Armendariz back in his Presidio precinct
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
PRESIDIO COUNTY – Presidio County Commissioner Carlos Armendariz is back in his precinct.
In early August, commissioners approved new precinct maps as part of their redistricting mandate, which occurs every 10 years.
The county’s redistricting consultant, Allison, Bass & Associates, along with county commissioners, made a small oversight in those adopted maps, which put Armendariz’s residence in Commissioner Eloy Aranda’s precinct.
Armendariz is up for election in 2012.
“This is a very confusing time in Texas politics,” Presidio County Judge Paul Hunt said, referring to the state’s congressional and legislative redistricting maps being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. That could possibly affect the March primary elections at the local level and already is affecting the candidate deadline. The new filing deadline is Monday, December 19. Today was the former deadline.
“Lo and behold, I believe that Commissioner Armendariz and myself have discovered that our order for new county district boundaries had actually kicked Commissioner Armendariz out of his own precinct,” Hunt said.
“Well you all voted for that,” Armendariz said, adding jokingly, “That’s a good way to get rid of me.”
“Well I noticed you voted for it,too,” Hunt replied.
“Now you’re my constituent,” Aranda said to a room full of laughter.
The maps adopted in August had stretched Aranda’s precinct 2 just a few blocks into Armendariz’s precinct 3, just enough to encompass his house.
“Here’s the deal,” Hunt explained, “We are not allowed to kick a sitting commissioner out of his own precinct.”
“Why not, I’ve gotten kicked out of bars,” Armendariz said tongue in cheek.
With a December 19 deadline looming for candidates to file for office, for now, county officials were pressed to make changes to their newly adopted redistricting maps.
Hunt told commissioners he had made Allison, Bass & Associates aware of the problem and had received changes to the maps to straighten things out, as best as possible with redistricting boundaries.
The amendments to the maps pushed Armendariz’s precinct 3 a few blocks into Aranda’s precinct 2 to solve the residency issue for Armendariz. The move, Hunt said, wouldn’t create any problems for the population balance that the county has to maintain between precincts.
Citing the redistricting fiasco with Texas’ congressional and legislative districts, Hunt joked that “It’s only fair that we subject Commissioner Armendariz to the same trouble.”
With redistricting, politics inevitably follows. Presidio City Council member Butch Acosta wanted to file for the precinct 3 commissioner position. Acosta fell victim, like Armendariz, to the adopted maps in August.
“I’ve been in (precinct 3) for over 13 years,” Acosta said to commissioners.
“When I came down to file, I’d been blocked off from filing due to the changes,” Acosta said of being moved into precinct 2.
The map amendments that commissioners were discussing would put Acosta in precinct 3 by a hair.
“Making this change will definitely put you in (precinct 3),” Aranda told Acosta.
“That might solve a lot of problems for us,” Hunt said.
After reviewing population figures, Hunt said making the changes to precincts 2 and 3 to allow Armendariz to remain in his district, and invariably allows Acosta to run for that seat, that the population difference is less than half of one percent.
Commissioners voted to adopt the map amendments and authorize Allison, Bass & Associates to prepare and submit to the U.S. Department of Justice a submission seeking pre-clearance of the new Presidio County maps to make them official.
“At least we’ll be doing our part to conform with our mandate,” Hunt said.
In other county business commissioners:
Voted to refinance the county’s debt by combining multiple large certificates of obligation into one single debt note with one payment. The lender is BB&T bank based in North Carolina with offices in Texas. The move, which Presidio County Treasurer Mary Williams has been working on for months, doesn’t change the term limit for paying off debt. According to John Blackburn of Government Capital Securities, the county will be saving $186,000 for the rest of their payment term, which ends in 2019. The current interest rates of two large certificates of obligation are 6.5 percent and 5.5 percent respectively. The new interest rate will be at 2.3 percent. After the meeting, Williams said that she wanted to publicly commend commissioners for voting unanimously on this issue and said that they voted in the best interest of the taxpayers.
Discussed ongoing negotiations between the county and FRV Bryan Solar on a solar project outside the city of Presidio. The firm had originally asked the county for an 80 percent tax abatement and to sign on to a 20-year commitment with the firm. Hunt told commissioners that he negotiated down on the tax abatement to 75 percent. Commissioners discussed negotiating the 20-year commitment with the firm, with Armendariz suggesting going with a five-year commitment with the possibility of renewing afterwards. Commissioners Knight and Aranda supported a 10 or 15-year commitment rather than a five-year or 20-year commitment. Negotiations are still taking place and no agreement is binding as of yet.
Made necessary adjustments to Presidio County Justice of the Peace and Constable precincts to conform with redistricting changes in the county, effectively changing very little of those precincts.
Discussed establishing a county curfew for youth. County Attorney John Fowlkes will write a recommendation and the language for commissioners to take action on in a later meeting.
Voted to begin recruiting a people to the newly created position of Facilities Manager for the county.
Voted to extend the county’s burn ban for another 90 days and to support an emergency declaration resolution seeking the governor’s approval to ban the sale of fireworks in the county during the New Year’s celebration. The resolution would give Hunt discretion in allowing fireworks to be used in certain designated areas.