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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.


 

New space for Gus George Academy—NOT!

Ok, everyone is up in arms about the rental of the Lamar-Calder House by Fort Bend County Commissioners to the tune of nearly $4,700 a month (and that doesn’t include watering the cows) but commissioners are touting the need for space adjacent to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department for the Gus George Law Enforcement Academy.

In virtually every comment made, the powers that be say relocation of the academy to a nearby location is critical. So, why then is the plan to lease space ELSEWHERE for the academy and house only FOUR Sheriff’s employees at the Lamar-Calder House? That is exactly what is happening. The Human Resources Director and her staff of two will be joined by the Internal Affairs Division (a division of one) and that’s it—period—absolutely not one member of the “academy” staff will be at that location.

The good Sheriff says keeping the HR folks and all their records near the SO is critical. The academy director is currently negotiating a deal with another entity to provide a couple offices and classroom space (from what I hear this deal will be pennies on the dollar compared to the latest space rental) and, get this, the county’s facilities director is looking for space for the County Fire Marshal—you heard me—looking for space for the county fire marshal. Sheriff says they are talking about putting the Fire Marshall in a modular building on the 40-acre site that will eventually house the academy, courts etc.

So, the sweet deal on the Lamar-Calder House was for four employees—none of whom are considered by the average taxpayer a critical part of the county’s law enforcement training center. So, how is it that all the commissioners are touting the need for the close-by rental to house the academy?

To top it all off, I find it extremely hard to believe that a co-owner of a piece of property had no knowledge of the fact that his partner was negotiating a deal with county officials. Especially since the deal includes use of the existing office furniture, computer cables and all the other stuff in the house. And, commissioners are now saying they didn’t know Judge Cliff Vacek was co-owner of the house they were voting on renting until he showed up in commissioner’s court last week to disclose his half-ownership in the home. Yeah, right.

Heck, I was alerted on the sweet deal several days before the court met to give the deal a big healthy unanimous nod. I really doubt the commissioners are so removed from reality that they don’t listen to the courthouse gossip. And since Front Street is now absolutely filled with restored historical homes either owned or leased by prominent local attorneys (all, I might add with Republican election signs on their property) I find it even harder to believe that someone wasn’t aware of who owned the property.

It’s not like Judge Vacek bought into the property recently. Almost anyone you talk to will tell you how much Vacek paid to totally refurbish the antique structure and all the pains he went through to bring the property up to its present grandeur. So, if everyone knows how much he spent and what a pain it was to do the home, why don’t they know he owns it?

And, I find it even more outrageous that the county agreed to pay for the water for the cows, which live happily on 5 acres of pristinely manicured and fenced pasture behind the lovely old home. Now Sheriff Milton Wright scoffed at people being upset about this little part of the deal. “How much is that going to be to fill a water trough—like $4 a month?”—Sheriff Milton Wright.

Well, Richmond has some pretty steep water charges and I don’t know about the average citizen, but it costs a heck of a lot more than that in most cities to take a frigging bath! And, I would bet that a water trough holds more than a bathtub and I know for a fact that cows like to drink lots of water—so I’ll just bet the county is going to shell out a healthy little amount to take care of the livestock on their new rental property. And, so what if it does only cost $4 to water the cows—that is $4 per month, times 12, times three years that the taxpayers are footing the bill. And, they don’t even get the ag exemption that the landowners are taking.

After all of these years of covering local politics, I always think “it just can’t get any stranger than this.” Apparently I am not blessed as a medium or soothsayer, because it always does.

 

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:  November 01, 2006