Paso County Prevailing Wage Rate Committee
2003 Wage Survey for Building Construction Trades
- County approves proposed federal agenda
Commissioners Court approved the federal agenda last week proposed by its lobbyists in Washington, with some amendments. As with the state legislative agenda, this is a list of Congressional bills and proposals that El Pasoans need to support or actively oppose. The list also includes the County's appropriations requests for the coming year. Most are for help in responding to unfunded federal government mandates and other needs.
This is the agenda that County Judge Dolores Briones and other County officials will take with them to Washington next week for TEAM El Paso, and to a meeting with the U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coalition. The following are some of the issues the Commissioners Court and El Paso's lobbyists will ask Congressional representatives to support or oppose:
Support the President's budget proposals for homeland security and first responders on border and transportation security and bio terrorism. As a border community, El Paso is among the first responders and will be involved with all those security measures.
Support the Colonias Gateway Initiative, but only if restricted to communities within 60 miles of the U.S. Mexico border. As proposed, the Initiative would extend that limit to 150 miles within the border, which would include San Antonio, Los Angeles and Phoenix, diluting the funds available for services where needed the most.
Oppose any funding reductions for regional water and wastewater projects.
Support efforts to separate the borders and corridors transportation program into two categories of funding, increasing support for the borders program. Support also is requested to extend El Paso's Border Highway eastward to connect with the new Tornillo-Guadalupe bridge.
Support a $25 million appropriation to build the federal inspection stations at the Tornillo-Guadalupe port-of-entry and of legislation to create a Southwest Border Regional Authority.
Oppose the President's proposal to eliminate the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), whereby the federal government reimburses states to help cover the costs of jailing undocumented criminals. Border county's count on that money to help them cover the costs of jailing undocumented immigrants.
Support the President's proposal to increase funding for the community health centers, the Office of Minority Health, National Health Service Corps, and Border Health Commission; to continue funding to extend the availability of federal funds for CHIP one more year and to increase the number of nurses
Oppose the President's proposal to eliminate funding for the Community Access Program and his Medicaid reform proposal in its current form.
Support the President's proposal to increase Food Stamp funding and oppose his proposed reduction in funding for the Community Services Block Grant Program.
El Paso may yet get its multipurpose arena
Commissioners Court voted Monday to offer El Paso's families the possibility of a multipurpose arena. This time, however, it is allowing the private sector to try its luck in getting a bond issue passed by the voters.
By adopting a resolution in support of a sports venue district, the Court breathed new life into the prospect of a new arena. Dennece Knight, marketing director for American RV and Marine in Anthony, first proposed the formation of a sports district late last year, after voters defeated a County sponsored $45 million bond issue to build such a multipurpose complex. Before the election, American RV and Marine owner James Paxton offered the County 50 acres to build the complex near his Anthony dealership, where he plans to build a recreation park for the RV traveler.
"Who knows, maybe the private sector will have more luck persuading the voters," said Commissioner Dan Haggerty, who represents the Anthony area. "In any event, it's worth a try and it could just get things moving again. If they want to build an arena near Anthony, I say go for it."
Knight described the permanent sport district as similar to the one responsible for building Houston's Reliant Stadium. A board that could include representatives from the County and the cities of El Paso, Anthony, Vinton, Horizon, Socorro and Clint will operate it. Participation, however, will be voluntary, she said, adding that these entities have 30 days to join the permanent board.
The district will have the ability to propose construction of an arena, a soccer complex or any other sports facility, Knight said. Voters will have to approve it, just as they will have to approve its financing, through bond issues, sales taxes, car rental taxes or hotel/motel taxes.
"But formation of the district does not lock construction of an arena into Anthony or anywhere else," she said. "Nothing can be done without voter approval."
First step taken to integrate child mental health services
Thousands of young El Pasoans will soon get the help they need as a result of the $9.3 million six-year grant awarded earlier this year to El Paso County's Border Children's Mental Health Collaborative by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. The first step toward the creation of an integrated system of care for children with severe mental illness was taken recently, with the appointment of Lisa Tomaka as grant project manager for the Collaborative.
Tomaka, a 15-year professional in the field, with eight of those years working with El Paso's Mental Health, Mental Retardation Center, will be in charge of coordinating services now available into an integrated support system of care.
"The goal is to make the system more responsive to a child's needs by integrating every aspect of care, including physical health, mental health and whether drug abuse or child abuse is involved," Tomaka said. "Our philosophy is to get everybody working together, government, family, faith and the community to help these children. We're fortunate in having a community and its leadership committed to the success of this project."
County Judge Dolores Briones and 65th District Court Judge Alfredo Chavez were instrumental in bringing that grant money to El Paso. But as with many of these type grants, this one too comes with some conditions. Continuation of the grant will depend on performance. To make sure grant procedures are followed, both Briones and Chavez were required to attend an instructional meeting earlier this year in Portland Oregon. The trip for both was paid by the grant, as will be other trips that follow for the same purpose.
"It isn't often that a community gets a grant this size, it's a lot of money," Briones said. "But it's desperately needed in El Paso. We need to make sure it succeeds."
According to recent estimates, more than 20,000 El Paso youth have been diagnosed with mental or emotional problems. Of those, 6,500 come from families under the poverty line. Currently, El Paso's mental health system serves only 8 percent of those eligible for help. Children with severe mental illness are sent out of town for inpatient treatment.
Court reaffirms support for its state legislative agenda
As the state's 78th Legislative Session progresses, Commissioners Court continues to take positions on specific bills now being considered for passage.
Several resolutions have been approved, urging the state to continue current funding levels of programs that affect El Pasoans. These include:
Medicaid and CHIP programs in Texas. Thousands of lower income El Pasoans, particularly children, will lose health care coverage if funding is reduced, transferring those costs to the local level.
Continuing to provide emergency health care to all, regardless of immigration status. After lengthy discussions, the Court also decided to oppose the following bills:
A proposal that allows people to enter the courthouse and other public buildings with a licensed concealed weapon. Although the bill prohibits entering any judicial office with a weapon, it permits carriers to enter other parts of the building. That means the County Courthouse would have to install metal detectors at the entrance to every judicial office. County Attorney Jose Rodriguez and Jim Manley, chief deputy administrator, who coordinate the legislative program for the County, strongly recommend going on record now in opposition to the above bills and others.
In other news…
Veteran's nursing home: El Paso is one step closer to having a veteran's nursing home, following an authorization by Commissioners Court to let County Judge Dolores Briones sign a memorandum of agreement between the Veteran's Land Board of the State of Texas and the County of El Paso. The agreement involves the transfer of land from the county to the board for construction of the home. The land, a 44-acre tract on Kenworthy drive in the Northeast, was donated by the defense Department to the County. Construction of the home is slated to start later this year. "It's great to see this project progressing so well," said Jim Manley, coordinator of the Task Force that completed the application for the home to the state. "Quite a few people worked very hard for years to make this home a reality."
Cafeteria will change providers: The Movable Feast Catering Co., which has been providing breakfast and lunch to Courthouse employees and visitors for less than a year, has given a 30-day notice to terminate its contract with the County. The reason given for its termination, "lack of profitability of these operations." Commissioners Court already has authorized the County's purchasing agent to ask for Requests for Proposals to provide the much-needed service.
For more information on THIS WEEK at the County of El Paso and Commissioners Court, please call Guadalupe Silva, El Paso County Media Relations Coordinator, 834-8235 or Commissioners Court at 546-2098.