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Fort Bend County, At Large
By Cheryl Skinner

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.

What you see isn’t always what you get

Sometimes what you see isn’t always what you get. Take for instance, a seemingly innocent request last week by the county’s purchasing department to “ Take all appropriate action to accept negotiated contract from Ernie Croucher Auctioneers for auctioneering services pursuant to Q06-002.”

Since this auctioneering service has done business with the county, apparently satisfactorily, for quite some time, this should have been a “done deal.”

Not so, instead this particular agenda item evoked more discussion than those dealing with much larger issues.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Tom Stavinoha brought forth an amended contract option to limit the contract to two years; questioned the advertising costs associated with county auctions because the auctioneer has an existing web page which advertises forthcoming auctions and then made sure that the auctioneering contract did not include an automatic renewal clause at the end of the two-year contract.

Stavinoha basically got his way and the court, after a very lengthy discussion, agreed to a two-year contract with a 30-day opt-out clause for the county at the end of each year. Stavinoha had wanted an open 30-day opt-out by both parties, but Gilbert Jalomo, the county’s purchasing agent, reminded the court that it took some time to prepare for an auction and should the auctioneer have a 30-day opt out option it could put the county in a serious lurch if the firm decided to opt out in the midst of a planned auction. Jalomo also noted that while the auctioneering firm has a website and does list forthcoming auctions, the advertising costs are fully discussed by his office and the auctioneer prior to any auction. He noted that an auction where automobiles and surplus county equipment is up for bids would need more exposure while an auction for old chairs would need less and those issues are brought up and decided upon prior to the advertising being placed.

Apparently satisfied, the court voted on the various changes and for at least a year the county will continue to use the services of the firm.

Pinching pennies?

On a different note, but equally as interesting, last week seemed to be a penny pinching session at court. Another item, from Precinct 1 Constable A.J. Dorr, requesting court approval to use from the county’s contingency fund to purchase a $200 printer, also brought scrutiny from Stavinoha. In fact, even after the motion was amended to a request for $106, instead of the original $200, Stavinoha wanted to know why these funds had to come out of contingency and couldn’t be taken from another segment of Dorr’s existing budget. When Jim Edwards, the county’s budget director, explained that existing excess funds from automobiles had actually been “swept” into the county contingency but now had to be allocated by the court for different use, Stavinoha seemed satisfied enough to vote for the measure.

It is always amazing that a gazillion dollars is allocated to various projects with nary a whimper, but some of the tiniest requests can prompt marathon discussions. You just never know when it comes to who on the court has an agenda that simply doesn’t go along with an agenda item!


Contact skinnerc1@ev1.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:  September 07, 2006