BRYAN, Texas — Tuesday morning's Brazos County Commissioners Court opened with dozens of citizens awaiting a chance to speak about issues of concern.
Commissioners Irma Cauley, Pct. 4, and Nancy Berry, Pct. 3, were present, while County Judge Duane Peters joined the court via Zoom, attending a conference out of town.
Commissioners Steve Aldrich, Pct. 1, and Russ Ford, Pct. 2, were not in attendance. Due to the presence of only two court members, Berry and Cauley announced that the court could not be held without a quorum.
“We conduct the business of the county at every commissioners court,” Berry said to KRHD. “All of the items on the agenda today were not able to be passed. So all of the items on the agenda will be on hold till next week. Some of them can’t.”
Moments into the meeting, the court was adjourned. Berry noted to attendees that several new county employees will not be able to begin their jobs this week without being sworn in, and the budget for this month's meals at the Brazos County Detention Center could not be approved - thus leaving the sheriff's office unable to purchase food for inmates this month.
The proposed property tax rate for the next fiscal year could also not be voted on.
Russ Ford spoke with KRHD following the event, and explained that he chose not to attend because he does not want to see the new property tax rate pass without it being removed from the agenda for further negotiations.
Ford said that he would agree to a special meeting about topics such as the prison food budget, if the property tax rate proposition, as is, were not on the agenda.
The commissioners have until Sept. 29 to vote on the county's tax rate, or else the tax rate defaults to the no-new-revenue rate, which Aldrich and Ford are in favor of, as property taxes would not rise the same as under that tax plan approved by Cauley, Berry and Peters.
Berry said she is concerned with the no-new-revenue tax rate.
“It’s going to mean you’ll have less county services,” she said. “The sheriff’s office might not respond as quickly. It may take you longer to get a birth certificate or death certificate.”
Another issue that arose from Tuesday’s non-meeting was brought to light by about a dozen Texas A&M students.
The topic of early voting on campus had been placed on Tuesday’s agenda, and students had planned to speak on their concern about Berry moving early voting from the Memorial Student Center to College Station city hall.
“I have three-morning classes on Tuesdays, so these meetings are actually quite inconvenient for me,” said Ishika Shah, a senior Mays Business School student. “But this issue is very important.”
Shah said she had practiced making the trip from her campus classes to city hall, and the trip was difficult to make between classes.
“The fact of the matter is, getting off campus is difficult,” Shah said. “I tried with a car to get to city hall from my parking spot on campus. It takes me a 10 to 30 minute walk to get to my parking spot, then another 30 minutes to get through traffic.”
The students at Tuesday’s court insisted that legally, there is still time to bring early voting back to campus for the 2022 election.
“So we have been actually circulating a petition around, so we have over 1,000 signatures right now,” said Kristina Samuel, president of MOVE Texas’ A&M student chapter. “... And we have over 60 letters of support from faculty. That’s what we plan to read out at the next meeting.”
The campus lies in Precinct 3, Nancy Berry’s district. Berry told KRHD that her decision to move early voting from the MSC to city hall will remain – for now.
“For this year I’d like to see what the numbers show for early voting, and then next year we’ll look at it again,” she said.
In regards to the inmate food budget, Brazos County Sheriff Wayne Dickey said that the county detention center does need $80,000 to purchase the remainder of September’s meals for inmates.
Without this money, he noted he will have to figure out alternative means to feed inmates, starting with food reserves.
To view the student petition for early voting, visit the following link: Petition · Change Early Location to MSC at Texas A&M University · Change.org