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County reopens Commissioner Court to public access

Posted 5/12/20

Monday’s regular meeting of Madison County Commissioners was unique in a few ways, from a short agenda to a commissioner absent due to a medical procedure. But mostly, because it was accessible to the public for the first time since March 9.

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County reopens Commissioner Court to public access

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Monday’s regular meeting of Madison County Commissioners was unique in a few ways, from a short agenda to a commissioner absent due to a medical procedure. But mostly, because it was accessible to the public for the first time since March 9.

After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order in March banning any gatherings of more than 10 people to help slow the spread of COVID-19, meetings of the Commissioners were open only to essential county officials and workers, and them spread apart for social distancing. Instead, public access was limited to a livestream through the Zoom computer program, a workaround solution that was often problematic in the large courtroom at the Madison County Courthouse Annex, due to echoes and inconsistent volume.

Abbott eased some restrictions in the past two weeks, however, allowing public access to government meetings.

Monday’s meeting, which only drew an attendance of 13 mostly county officias, represented a small return to the normal in a county that hasn’t seen as large an impact from isolation orders than some other counties.

“We’ve been a bright spot in terms of getting back to normal,” County Judge Tony Leago said before Monday’s meeting convened. “We’re not out of the woods yet, but God has blessed this county in many ways.

“Win, lose or draw, we’re still in great shape.”

Madison County has only two confirmed cases of COVID-19, with results still pending for 53 of 117 tests performed in the county.

Notably absent from Monday’s meeting was Precinct 1 Commissioner Ricky Driskell, sidelined for a medical procedure.

Commissioners agreed Monday to a resolution to move forward with a grant application to join the Brazos Valley Wide Area Communications System, a partnership between cities, counties and Texas A&M University, operates a seven-site public safety trunked radio system that links law enforcement entities, fire departments and medical crews across a wider area than possible before.

The county will seek a grant of $270,000 to cover costs associated with upgrading communications systems for first responders. The system would replace an aging county communications infrastructure, including dispatch panels and upgrade computer dispatch systems. The network would enable Madison County first responders to immediately connect with colleagues in Walker County or Brazos County.

Commissioners also extended the county’s Declaration of Local Disaster for an additional 30 days, under advisement of state officials. The declaration allows the county to get reimbursed by the state for certain expenses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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