Texas Department of State Health Services reported:
29 New Covid Cases
Active cases decreased by: 1 Recovered cases increased by: 29
The disparity between active and recovered cases indicates a lag in reporting by DSHS. Cases were not added to the State of Texas Covid Dashboard until they were already recovered.
Fatalities Increase: 1
The death of a Frio County resident was reported on the State of Texas Covid Dashboard on July 22, 2021. It was the first Covid death reported in Frio County by DSHS since April 27, 2021
Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported:
42 New GEO Pearsall Detainee Covid Cases
127 New CoreCivic Dilley Detainee Covid Cases
10 New La Quinta Pearsall Detainee Covid Cases
Frio County’s Fully Vaccinated Rate (age 12+) increased 0.46% for the week. The onslaught of Delta variant news did not appear to have an effect on vaccination rates, as the number of vaccinations slowed the last two days of the week. This could be due to a lag in reporting, however.
COVID Hospitalizations out of Total Region P Hospital Capacity:
This week’s Covid numbers led the Frio County Judge to request this notice on the Frio-Nueces Current Facebook page:
–written by Jose Asuncion, Frio County Commissioner, Pct. 4
For more data, including ICE, TDCJ numbers, and surrounding counties, visit this site’s Frio COVID Dashboard page.
This post is a replication of the Frio COVID Lifeline updates, a component of the program that was funded by Frio County and the City of Dilley through January 2021 and by the City of Pearsall through February 2021.
There’s a lot to catch up on… For a full explanation of the difference between data available today versus February 2021, jump to the “Reporting Update” section of this post. If you were a frequent follower of the Frio COVID Lifeline updates, it is critical to understand the differences.
JULY 16, 2021
6 New Frio County Cases since July 14, 2021 Active Increase: 4 Recovered Increase: 2 Fatalities Increase: 0
Due to reporting cutbacks from The Texas Department of State Health Services, it is uncertain whether the 6 new cases since July 14 are community cases, ICE or TDCJ cases, or a mix. Based on other available data, I would infer that the 22 new cases are community based until informed differently by DSHS:
● ICE and TDCJ publish inmate numbers independently to their websites before they show up in the DSHS numbers we use for the above post. Since July 14, there have been no changes to the published ICE and TDCJ numbers. ● Active ICE detainee cases have totaled 89 since July 14. Since 89 is greater than 36 (the number of total active cases in the county including ICE, according to DSHS), we know that the ICE numbers have yet to be factored. ● Surrounding counties that do not have ICE detention centers saw jumps in their active cases since July 14: 5 new active cases in Medina, 21 in Atascosa, and 7 in Zavala.
REPORTING UPDATE (written July 14, 2021)
In the former website, the “Frio County Case Count” box counted residents only, and did not include ICE or TDCJ inmates. However, the Texas Department of State Health Services no longer separates those values, so the Active (Estimated), Recovered (Estimated), and Fatalities boxes will include ICE and TDCJ cases until further notice.
But you might notice that today (July 14, 2021), the number of active ICE cases (89), exceeds the reported total number of Active cases in the county (32). This means that the Texas Department of State Health Services has delayed incorporating the ICE (and likely TDCJ) active numbers into their dashboard.
Since these numbers were last tracked five months ago, CoreCivic’s South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley leapfrogged GEO’s South Texas ICE Processing Center in Pearsall in total Covid cases. On February 17, 2021, Dilley CoreCivic total cases were 44, while Pearsall GEO total cases were 312. Today, those numbers stand at 937 in Dilley and 805 in Pearsall.
Given that ICE cases have yet to show up in our active totals as reported by the DSHS, it becomes apparent that our total cases are severely underreported as well. Expect a reporting spike when DSHS catches up with the data.
TDCJ no longer reports Offender Recovered or Employee Recovered numbers. Frio COVID Lifeline used to track increases in the sum of active and recovered numbers to arrive at a number of new cases. Without the recovered number, we can no longer track new cases.
Unfortunately, these are the best numbers we have. I am sharing them because, in this case, I believe some information is better than none.
–written by Jose Asuncion, County Commissioner, Pct. 4
Last week, three of the four working days were spent in budget workshops. According to estimates from the Frio Appraisal District, total property values in Frio decreased.
Frio County will receive approximately $1.3 million less in revenues at the current property tax rate.
By July 30th, the Frio County Judge “shall prepare a budget to cover all proposed expenditures of the county government for the succeeding fiscal year.” The proposed budget will be filed with County Clerk Aaron Ibarra and available for public inspection and comment.
The statutory responsibility granted to the County Judge to take the lead in preparing the budget represents a great deal of power. The budget is more than just tax rates. It is a vision and policydocument. And in a year with a significant loss of total property value, the Judge’s priorities will become even more apparent: ● What will the Judge propose to fund or cut? ● Which issues will be discussed and which will never be mentioned? ● Will the Judge’s proposed budget require a property tax rate increase?
By September 30th, “the commissioners court may make any changes in the proposed budget that it considers warranted by the law and required by the interest of the taxpayers.”
The County Judge has scheduled the next budget workshop for July 26.
ROAD & BRIDGE REPORT
Last week’s Road & Bridge efforts focused on trash and limb pickup precinct-wide. The same was true county-wide, where crews also cleaned out several culverts in preparation for the weekend rain, as well as ongoing material hauling. Crews also graded CR4850 (Chido) and did sign maintenance at CR4538 (Divot).
–written by Jose Asuncion, County Commissioner, Pct. 4
SOUTH TEXAS COUNTY JUDGES AND COMMISSIONERS ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
Last week, Commissioners Carrizales, Graf, Vela, and I attended the South Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association Conference. Continuing education hours are not only a statutory requirement of our job, but because laws are always changing, because the county grows in sometimes unpredictable ways, and because events remind us that we’ve probably overlooked some areas of governance, commissioners always need to push themselves to learn more, no matter how long they’ve been on the job.
The week started at a training for South Texas Rural Health Services. I’ve served on the board since 2017, and I’m proud to share major developments and projects in Precinct 4 and Frio County:
● On June 14th, South Texas Rural Health Services (STRHS) entered an agreement with Frio County to provide scheduled on-site medical care, dental care, mental health, and substance abuse counseling for inmates at the Frio County jail. The flat $4,000 monthly administration fee for these services will greatly reduce medical costs at the jail.
● Only one day after COVID vaccine eligibility expanded in early March, STRHS began to schedule vaccines for all willing employees at Frio County, city of Dilley, Dilley ISD, and Pearsall ISD. Because of this early action, Frio was able to end reduced work schedules sooner, and return to full service at the courthouse. ● Each time the vaccine age eligibility was lowered, STRHS returned to the ISDs, providing vaccines to students with parent permission. ● South Texas Rural Health Services is now applying for a grant to build a wellness center in Dilley. The proposed wellness center will have fitness equipment and personal trainers to assist patients with exercise as part of a health plan. __________
WHEN CHEAP IS MORE EXPENSIVE | ROAD & BRIDGE The week’s work shifted from public health with South Texas Rural Health Services to water and drainage with Road & Bridge.
Before I continue, I should acknowledge that there is a small but vocal minority of county officials (two) who continue to question the need for a county engineer, despite the statutory requirement resulting when Frio County residents petitioned to force an election that moved Frio to a county engineer system, and despite recent national headlines of the Miami condominium collapse, in which short-sighted officials ignored engineering warnings…
I accompanied County Engineer Roxana Garcia and Road & Bridge Supervisor Ancelmo Ornelas on inspections of county-wide water and drainage issues that have been compounded over the years by design and construction shortcuts. We saw enough problems to keep me writing for a few months. This week, I’ll focus on the construction of a bridge that predates any of our current commissioners, and was built during a stretch in which Road & Bridge was operating without a county engineer.
The San Miguel bridge washed away during the heavy rains a few months ago. The culverts collapsed and clogged with road material that once provided a path for vehicles. Displaced material will eventually change the route of the water, potentially causing new problems elsewhere. What went wrong?
To begin with, this bridge was constructed 18 ft in length. Why is that important? There was never a consideration to be part of TxDOT’s off-system bridge program, which has a 20 ft requirement.
TxDOT performs inspections of “off-system bridges,” bridges owned by local jurisdictions such as a county, at least once every 24 months. TxDOT then makes recommendations. As long as work is performed to spec, TxDOT can provide parts, materials, matching funds, and in some cases full replacement. When County Engineer Roxana Garcia started her job in Frio, she leveraged her 20 years experience at TxDOT to take full advantage of the program, repairing bridges that had been flagged by TxDOT for years.
Since the San Miguel bridge was not a TxDOT off-system bridge, the reconstruction costs would come at the expense of county taxpayers, likely hundreds of thousands of dollars. In this case, County Engineer Roxana Garcia again bailed out Frio County, who was able to work with consultants to apply for the County Transportation Infrastructure Fund in an extremely short time frame. The result? TxDOT awarded Frio $1.2 million, and this bridge will be one of the projects at least partially funded by the grant, reducing the burden on county taxpayers…
This time, Frio County will build a strong and long-lasting bridge. It will hopefully be enrolled in a funding-assisted maintenance program that will ensure the bridge actually works for the public and is no longer a threat to public safety… __________
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME …or other clichés about not studying history:
ROAD & BRIDGE REPORT
Some of the work done by Frio County Road & Bridge in Precinct 4 for the week ending Friday June 25th:
While roads and bridges are the most visible aspect of commissioner business, our oversight duties encompass every department in Frio. Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of assisting Frio Tax Assessor-Collector Anna Alaniz in an administrative move that will benefit all Precinct 4 residents while lowering costs for the city of Dilley and Dilley ISD.
Currently, Frio County residents pay property taxes to two different collection entities: the Frio Appraisal District and the Frio Tax Assessor Collector Office. Any Precinct 4 resident that prefers to pay their county, hospital, and other taxes in person can visit the Frio Dilley annex building (more commonly known in Dilley as “the place you get your stickers”). Meanwhile, paying city of Dilley and Dilley ISD property taxes in person requires travel to the appraisal district office in Pearsall. It’s inconvenient and causes confusion.
The new tax collection agreement will enable Precinct 4 property taxpayers to pay all Frio County property taxes, including city of Dilley and Dilley ISD taxes, at the Frio Dilley Annex building- no more trips to Pearsall. To make the service more accommodating, Tax Assessor-Collector Anna Alaniz has expanded the Dilley office hours from three days a week to five days a week. Furthermore, the city of Dilley and Dilley ISD will pay about 30% less for collection services by contracting with the Tax Assessor-Collector office rather than the appraisal district. The appraisal district is a willing participant in this deal, which allows them to concentrate on appraisals- their intended function.
The new agreement was approved by the Dilley City Council on June 14 and Dilley ISD School Board on June 21st. Commissioners Court is expected to pass our end of the agreement at the next regular meeting in July. It will go into effect October 1st.
ROAD & BRIDGE
Lab Testing County Engineer Roxana “Roxi” Garcia, Road & Bridge Supervisor Ancelmo “Chemo” Ornelas, Building Maintenance Supervisor Tommy Navarro, and I visited Gessner Engineering this week- the consultant Frio County uses for material lab samples.
Gessner Engineering was contracted to sample soil on the Keystone Road project. Roxi and Chemo explained that the soil on one side of Keystone is river rock, but on the opposite end, the soil is sandy. They knew the sandy soil would have to be cement treated to provide a solid foundation for the road material. Gessner performed the test that provided guidance on the proper formula and application of cement for the specific soil. It is this proffesionalization of the Road & Bridge department that will lead to longer lasting roads, and more effective maintenance.
Road Report Some of the work done by Frio County Road & Bridge in Precinct 4 for the week ending Friday June 18th:
Hauled millings to CR3715 (Schorp), CR 4614 (Klopek) Hauled Base to CR3715 (Schorp), CR3701 (Lovers Ln) Patched roads in Hilltop area, CR4677 (Ventura Gonzales), CR4614 (Klopek), CR4670 (Hugo) Graded CR4629 (Herwig), CR4642 (Birdwell), CR4614 (Klopek), CR4675 (Good), CR4450 (Charolais), CR4889 (Viviano Gonzales), CR3715 (Schorp) Brush Cutting CR3801 (Proctor) Shredding/Weed-eating CR4670 (Hugo), CR4675 (Good), Inspected CR4885 (Hurt), CR4670 (Hugo), CR4843 (Urban), CR4520 (Panther Hollow), CR4500 (Bohannon), CR4515 (Massey), CR4614 (Klopek), CR4425 (Derby), CR4429 (Topperwein) Picked up Trash on CR3801 (Proctor) and other areas of Precinct 4 Weldingat jail by Road & Bridge crew
I’ve decided on beginning each week’s report with a “some of the work” disclaimer. I’m listing the work that is most visible to residents of Precinct 4, but there are lots of parts to this machine. For instance…
In this week’s report I included inspections by Roadways Crew Chief Pete Hernandez. I typically leave these off the report because inspections don’t always lead to work. However, last week had a heavy amount of maintenance done away from city limits and I want to assure residents that we do actively keep tabs on those roads.
An employee of Road & Bridge Special Crews team did road patching last week and spent four days welding at the jail. The welding work wasn’t in Precinct 4 but that was an employee that could have been used on roads. The county engineer and road administrator approve the jail work of course, because it’s in everyone’s interest for county departments to assist each other, and we’re confident the Sheriff’s Office will return the favor when called upon.
And this says nothing of the mechanics who maintain the trucks and heavy equipment, the constant maintenance of road signs, the buildings crew that looks after our facilities, and the office and administrative staff that keep everyone scheduled and everything documented…
–written by Jose Asuncion, County Commissioner, Pct. 4
Heavy rains returned for several days over the past few weeks, affecting roads all over Frio County. Some of the work done by Frio County Road & Bridge in Precinct 4 for the two week period ending Friday June 4th:
In a future post, I’ll talk more about the magnificent work done by the new Frio County Events Committee for employees and for the community. In the meantime, I’ll just say that I’m proud to be part of the team.
On Saturday, June 5th, the Frio County Events Committee organized and hosted an Auto Show, attended by 40 vehicles, with vendors, food, and music…
UPCOMING EVENTSIN FRIO COUNTY
–written by Jose Asuncion, County Commissioner, Pct. 4
THE PEOPLE HAVE TO KNOW I asked Commissioner Joe Vela, Pct. 1, how residents liked his weekly newspaper column. Personally, I thought it was a good idea, and had been thinking about borrowing his concept.
“The people have to know,” he told me.
HOW ROAD & BRIDGEFUNCTIONS After Commissioner Vela’s May 27th column, I asked him if I could post a follow up. Instead of simply highlighting county road problems, I thought it was necessary to communicate how Road & Bridge plans to address them.
In addition to Commissioners Court meetings, we hold workshops– marathon meetings to discuss specific topics. So far this year, we’ve held two on the topic of Road & Bridge. The last Road & Bridge workshop was on May 20th, and we specifically addressed Goldfinch Road. Goldfinch Road is scheduled for a road rehabilitation project in the new fiscal year (October 2021-September 2022), unless Commissioners rearrange priorities based on unexpected damage elsewhere, or a significant drop in property tax revenue that forces project cuts.
If you’re curious to see how Road & Bridge dialogues with Commissioners Court, you can watch our 3-hour May 20th workshop here.
THE STORM SLOWED DOWN REGULAR MAINTENANCE On a regular schedule, road maintenance is a full-time effort. But an unusual number of extreme storms this year has set back the maintenance program. Winter storm Uri’s freeze and thaw required an unscheduled response from Road & Bridge crews, compounded by heavy rains. May’s wake low wind storm pummeled trees into the roads, and clogged drainage systems across the county, using up Road & Bridge staff and equipment.
Once the trees were cleared and the drainage systems cleaned of major obstructions county-wide, Road & Bridge moved on to road patching. Depending on when you read this, Road & Bridge already patched or will patch storm damage in all precincts, including the aforementioned Goldfinch Road.
A CHANGE IN THE PATCHING PROCESS Last year, Ancelmo “Chemo” Ornelas was promoted to Road & Bridge Supervisor. He knew the county’s long-time process for patching potholes wasn’t working.
“Just putting coal mix in the hole is not working, and hasn’t been for years,” he said. He remembered some lessons from the county engineer that had worked for Frio years ago- lessons that were promptly abandoned upon that same engineer’s firing. Under the direction of the current County Engineer Roxana Garcia, who started at the end of July 2019, Chemo works on re-training the crew on patching.
First, the hole is cleaned, a new step in the process. Then, the hole and fill material is treated with a tack emulsion- a sticky substance to hold the material together, in place, in the hole.
“It’s like a Rice Krispy Treat” County Engineer Roxana Garcia explained in layman’s terms. The added emulsion keeps water from penetrating the hole and displacing the fill material, she said, which is why Road & Bridge patches had been less than effective for so long.
Eventually, Chemo is going to add “squaring” the holes as part of the process, but can’t spare the added time right now due to overwhelming demand from the storms.
PRECINCT 4 | HURT ROAD Hurt Road was not on Frio County’s project list for this fiscal year. But regular maintenance failed to stave off damage to the road. And then an unexpected increase in traffic due to an oil pad site installation caused the holes in the road to become a serious danger. Last month, Road & Bridge started a rehabilitation on Hurt Road.
Today, the Hurt Road project is about three-quarters complete. It’s another place where County Engineer Roxana Garcia and Road & Bridge Supervisor Acelmo “Chemo” Ornelas have made improvements to road work methods.
Previously, Road & Bridge used soft rock on road rehabilitation jobs. Soft rock, according to County Engineer Roxana Garcia, will either powder when graded or break into sharp flints that damage tires.
This time around Road & Bridge Supervisor Ancelmo “Chemo” Ornelas used millings donated* by TxDOT rather than soft rock, and the difference is immediately apparent. The plan is to build roads that last longer, “paving” the way for a more effective maintenance schedule…
–written by Jose Asuncion, County Commissioner, Pct. 4
*”Donated” doesn’t mean “free.” Donated material has to be hauled from location, which can be as far as San Antonio, and then stored. We opted to use Road & Bridge crews over hauling contractors. But even that has a cost- labor hours, equipment hours, and fuel. The hauling has taken months, but the payoff of higher quality materials has been evident.
The Tuesday May 25th Frio County Program Fair is shaping up to be one of the most comprehensive resource events we’ve seen in a long time.
Much more than tables of flyers and swag, here are some of the headliners:
Aaron Ibarra, Frio County Clerk | Free Birth Certificates Birth Certificates are a basic required document to receive a State ID and a number of other services. Aaron Ibarra will offer free birth certificates that originate in Frio County. http://www.co.frio.tx.us/page/frio.County.Clerk
South Texas Rural Health Services | Free Health Screenings for Non-Insured, Free COVID Vaccines South Texas Rural Health Services has been on a tear through Frio County lately. As soon as eligibility permitted, STRHS used their mobile clinic to provide vaccines to a majority of the employees at Frio County, Pearsall ISD, Dilley ISD, and the City of Dilley. When the age requirement was lowered, they provided vaccines to the ISD students too. The mobile clinic will be parked at the 2021 Frio County Program Fair, providing free health screenings for the non-insured and free COVID vaccines. The mobile clinic is equipped to provide much more, so a visit is recommended for any concerns about physical or mental health. https://southtexasruralhealth.com/
Eva Perez, Paralegal, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid | Pro Bono Paralegal Services Eva Perez will do intakes for several civil issues. Ms. Perez explains, “Doing an intake is very different from working on a case. My specialty is expunction law, so if an applicant is seeking to get their record expunged or sealed it is very likely I will be able to work on their case directly. However, that doesn’t mean that the residents of Frio county can only apply to get their record clean. Whatever their legal inquiry, I can do an intake for them as long it is a civil matter. We do have financial guidelines to qualify and certain civil matters are not accepted, but every case is reviewed by attorneys on a case to case basis.” Thank you to Judge Susan Ruiz-Belding for finding and inviting this guest. https://www.trla.org/
Delma Pargas, Community Council of South Central Texas | Utility Assistance Application Community Council of South Central Texas has been assisting eligible Frio County residents with past due utility payments. An application is necessary, and will be available at the program fair. http://www.ccsct.org/
Christina Guajardo, Care Program | Free Diapers Call the Care Program on 210-449-4346 on Monday May 24th before 4:30pm to register for free diapers. They will be available for pick up at the Tuesday May 25th Frio County Program Fair. https://www.stpaulcdc.org/
Corina Martinez,Southwest Family Life Centers Corina Martinez is an advocate/case manager for victims of domestic violence.