County commissioners court on Monday postponed a decision on whether or not to spend county funds to deal with the ongoing immigrant crisis.
“I’ve listened to both sides of this, and at the end of the day, I represent the people who put me in this office. This court has worked diligently for solutions ... but I have to agree that the use of taxpayers’ money at this time, for a problem that was created by the federal government, is not right,” County Commissioner Pct. 3 Beau Nettleton said at the start of the discussion.
“I agree it’s not something we need to be funding, but I also agree that us as Christians have an obligation to do certain things. I will not be voting to fund this with taxpayers’ money, but I will be donating money to the coalition out of my own pocket,” Nettleton added.
“I’m with Commissioner Nettleton,” said County Commissioner Pct. 1 Martin Wardlaw. “If everybody wants this to happen, let’s pull the money out of our own pockets. I’ll be the first. Let’s pass the hat, right here.”
“I represent the citizens of Val Verde County, mainly Precinct 1. That’s where the poorest of poor of the poor of Val Verde County are, and that’s where I want to see the tax money spent,” Wardlaw added.
County Commissioner Pct. 4 Gustavo “Gus” Flores said, “At the end of the day, how we protect the safety of our citizens, it’s going to melt down to – maybe not today or maybe not tomorrow – we’re going to have to spend some of our taxpayer’s money to be able to alleviate the problem. I don’t think it’s going to stop. It’s not going to slow down, and, yeah, everybody wants to contribute money, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough to get this thing going, get the people out of Del Rio, so at this time, I would say, let’s not vote to spend (the money) or not spend it. Keep it the way it is, and at the moment where we see we need to spend some money, we’ll bring it back to the court and put it to a vote.”
County Commissioner Pct. 2 Juan Carlos Vazquez said his perspective on the situation was also driven by the calls he has received from constituents.
“I’ve had a lot of calls from the people I represent, telling me not to spend any (taxpayer) monies. I haven’t had one person from Val Verde County tell me, hey, I’m willing for the county to spend a little bit of money, so at this time, I’m not ready to vote to spend any money on this issue.”
County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. told the court, “We’re all saying the same thing. We really are, and it’s a shame that it’s dividing our community, just like in Washington. I believe that at some point, we will have to pony up some money to make sure that these individuals are not left here in our town. I think that is probably coming.
“We have a meeting this afternoon with individuals who doing the transportation of these people. I think that they need to step forward and pony up some money. They’re making thousands of dollars a day, every day. The coalition is all volunteers, which, it’s not fair that you have one group working their butts off and another group reaping all the rewards. I think they need to put some money into the coalition and then it just becomes self-sufficient,” Owens said.
Owens said he believed the court did not need to take a vote on whether or not to spend taxpayer money on the issue at this time.
Flores then made a motion to table, with Vazquez giving the second.
Before the court voted, Nettleton asked to make another statement.
“There’s a lot of rumors and a lot of stuff going around on Facebook. This court hasn’t wavered one bit from where they stand on this issue. We have never once said that we needed to spend taxpayers’ money. Never once has this court said that. And all the rumors going around out there, that we’re going to do this or we’re going to do that. We’ve all said the same thing: We want them out of Del Rio.
“We have not wavered on that. We have not stood differently on that. And what really, really, really, really, really upsets me is we’re not putting our anger where it belongs. That’s at the people that created this mess. We’re mad at our local elected officials who are trying their best to represent the people and do what’s right by this community, and we’re getting beat up with missed facts, stuff that’s not true,” Nettleton said.
Wardlaw reiterated although he did not believe county tax dollars should be used to fund the efforts of the coalition, he said he had no problem donating to the group out of his own personal funds and promptly wrote the volunteer group a check for $1,000.
The court voted unanimously to table the issue of spending county money on the immigrant crisis.