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Community Supervision VS. Incarceration Oped by Commissioner Cook

  • 18 January 2019
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 12
  • 0 Comments

Laurie Born, executive director of LifeSteps Council on Alcohol and Drugs, is at the front of the room introducing instructors Jenna Sheldon Neasbitt and Meredith Stacy Jones to Wilco community supervision and corrections department officers and counselors.

A push to reduce incarceration rates in Texas has increased the emphasis for jail alternatives and community supervision.

As of November 2017, over 145,000 inmates have been incarcerated in Texas jails or prisons, many of whom for substance abuse-related offenses.

Otherwise known as probation, community supervision is a necessary piece of the criminal justice system. It serves as an alternative to incarceration while providing accountability, monitoring of court orders and rehabilitative services.

The Williamson County Community Supervision and Corrections Department supervises and monitors both misdemeanor and felony offenders for the county and district courts.

The department currently monitors 4,027 offenders ordered to community supervision in lieu of incarceration. For the taxpayer, this is the better bet. It costs an average of $80 to $120 daily per person in a county jail or prison, while probation costs less than $3 daily per person.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice now requires the county corrections department to utilize nationally recognized best practices to qualify for diversion program grants. The department receives diversionary grants from the state department’s Community Justice Assistance Division.

The emphasis on prison diversion is working. Over the past few years, seven Texas prisons were no longer needed and closed.

Williamson County must conserve and manage its groundwater

Oped by Commissioner Cook

  • 20 December 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 117
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As consumers and customers of water, it behooves us all to not only conserve water, but to become involved in its management.

I recently attended a presentation on the role of groundwater conservation districts at the Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District 8 Conference in Waco for County Judges and Commissioners.Spring-fed groundwater from the Edwards Aquifer bubbles at Berry Springs Park Lake near Georgetown.

Groundwater conservation districts are political subdivisions that manage groundwater production in Texas and are tasked with balancing the conservation of the resource with a landowner’s right to produce it.

As a commissioner, I learned that local communities play an important role in how groundwater is managed locally, regionally and statewide.

What is groundwater?

As Texas Living Waters Projects states, “Simply put, groundwater is water that is found beneath the surface of the earth.”

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, 97 percent of groundwater in Texas is held in aquifers (underground rock layers which are saturated with groundwater). The aquifers, which provide fresh water to cities and irrigation to farmland, are close to the ground and recharged by rivers and water that seeps in.

Although Texas treats surface water and groundwater management differently, all surface water interacts with groundwater and vice versa. Surface water is considered Texas property, while according to the state’s Rule of Capture, groundwater is the landowner’s private property.

The withdrawal of water from streams can deplete groundwater, and pumping groundwater can deplete streams, lakes or wetlands. Pollution of surface water can degrade groundwater quality and pollution of groundwater can degrade surface water.

About 80 percent of groundwater is used for agricultural irrigation, but more efficient methods of farming are changing this. Metropolitan areas are gradually surpassing agricultural groundwater use.

Groundwater provides about 60 percent of our state’s water, with rivers and reservoirs providing the rest. Texans use nearly 17 million acre-feet of water annually. One acre-foot of water would cover a high school football field to a depth of one foot.

BERRY SPRINGS AND PRESERVE WASTEWATER INTERCEPTOR UPDATE

  • 18 December 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 506
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Georgetown held an open house for the public in 2018 and a presentation to the Commissioners Court on Dec 11.  Many meetings happened with and amongst engineers, Commissioners (not as a group), Naturalists, Native Plant Society members, and the public to flush out all concerns and study of alternative routes.

Finally, on December 18, following a public hearing, all five members of the Commissioners Court voted to reject the request to construct a wastewater line thru Berry Springs Park and Preserve as the risk to that fragile environment was far too great.

Georgetown will probably be pursuing a route in the vicinity of Dry Berry Creek.

Commissioners Court Honors Volunteer Groups Who Distributed Water During Austin Water Boil Advisory

Part of the water distribution included the Williamson County Austin area in Commissioner Cook's Precinct (1)

  • 4 December 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 333
  • 0 Comments

Volunteers stand at the front of the courtroom with County Commissioners and County Emergency Management Staff after receiving honorary certificates for their contributions.

On Dec. 4, 2018, the Williamson County Commissioners honored local volunteer groups who assisted with water distribution activities who were called upon by the Wilco Office of Emergency Management during the City of Austin water outage resulting from floods that prompted city officials to issue a water boil for residents.  Collectively they distributed 1,250 cases of bottled water to 80,000 residents.

As a preemptive measure, Austin Water issued a self-imposed, city-wide boil water notice on the morning of Monday, Oct. 22, advising customers to boil water before use. On Tuesday, Oct. 23, Austin Water experienced a brief spike in turbidity levels which triggered an official mandatory boil water notification, as required by state law, and notified its customers. The spike in turbidity did not require any change to precautionary measures already in place and did not put the public at additional risk. Approximately 80,000 Williamson County residents receive their water from Austin Water, either directly or through the indirect purchase, with an example being purchased through a Municipal Utility District (MUD). Other water sources in Williamson County, including water from other cities, were not under the boil water notice.

The groups recognized were the TEXSAR, Cedar Park Community Emergency Response Team, Georgetown Volunteers in Policing, Round Rock Seniors and Law Enforcement, Jarrell Community Emergency Response Team, Austin-Lakeway Community Emergency Response Team, the Knights of Columbus, and the Austin Disaster Relief Network.  Collectively they volunteered over 760 hours in support of this effort.

Sage Advice and Information for Those Pondering College

Oped by Commissioner Terry Cook

  • 15 November 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 260
  • 0 Comments

Pictured left to right are Jim Johnson, WGU Community Relations Manager; Nancy Fitzgerald; WGU Texas Office Manager; Commissioner Cook; Emily LaBrecque, WGU Enrollment Counselor, Business College; and Ann Cruz, Enrollment Counselor, Business College.

If you’re a Wilco resident with a high school diploma or GED looking for a more flexible and much more affordable degree or certification program, I recommend two unbeatable options.

Last fall, I toured and wrote about the East Williamson County Higher Education Center in Hutto. Texas State Technical College, Temple College, and Texas A&M University-Central Texas that comprise EWCHEC, which formed a partnership with the Hutto community.

EWCHEC, through its three colleges, provides an opportunity to obtain associate degrees, coursework to finish bachelor’s and graduate degrees, and certification/licensure in programs like industrial maintenance, precision machining, welding and even cybersecurity.

EWCHEC’s campus buildings and programs continue to expand and excel. For more information, please visit http://ewchec.net/ .

Now Wilco residents—particularly working adults—can finish or obtain degrees from an accredited and reputable online university.

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