JUDGE: 2023, growth, change, repairs, and an apology
As 2023 came to an end and we start anew with 2024, it’s been interesting to see how much things have changed in just one year. I appreciate all the hard work the Commissioners have put in during 2023. The current Milam County Commissioners Court has worked hard to improve things here and while we have accomplished much in the last year, we still have much more to complete as well.
This year, the new Milam County Commissioners Court put out some goals to help us to reestablish and/or repair county services that had been neglected in recent years, establish county services that the county needs to handle the growth we are experiencing throughout the county, and to not only make the improvements we all saw as necessary, but to also look to our constituents for the ideas and recommendations that have the opportunity to improve our situation and opportunities in the future.
First on the agenda was looking at reinstalling the offices that had been removed from the county in the previous few years; namely, the Veterans Service Office, the Community Services Officer, and an overall Building Maintenance Supervisor. All of these positions had been cut from the budget and with the number of veterans we have in Milam County, probationers on community service, and county buildings that need attention, these cuts seemed to be poorly selected. So, we worked to put these back in place by moving things around in the 2023 budget or adding them back to the 2024 budget and ensure that these positions are filled and not left vacant when a need is there for their services.
With the growing population, we also felt it necessary to add a few positions to allow county government to become more efficient by consolidating offices and resources into centralized offices. For the 2024 budget, the offices of Planning and Development Coordinator and Grants Administrator were added. The Planning and Development Coordinator will initially take over the subdivision and land variance duties for the county and over the course of 2024 begin to take over the tracking and coordination of the driveway applications, septic permitting, and temporary water line permitting.
The Grants Coordinator will manage the large number of grants the various departments get. It was necessary to create the office of Grants Coordinator to centralize those efforts and work with the County Auditor’s office to ensure our grant measures are handled in a standardized, organized manner. A countywide grant coordinator position will allow the various departments to do their jobs and not have to spend time doubling efforts by having multiple individuals in multiple departments tracking these grants.
For the 2025 budget, the county will add an IT coordinator to handle the technology issues the county has. Currently, each department is responsible for the technology needs and by combining those efforts into one office, we can reduce the expenses of multiple county contracts for technology needs, reduce the number of needed supplies, and have a greater influence on our buying power by consolidating our purchasing needs and buying/contracting in bulk. Many counties have gone this route and noticed immediate savings due to the consolidation of their efforts.
These are some of the offices we have worked on, we have also made other changes that have benefited Milam County such as bringing back Susan Reinders to rebuild an Emergency Services Department that had been virtually decimated since her departure. And while all of this gives us many reasons to be happy with the direction we are going as a county, there are still many things to improve on. Recently we held interviews for the Postoak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District and the Emergency Services District. We were happy to have the interviews and excited for the turnout; however, I am afraid we could have done better.
As required by law we held in-person interviews, but just like in the past we only held interviews on a single day. In the future, we will hold interviews over a couple of days to allow those who are at work on shift work to be able to participate. And though we thought we did a good job getting the word out, going beyond simply putting out the required agenda and putting out the information on the radio, in the newspapers, and on social media; we most definitely could have done better. We have worked hard to be open and transparent this year and while we did put the information out to more venues than ever before, we can and will do better. As the County Judge and the Facilitator of the Milam County Commissioners Court, I take responsibility for this and in the future, I will make sure that we do everything we can to accommodate applicants who desire to serve the county.
In closing, I appreciate the hard work our county employees put in and I look forward to making 2024 an even brighter and more positive year for us all here in Milam County. We wish Milam County a Wonderful New Year and may God Bless you all.