The Ellis County Commission on Monday conducted its annual reorganization to appoint a new chairperson and vice chair. Dean Haselhorst was appointed chairman in a 2-1 vote, with Barbara Wasinger now serving as vice chair.
The action strays from the usual rotation of commissioners serving in the leadership position every three years. Commissioner Marcy McClelland, who had been serving as vice chair, said it would have been her turn in the rotation.
“I think in the rotation my name is up because this is my last year,” she said. “And I was the vice chair this last year.”
Wasinger made the motion to appoint Haselhorst to the spot, and neither he nor Wasinger replied to McClelland at that time but voted in favor of his nomination. McClelland voted “no” to both appointments.
At the end of Monday’s meeting, previous chairperson Wasinger said she had decided to nominate Haselhorst due to ongoing concerns about a lawsuit pending in district court against the county commission and McClelland individually.
McClelland voted against a proposed residential subdivision plat in November 2016, with Haselhorst in favor and Wasinger abstaining to prevent a conflict of interest. Her husband, Tom, previously had served as an attorney for developer Mary Alice Unrein and continues to be a friend and spokesman. The lawsuit was filed in December 2016.
“I simply cannot support Commissioner McClelland as chair of the Ellis County Commission due to her decision in the interest of seven homeowners in the VonFeldt subdivision over those of the almost 29,000 residents of Ellis County,” Wasinger said Monday. “Her decision in the Blue Sky Acres matter has, in effect, halted development for over a year in Ellis County, and it has denied the county any potential tax revenue from such development. I just wanted to make that abundantly clear.”
McClelland did not respond following Wasinger’s remarks.
In other business, the commission discussed a request from the joint planning commission to hire a consultant to review the county’s comprehensive plan.
The planning commission has been working for nearly two years to update the county’s zoning and subdivision regulations. During that process, commissioners realized a number of those regulations conflict with the county’s comprehensive plan, which dates back to 2012.
Commissioners agreed it’s something the county should pursue, but the expense was not budgeted this year. At a $50,000 cost estimate, hiring the consultant would take approximately one-third of the county’s available contingency funding for 2018.
County Administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes said the county could conduct a procurement process in efforts to determine actual cost. The commission then could revisit the issue at a later time to determine if it’s financially feasible.
“I believe we have to do that. Because the comprehensive plan that we partnered with the city is just a picture book. It’s not a real comprehensive plan. It needed to have much more review,” McClelland said.
For more from Monday’s Ellis County Commission meeting, watch HDNews.net or see Wednesday’s edition.