Nueces County Commissioners gave their input on the upcoming 83rd session of the Texas Legislative agenda, focused on assisting county governments on contracts and lawsuit abuse.
Among the many items discussed, commissioners focused on one area, where the legislature should consider giving counties the ability to exit a contract with reasonable notice. An option that should be available, they said, in any government contract counties enter into.
County Commissioner Mike Pusley said considering the number of frivolous lawsuits the county and other counties are involved in, cases that often do not rise to the level of notice by the local media, are still fought by counties, costing millions of dollars statewide to defend against.
“We need additional protection, something helping us stiffen the immunities other governmental entities enjoy,' Pusley said. The immunity doesn't stop the lawsuits from being filed, Pusley said, but the laws could be made to make it harder to file a lawsuit under certain circumstances.
Pusley said he was even open for the legislature to consider entities being able to recoup attorney's fees from lawsuits they win.
During the course of the meeting, County Judge Loyd Neal brought up previous consideration that was made in the creation of a countywide drainage district. What stalled the project before, and continue to put a halt to the project is the need to have the cooperation of the entities that would be affected by a proposed new district, including obtaining the cooperation of the City of Corpus Christi.
“It would not only need a source of funds and the cooperation with existing drainage districts, to either have their areas excluded or dissolve themselves to be part of the county's wider plan,” Neal said.
Neal said the legislation to make that happen could come together, but the project doesn't have the will of the community behind it.
“Last time I checked, citizen response was less than enthusiastic, and Corpus Christi has not fixed their drainage situation yet,” Neal said.
Both the mayor and city manager have been approached with the topic, and there answer has repeatedly been nothing would move forward without first solving the city's problems.
“Can't get that to happen without the tax base,” Neal said. Neal also pointed to the need for imminent domain to accomplish a county wide drainage plan, which was also unappealing to some members of the public.
Commissioner Oscar Ortiz said the problem has many facets. He said the county may have the ability and resources to do it, but some of the drainage ditches in question are owned by individual land owners who don't appreciate others coming onto their property and working in the area.
Pusley said the county completed a cleanup of Northwest Nueces County and surrounding rural areas. Trees were lost and fences were knocked down, Pusley said, and the damage was more than what was allowed by the counties waste management services contract. Commissioners contracted Allied Waste Services to conduct the cleanup, which was required after the area had become a hazard in public safety and health issues.
Pusley used funds from his precinct's special revenue account to pay for the cleanup. Clearing the brush, the critters living there, and removing a very large fire hazard created by the proliferation of tree debris.