Bexar County Commissioners Approve Water Bill, County Pay Increase

Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the launch of the federally-backed low-income household support program.

The nearly $3.8 million program supported by COVID relief funds will run through March next year.

COVID-19 devastated household income. The San Antonio Water System reports that there were 19,000 water customers in the county with delinquent bills at the end of May.

The county’s executive director for economic and community development, David Marquez, said the program should be set up through a SAWS system that determines who is qualified to receive aid.

“Our goal is to start accepting applications, again dependent on SAWS’s ability to get us into their system sometime in July,” he said.

Other water bills include the 26 suburban towns in the county.

The county has approved millions in federal aid dollars since the start of the pandemic to help residents with other emergency household expenses.

In another action, the commissioners approved a 5% wage increase for the province’s 5,000 employees due to inflation.

The pay increase will appear from their paycheck on July 31. Some county retirees also approached commissioners to ask for a cost-of-living adjustment to their pensions during the next budget cycle.

Attorneys from the district attorney’s office, such as Andrew Fields, also told commissioners that they have lost prosecutors because of lower wages.

“They’re going to civil firms. They’re going to other provinces. And I’ve seen more leave in recent months and years than I’ve ever seen in my career. In fact, I understand that we’ve lost 27 prosecutors in the last six months to this. “

District attorney Joe Gonzales asked commissioners to consider bigger pay increases for his staff during the next budget cycle.

The raise will not go to elected officials or County Manager David Smith, who has a separate contract with the county.

Commissioners also approved an immediate ban on the sale of fireworks that are finned rockets or rockets with sticks on Tuesday, as fire-prone conditions continue due to
to the drought.

County Fire Marshal Chris Lopez said he is concerned about other aerial fireworks during July 4, but the law does not allow for further action.

“I do get questions about mortars and things like this, right now, right now with our statute, we can’t, but at least this gives us a little bit of help in this area,” he said.

Half a million residents live in the county, where many major subdivisions revert to pastures or other rustic properties where wildfires are possible.

In other actions, commissioners approved 140,000 hours of overtime to staff the county jail through September. While the retention rate of incarcerated deputies has improved, other factors are increasing staff costs.

The number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise again, impacting staffing levels and Sheriff Javier Salazar said 795 inmates should be held elsewhere, such as substance abuse or mental health care or in state prisons, but have not been arrested by the Department of Criminal Justice

“Unfortunately, in the state of Texas, we’ve done a really bad job of building mental health beds. Too much reliance on Texas prisons to solve all of our problems,” Salazar said.

Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores said the state should foot the bill for the county’s overtime wages as they continue to cut back on mental health. The county spends tens of millions of dollars each year on prison overtime.

The commissioners also issued a proclamation to recognize the 50th anniversary of the founding of Somerset in southwestern Bexar County. It was named for Somerset, Kentucky by its founders. It grew up as a farming and ranching community and later added oil production to its industries.

The commissioners also issued a proclamation honoring local boxer Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez, the recent WBC super flyweight champion at age 22.

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