Harris County commissioners discuss minority- and women-owned business program, approve flood mitigation grant request

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Commissioners discussed the possibility of establishing a program aimed at helping minority- and women-owned businesses, and voted on several agenda items related to flood mitigation at Harris County Commissioners Court Tuesday morning.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said Harris County should consider implementing a policy that helps minority- and women-owned businesses participate in work contracts the county awards such as construction or food vending. Ellis said the state of Texas as well as various cities and counties throughout the state have set goals that require entities to award a certain portion of their contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses.

County Judge Ed Emmett and other commissioners pushed back on the idea and said the county seems to be doing a good job even without a program.

“Sometimes governmental bodies do what’s right without being forced to do it,” Emmett said.

Ellis said first the county would need to complete a disparity study that would cost about $650,000. The study would review the contracts the county has awarded over the past few years to determine what percentage was awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses. Commissioners could decide whether to adopt a policy based on the findings.

Currently, the county does not record all of the contracts it awards to minority- and women-owned businesses, Ellis said.

“If our numbers are so good, I don’t understand the reluctance to do a disparity study,” Ellis said. “I’m not advocating something that has not been put in place in other counties and areas.”

No action was taken on this topic at the meeting. However, commissioners did approve several items on the court’s agenda relating to flood mitigation.

Commissioners authorized Harris County Flood Control District to request $1.86 million in grant funds from the Texas Department of Public Safety for a project that will study flood mitigation along the San Jacinto River. If approved, the county would have to provide matching funds in the amount of $625,000 for the study.

Commissioners also approved a recommendation to acquire tracts of land throughout the county for flood mitigation buyouts and road projects. The court approved the purchase of eight tracts of land for the Hardy Toll Road extension project in Precinct 1, two tracts of land for a project on Hufsmith Road in Precinct 4 and seven tracts of land for buyouts related to Hurricane Harvey in Precinct 2.

View the full agenda meeting here. The next Harris County Commissioners Court meeting will be held at 10 a.m. May 1 at the Harris County Administration Building located at 1001 Preston St., Houston.

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Zac Ezzone
Zac Ezzone began his career as a journalist in northeast Ohio, where he freelanced for a statewide magazine and local newspaper. In April 2017, he moved from Ohio to Texas to join Community Impact Newspaper. He worked as a reporter for the Spring-Klein edition for more than a year before becoming the editor of the Lake Houston-Humble-Kingwood edition.
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