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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 goes up must come down and that’s what worries me


Sometimes it is best not to read the agenda of Fort Bend County Commissioners until you get seated in the courtroom. At least that is what I found out a week or so ago when I stepped on the elevator with agenda in hand. I always browse the consent agenda and lo and behold there was a request for several hundred thousand dollars for “emergency expenditure to perform elevator repair.” Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that is not chump change and therefore there must be something the matter with the elevator—but which one—in which county building and what kind of problems are they dealing with?

In reality it only takes a minute or two to go to whatever floor you want to. But this little jaunt suddenly seemed to take an hour. I looked around the cramped elevator and wondered how these lawyer looking types would be in an emergency. Would anyone be willing to shimmy through the opening (that I couldn’t readily see, but had to be there—I do watch TV, you know) to rescue us all? Was there enough air in the cubicle to last until the court approved the expenditure and the emergency task was fulfilled?

Blip...the elevator came to a halt on the right floor, without imagined catastrophe. So, being the astute little reporter I am, the first commissioner I run into outside the courtroom, Precinct 4 James Patterson, I asked “Just what exactly is this money for and which elevators are involved?” He told me the elevators “all” needed repair. Reassuring. He then apparently made an attempt at reassurance by telling me none of the elevators were going to “fall.” Great. But were they going to get stuck? “Not likely,” he said. Not likely? Now what kind of an answer is that! What about getting stuck in between floors? “There is little likelihood of that,” Patterson promptly replied. Again, there is that element of doubt—this is the pits. By this time, I am seriously considering the stairs. However, I have to be realistic. I am on the seventh floor and the first floor is a long way down. Granted it is all down hill, but since I gave up any form of physical fitness some years ago, it just might be more life threatening than a defective elevator.

Anyhow, I gave up and rode the elevator down—successfully—thinking that the next time I boarded it, the emergency repairs would be made and I would be content in the knowledge that the “small glitches” that created the emergency would be a thing of the past. Right? Wrong!

This week on the agenda is a request to “Approve transfer in the amount of $294,983 from Fund Balance into Fees and Services to amend the budget pursuant to Local Government Code ß111.0706 and authorization by Commissioners Court on February 27, 2007, for emergency expenditure to perform elevator repairs at the Travis Building.” So, let’s get it done!

Those pesky little purchase orders

It isn’t unusual to see a request on the commissioner’s agenda seeking reimbursement for an employee or an official who spent a few dollars on staples or paper and wants their money back. The county has those pesky little purchase orders that must be completed, as a general rule, before a purchase can be made. However, I would assume that common sense dictates whether one is sought. Let’s say an employee is at the local discount store picking up some bread for supper when they see a box of staples and realize, “hey, I ran out of staples this morning at the office and forgot to order them.” So, they reach into their own pocket and buy them. Later they ask for the money back. Makes sense to me.

Then sometimes there is a need to get something done quickly and waiting for a purchase order is probably not in the best interest of the county. This appears to be why the county attorney’s office is seeking reimbursement for an expenditure made without a purchase order this week.

The agenda item says: “Take all appropriate action to authorize reimbursement in the amount of $150 to David Newell for payment of building height variance filing fee to the City of Richmond without a purchase order.”

All things considered, I would have secured that puppy as quickly as possible and worried about a purchase order later too. With all the debate over the location of the proposed jail, that would be considered making hay while the sun shines, so to speak.


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:  May 02, 2007