit affects three units, which will be completely refurbished.

• Commissioners renewed an agreement with the Texas Association of Counties for Affordable Care Act reporting and tracking services.

• The court approved the transfer of an undeveloped county-owned property to the city of Oak Leaf for the conservation of floodplain functions.