Wednesday, February 27, 2013


During the first Commissioners Court meeting of February an overview of the first month's financial activity for the county was given.  Not sure that I fully understand what was said, but my take was that Milam County has budgeted to spend more than it will take in this year.

Judge Barkemeyer discussed several accounts that were behind in revenue and pointed out those that were over budget.  One thing you need to know is that one month of data does not really give a good picture of the overall performance of the county's financials.  January tends to be a slow month anyway.  One good point was that the county has collected 75% of the taxes due for the current budget year.

He pointed out that the county has budgeted expenses of 10.6 million and budgeted revenue of 10.2.  He attempted to convince the audience that there was some way to make up the 400,000 dollar difference.   A very optimistic position from my viewpoint.

Herbie Vaughn is no longer Constable in precinct 3 and there is no evidence that his successor is going to pursue traffic enforcement as vigorously as Herbie did.  Housing of out of county inmates is running below projections for the 2013 budget.  A loss of approximately 25,000 dollars will be realized with the loss of Nocturnal Fest in 2013.  Not to mention the estimated 200,000 dollars of extra revenue for local business that it has accounted for in the past.

He also mentioned the unsure costs of the capital murder trial that will be held this year.  Now that the District Attorney has decided to pursue the death penalty in this case it will not be a cheap trial.  Not only will the cost of the trial be borne by the county, but the automatic appeals will also come out of our pocket.  Judge Barkemeyer went on to say this was the one surprise that might be in the county's future.  I wonder if he has checked the price of gas lately?

My stance has always been that county budgeting is a very difficult process.  I believe that you have to be somewhat conservative in planning both expenses and revenue.  Not all traffic fines will be collected and inmate housing is no guarantee of income.  I just hope that Judge Barkemeyer's optimism proves to be on target.  You can view his presentation online at

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Every citizen needs to take time out to attend a Commissioners Court meeting.  You never know when you are going to learn something new and exciting.  Like how to approve a fireproof vault for the County Clerk that is not fireproof.  Yep, during the court meeting on January 28th the Milam County Commissioners Court actually approved the construction of a fireproof vault that is not fireproof.

During public participation County Clerk Barbara Vansa brought up the fact that the bid and plans approved by the court for the new construction was not totally fireproof.  Only a portion of the structure is to be fireproof.  However, the bid specifications did in fact call for a fireproof structure.

Barbara's information to the court seemed to push one of Judge Barkemeyer's buttons.  During the agenda item to discuss the construction the Judge was less than judicial in his comments to Barbara.  Seems to me he was suggesting that Barbara should have known by reading the blueprints that the entire addition was not going to be fireproof.  Putting the shoe on the other foot it is clear the Court did not know what they were approving.  Bids were let for a fireproof vault, and yet led by Judge Barkemeyer the Court approved something less.

One of the County Clerk's primary responsibilities is to care for and maintain county records.  Protecting them against fire is a real concern.  Clerks throughout Texas have fireproof protection for their records.  If they don't have it they sure do want it.  Many a potential court case was settled over the years when courthouses caught fire.  Even one of Milam County's courthouses burned down under suspicious circumstances in 1874.

My concern here is why are we spending money to build a fireproof vault that is not fireproof?  You would like to think one of the members of the Court, maybe even the Judge, would have said something about putting a hold on the construction until it met the requirements for fireproofing.  Poor leadership if you ask me.

Judge Barkemeyer did mention that if the clerk had the money to fix it fix it.  I worked with Barbara Vansa for many years and know her focus is on doing her job.  My bet is that the vault will be totally fireproof if she does have the money.  And it will be fireproof thanks to an elected official who is more interested in getting the job done than placing blame.