The Deep East Texas Council of Governments confirmed its officers for the coming year during an online meeting held Thursday June 25. The new officer terms begin July 1.
Sabine County Judge Daryl Melton will serve as President. Nacogdoches City Councilman Roy Boldon will be President-Elect. Shelby County Judge Allison Harbison will serve as Vice President. San Augustine County Judge Jeff Boyd was elected to serve as Secretary. Bill Holder of the Trinity River Authority is completing his year as President and will remain on the Executive Committee as Immediate Past President.
Also during the meeting, Dr. Lila Valencia, Senior Demographer for the Texas Demographic Center, gave an update on the progress of the 2020 Census and its response rates in Texas and the Deep East Texas region. Valencia explained the purpose and importance of the census, such as how the government uses it for allocation of representatives, funding and other purposes. In the past, she said Texas has been undercounted, and projections state as many as 500,000 people could be undercounted in the 2020 census in Texas.
As of June 25, 2020, 56.4 percent of households have responded to the census in Texas, which is below the national average of 61.7 percent. All counties In the DETCOG region are below the state and national response rates, with Angelina County having the highest response rate per household at 52.9 percent.
Dr. Valencia explained that Deep East Texas response rates are lower because the Census Bureau chose not to mail forms to most rural households. Instead, the plan was to hand deliver census packets to the rural residents; however, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed that and many residents of Deep East Texas are just now receiving their forms.
Census coordinators are moving back into the field across the region to keep promoting the importance and ways to respond to the census. DETCOG is reminding all residents that you don’t have to wait until a Census worker delivers the form to your home. You can respond online at www.2020census.gov or by calling toll free 1-844-330-2020. Spanish speaking residents can call 1-844-468-2020.
In other business, members of the DETCOG board approved a ranking of the top four engineering firms for broadband network design in the Deep East Texas region, and authorized DETCOG to begin contract negotiations with the firms based on ranking. A seven-member evaluation team reviewed proposals from seven firms and interviewed four of the responders.
Magellan Advisors LLC was the top ranked firm. SkyHelm Technology was ranked second. Fujitsu was ranked third, and Cobb, Fendley and Associates was ranked fourth.
The Board heard a review of the annual audit report from Axley & Rode, Certified Public Accountants. Eric Carver of Axley & Rode noted the firm had issued a “clean, unmodified opinion” which he said was the highest assurance that can be given.
At the end of Fiscal Year 2019 DETCOG’s total net position was $2,661,313 and total fund balances were $1,777,178. Much of the agencies funding is restricted for use in specific grant programs. The unrestricted net position was $688,692 and the unrestricted fund balance in the administrative fund was
In other business, the DETCOG Board:
• Approved the PHA Housing Plan. This plan provides the policies and procedures of the Deep East Texas Regional Housing Authority which operates a HUD Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program for families in the region. The plan may be viewed online at www.detcog.gov.
• Approved revised bylaws and the 2020-2021 Risk-Informed Methodology and Procedures as recommended by the Emergency Preparedness Task Force.
• Approved revised bylaws and procedures as recommended by the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee.
• Authorized issuance of a request for proposals for grant application and management services.
• Approval of DETCOG Membership Due Structure for 2020-2021. No changes were made in the current dues structure.
DETCOG’s next board meeting is set to be held on July 23, 2020.