Fort Bend commissioners authorize county attorney to file more than 30 lawsuits over new junkyard ordinance: 6 takeaways from the Feb. 13 meeting

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Fort Bend County Commissioners approved several routine continuation grants for various department programs, approved over $7.4 million in bills and authorized the county attorney to file more than 30 lawsuits regarding the noncompliance of several local salvage yards to a 2017 ordinance from the Fire Marshall’s Office.

Here are several takeaways Fort Bend County residents should know from the Feb. 13 meeting:

Access Health extended hours

County commissioners approved an agreement for clinic services between the county and Fort Bend Family Health Center Inc. that will provide for extended clinical hours and other services at Access Health’s Richmond clinic off Jackson Street. Administrative & Budgets Manager Ann Werlein said the county has been involved with the provision of care coordinating program that helps expand health care services for about the last five years.

Public transportation grant accepted
Commissioners accepted a grant award from the Federal Transit Administration regarding fiscal year 2016 Section 5307 funds totaling $4.4 million.

“That 5307 is the number that identifies what kind of federal dollars they are, and it is federal dollars that are used for the purposes of providing transportation in urbanized areas,” Fort Bend County Transportation Director Paulette Shelton said.

Shelton explained that now that the FTA approved the 2016 funding request, the commissioners’ acceptance of the grant is a routine administration matter that confirms the county will abide by the regulations regarding the disbursement of the funds for public transit services.

Several continuation grants approved
Commissioners approved several continuation grant applications to the Office of Governor Criminal Justice Division for various programs, including a $126,625 grant regarding the District Attorney’s Violence Against Women Prosecutor and Investigator program.

“It’s a special division that the [District Attorney] has so there’s a special prosecutor and investigator who handles those employees who are investigating domestic violence cases or rape [cases],” Werlein said.

Other applications include a $137,912 grant for the county’s Behavioral Health Services Victim Assistance Program, the Health and Human Services department’s request for nearly $280,000 in grant funding for a Victim Assistance Program and the Corrections Department’s application for $150,000 for the Felony Drug Court, Misdemeanor Drug Court and DWI Court programs.

CDBGDR application approved
After holding several public hearings, commissioners approved an action to submit an application to the Texas General Land Office for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program for assistance regarding infrastructure and property damaged in the 2016 flooding events.

Werlein said the county has been working to complete a final project list that the funds would be used for. Now that the list has been finalized, commissioners have officially applied for the funding. Werlein said she expects once a notice to proceed is filed from the Texas General Land Office, then the county will begin initiating contracts within the affected cities.

Authorization to file lawsuits approved
Commissioners approved an action authorizing the county attorney to file lawsuits for civil enforcement of the county’s Junkyard and Automotive Wrecking and Salvage Yard ordinance. The ordinance was enacted in 2017 by the Fire Marshal’s office and enforces regulations for aesthetic and screening standards and also requires junkyards attain an annual license issued through the Fire Marshal’s Office, according to county officials.

According to the Fire Marshal’s Office website, several junkyards and auto yards ranging from the Needville area to Katy and Sugar Land have a noncompliant status.

“We have received at least 30 files,” County Attorney Roy Cordes said.

Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert said the junkyards, which are all located in the county’s unincorporated area, were given a grace period to comply with the ordinance but many still have not. Hebert said the ordinance requires the businesses to move their operations a specified distance off the road.

“And they have to put up a fence at a certain height and specification that screens that operation so people don’t have to look at a bunch of junkyards and wrecked cars,” Hebert said. “If they are not working with us, we will take them directly to court.”

Amendment on design plan for proposed public transit facility approved

Commissioners went on to approve an amendment to an agreement for a planning, engineering, environmental analysis and design plan for a proposed transit facility. Werlein said the proposed facility is part of the county’s plan to build an administration and public transit center barn that would serve as a fleet management center for transit buses.

“Right now, they are kind of not in a very accessible location and there’s not a place to really do any maintenance or wash them, so this will be a designated place where they would park the buses overnight so they could do maintenance overnight,” Werlein said.

Werlein said the Federal Transit Authority would help provide funding for the center but requires several studies be done beforehand. She said the proposed facility would be located near the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds.

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Rebecca Hennes
Born and raised in west Houston, Rebecca joined Community Impact in June 2017 after graduating from the Honors College at the University of Houston. She serves as the Katy editor covering government, education, business and transportation.
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