The Ellis County Commissioners’ Court on Tuesday spent more than two hours discussing a pair of resolutions, each declaring Ellis County “open for business” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but differing widely on how to proceed. Ultimately, the court took no action on either.
One resolution prepared by County Judge Todd Little, which was written before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s address on Tuesday, mostly followed guidelines set forth by federal and state government. But a second resolution, presented by Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry, resolved that Ellis County businesses would open with no restrictions.
“We’re giving people notice that this Commissioners’ Court is (sending a message to) that governor down in Austin who doesn’t have to go to the barber and gets his groceries delivered to that big house, and lives a life of privilege that we elected him to,” Perry said. “We’re sending a notice that these people are tired of those edicts.”
Perry added that it wasn’t the virus that caused the worst recession in modern U.S. history, but the government’s reaction to the virus.
Perry made a motion to approve his resolution, but it failed to receive a second. Precinct 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson then made a motion to take no action and Preinct 1 Commissioner Randy Stinson seconded, and Grayson’s motion passed 3-1 with Perry voting against.
“The battle for opening Texas is not in this courtroom, it’s on the steps of the Capitol,” Grayson said. “(The governor has) got a lot of tough decisions to make, and I’m depending on a man who’s got leadership in him to look, to research, to review, and give us the best (decision) that he can. Today is just a resolution. It’s an attempt to resolve so you know the desire of this body and how we desire to open up as safely as we can … Neither one of these resolutions solves a thing.”
County attorney Vance Hinds told commissioners that a legal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton states that local governments cannot override a governor’s order. Hinds said the county can only act on the two resolutions on the agenda.
On the first resolution, Little expressed reservations about the use of contact tracing in the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, and his resolution stipulated that the county will not follow the CDC guidelines for contact tracing.
“There some things in the program that are very concerning as it relates to our privacy and how they’re going to administer this program,” Little said. “It’s exactly the same program that decided how China was going to handle its mitigation efforts … I don’t want to go there yet.”
The Ellis County Economic Recovery Task Force, an ad-hoc committee assembled by Judge Little several weeks ago consisting of local business leaders, presented a list of recommendations for reopening the county.
Amanda Wilson, a member of the committee and owner of Salon Gatsby in Waxahachie, told commissioners that businesses were categorized into focus groups based on threat of spread.
Kasey Cheshier, executive director of the United Way of West Ellis County, said the committee consisted of a wide spectrum of businesses, non-profit organizations, church leaders and city government officials.
A number of citizens also addressed the court, almost all overwhelmingly in opposition to any mandatory mitigation measures and viewing them as government suppression of freedoms. Several emails were read into the record as well, all in support of Perry’s resolution.
A new subdivision on the west side of Waxahachie drew closer to reality on Tuesday as the Commissioners’ Court approved a final plat for Dove Meadows Estates and granted a pair of variances for the new neighborhood.
The subdivision, which is located on the south side of Old Maypearl Road in Waxahachie’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, will consist of 51 lots on 75 acres.
A one-time variance for one lot in the proposed subdivision was granted, allowing an exception for not meeting the minimum road frontage requirement. In the same subdivision, a right-of-way encroachment for an entry wall feature was also approved, with the requirement that the homeowners’ association, not the county, will maintain the feature.
In addition, a replat for Lockridge Manor, a 1,240-acre tract on the west side of Chisholm Trail in Waxahachie’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, was approved. County development director Alberto Mares said the request was for one lot of one and a quarter acres with a right-of-way granted along Chisholm Trail.
A replat of a 29.378-acre property at 1433 Wilson Road, known as Whispering Meadows Tract 3B, was approved. The tract was split into two lots, one of 2 acres and the remaining acres. Also, a final plat of a 5.3-acre property on the north side of FM 879 south of FM 878 was approved in which the property was divided into two lots. Both are in Waxahachie’s ETJ.
• The consent agenda was approved, with the exception of a $25,000 payment to the Ellis County Museum that was tabled. Commissioner Grayson expressed concern about the county gifting a private entity.
• An increase in the budget for expanded HVAC to the new County Court at Law No. 3 was approved at an added cost of $23,640, making the total cost about $171,000. Commissioners discussed the outdated state of the current HVAC system.
•Three Chevrolet Tahoes were leased, with two fully loaded with emergency equipment plus one K-9 unit that incurs additional costs.
• An agreement with Data Preservation Solutions was approved for preservation of county records. County clerk Krystal Valdez said county records will be scanned and preserved, and all county records prior to 1950 are considered historical records and must be preserved forever. This program will be paid for through archive fees collected by the county.