Commissioners Court News

by Crystal Gottfried

The major discussion at Commissioners Court last Thursday morning was in response to a plea for assistance from a citizen who feels frustrated by the lack of local authority to quell a neighborhood problem related to apparent immigration violations.

Brad Holt, a property owner in Spring Branch Acres told commissioners that his residence, and his neighbor’s place, had been burglarized for the second time in a couple of months; and that he was extremely frustrated by his lack of understanding of why local law enforcement officers could not do anything about an increasing problem with illegal immigrant workers who are living in overcrowded and squalid conditions in the adjoining property.

Holt said that he had been working with Comal County Engineer Tom Hornseth to remediate septic system violations at the location.

“Now, my neighbors (on the adjoining property) have brought in another trailer and have been working on building a four room house attached to the trailer,” said Holt. “My neighborhood has turned into a dump. I’m embarrassed to say that the Comal Appraisal District has reduced the property value of my home and property to $50,000! That’s embarrassing.”

Holt pictorial presentation for commissioners showed piles of trash, building materials, and other debris scattered over property that surrounds his own. He claims that his nuisance “neighbors” cook outside over an open fire, wash their clothes and bathe outside, and have more than 25 people staying overnight in the trailer and attached building.

“I’m looking for help here,” said Holt. “I’ve been told that there’s nothing in the county code to prevent these people from living in these roughly-built shacks. But - there’s something wrong with this picture, folks.”

Hornseth told Holt and commissioners that he was not aware that the new buildings had gone up, but that now that he knew, he would put this case “on the front burner to ameliorate this situation and press criminal charges if necessary.”

Comal County Judge Danny Scheel commiserated with Holt about his frustration with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which seems to “have totally gone astray.”

“I have no respect for the INS,” Scheel said. “They are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. Their system is hurting those immigrants who work toward U.S. citizenship and do nothing to rid the country of illegals who are criminals.”

According to Scheel, he phoned the local San Antonio office of INS and was told that the agency won’t be able to do much about the illegal immigrants staying at Spring Branch Acres. He said he then called the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday and was told the “we can’t touch them.”

Scheel introduced Comal County Sheriff Bob Holder and asked for his explanation of why the local law enforcement officials could not remove illegal immigrants from premises within the county.

“We can’t do anything to anyone unless they violate state laws,” said Holder. “I’ve been dealing with this issue for the entire 39 years that I’ve been in law enforcement. Illegal immigration is a federal violation and even if the state and county were given the authority to handle the problem, I’m just afraid that the federal agency would continue to sit back, not doing their jobs, while our deputies would be taken off the job of protecting and assisting our own citizens, and doing the job of INS.”

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) became one of three former INS components to join the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in March 2003. According to their website at stated that the “USCIS is charged with fundamentally transforming and improving the delivery of immigration and citizenship services, while enhancing the integrity of our nation’s security.”

Holt was advised to write to his State Senator Lamar Smith, District 73 House Representative Nathan Macias, as well as the local district office of INS in San Antonio.

In the meantime, the county engineer’s office will investigate on-site-sewage facility violations and enforce the environmental health aspects of the piles of debris on the property.

Commissioners accepted the resignation of Water Oriented Recreation District President Don Graves. Graves has been a member of the WORD board of directors for the last five years.

Precinct #3 Commissioner Gregory Parker was appointed to serve on the Comal county Investment Policy Committee to replace Precinct #1 Commissioner Jack Dawson.

The Boards of Directors for the Emergency Services Districts 1-6 were appointed by a unanimous vote of commissioners. The appointment terms expire Dec. 31, 2008.

Commissioners also ratified the appointments of deputy and reserve deputy constables in the county. For Precinct #1, Constable Ben Scroggin has Deputy John Donahue; in Precinct #2, Constable Kenneth Smith has Deputy William Colston and Reserve Deputies, Craig Ackerman, Anthony Gonzales, and Christopher Banks. In Precinct #3, Constable Sandy Morales has Deputies Carthel Williamblia and William Overstreet and in Precinct #4, Constable Shane Rapp has Deputy Robert Svobota and Reserve Deputies Russell Chaney and Ed Baxter.

Constables are constitutionally authorized peace officers whose main duty it is to serve as executive officers for the Justice of the Peace courts. They may perform patrol functions and make criminal investigations, serve subpoenas, civil citations and other papers for the JP courts. The importance of the Constable’s office varies from county to county, primarily depending on population, and they are elected every four years by voters within each Justice of the Peace precinct.

Commissioners accepted a bid by US 281 Boring to work on a water line project for Jumbo Evans Sports Park located off U.S. Hwy 281 near Bulverde, but tabled the bid awards for the county’s animal control services as well as the bid awards for road materials.

Commissioners discussed the practice of asking for and accepting all bids that were received according to the locality of the company submitting the bids.

In the past, for example, the county has asked for and accepted the bids from four different animal veterinary clinics throughout the county. When the Animal Control officers picked up stray or injured animals, they were taken to the closest facility and the county paid the bill according to the price list that was submitted during the bidding process.

“What’s the point in having these veterinary clinics go through the bidding process when we end up paying them whatever they ask,” Scheel asked the court. “I want to put off making these awards for another week while we discuss better solutions to this pricing problem.”

The next session of Commissioners Court will be on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006 at 8:15 a.m. in New Braunfels.



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