Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said he and his wife, Jill, will donate the $8,263.24 of supplies they bought to make masks to combat coronavirus and will not seek reimbursement.
“I am not seeking reimbursement for $8,263.24,” Gravell said during an April 21 virtual Commissioners Court meeting. “That is a gift that my wife and I will be giving because we believe in Williamson County.”
The purchases, made at three Hobby Lobby stores, were for fabric, sewing supplies and scissors, among other supplies, on April 6 and 10. The supplies have been used to supply the "mask brigade," the county’s effort to fill a gap in needed masks for front line workers.
The masks made from this brigade are prioritized for first responders, health care workers and vulnerable populations. The county is not making masks for the general public at this time, said 26th District Court Judge Donna King, who is in charge of the mask brigade.
The judge received backlash Monday, April 20, for requesting reimbursement for purchases he made without commissioners' approval. Gravell said he had to use a personal check for the purchases after Hobby Lobby was closed due to the "nonessential business" provision of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.
While the purchase was planned to be made with the county credit card, the store’s credit card machines were not on, which led the judge to cut a personal check, King said.
King said that while all the supplies were purchased solely for the mask brigade efforts, she is now working to return about $500 in purchased supplies,which would affect the reimbursement total.
Commissioner Cynthia Long asked commissioners not to approve reimbursement until a total is finalized.
Following this information and discussion, Gravell chose to donate the purchases.
Gravell added that he put the item on the agenda initially because he wanted the public to see the purchases in a public format.
“The reason why I placed on this agenda is because a member of the media asked if I opened Hobby Lobby so [my daughter] could go on a shopping spree, and I knew of no way to answer that question than to bring Judge King forward and offer all the data she had,” he said. “It’s a gift that we will make, and that will mean that everything the mask brigade has done is through volunteers and donations."
Gravell continued: "What I would like to do [for] agenda item No. 40 is absolutely nothing other than challenge our community and elected officials [to ask,] 'What gift can you make back to Williamson County?'"
So far, the mask brigade has made about 8,000 masks from both the purchased and donated supplies. King said a yard of fabric can produce six to eight masks, depending on the mask, and added that the county has 4,802 pleated masks and 2,043 ranger masks ready to be distributed.
Hundreds have volunteered, and thousands of hours have been donated toward mask-masking, King said. Those interested in volunteering can visit the county’s website.
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell to donate $8,000 in mask supplies, forgo reimbursement
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell will donate $8,000 in mask supplies instead of asking for government reimbursement after controversy arose around the payment. (Screenshot courtesy Williamson County)