Commissioners Court

In this Advocate file photo, Victoria County commissioners discuss county business during their weekly meeting.

When a representative from the company at the center of a controversy about how Victoria County managed repairs after Hurricane Harvey visits the county, questions will be answered, Victoria County Commissioner Kevin Janak said Monday.

More than half a year after Janak and a small group of people began fact-checking information and reviewing work performed on county buildings after Harvey, Janak on Monday during the Victoria County commissioners’ meeting provided the court with a brief update on the group’s progress.

The group is “almost done with our side of the inspections,” he said. To finish, he added, they need a representative from Virtus Group to come to the county.

Virtus Group, now called Commercial Restoration Company, is the Kansas-based company at the center of a controversy about whether Victoria County spent Harvey recovery money in taxpayers’ best interests.

Refugio County, which also contracted with the company after the hurricane, has sued the Texas Association of Counties, its insurance carrier, for $1 million for failing to properly handle its claim from losses caused by Harvey.

When trying to arrange for a representative to come to the county, Janak said he was unsuccessful for two weeks when calling and “trying to get in touch with an actual person.” Finally, he said, he spoke with the comptroller with the Virtus Group who was then going to email Luis Garcia – a national project coordinator with the company, according to emails between him and Victoria County staff – and the president of the company but still had no luck.

Monday morning he called again, he said, and “finally got ahold of Luis.”

Garcia was in Victoria County right after the hurricane hit, Janak said, and he will be able to answer the small group’s questions. Janak said Garcia plans to visit next week.

“This is what’s going to finish the piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Following the visit, Janak said the small group will provide an update during the next commissioners’ court meeting.

“Then we’ll be just blessed and happy that we can put this behind us, and I think almost all of Victoria County will probably be happy as well,” he said.

Also Monday, commissioners held a public hearing on the proposed 2020 tax rate. The proposed property tax rate is 39.59 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, the same as it has been since 2016.

Under the proposed 2020 budget, about $2 million more will be raised in revenue from property taxes than last year. In addition, $554,967 in tax revenue is expected to be raised from new property added to the tax roll.

Another public hearing on the tax rate will be held Thursday. Commissioners are scheduled to pass the 2020 budget and tax rate at their regular meeting Sept. 23.

The county’s fiscal year begins Jan. 1.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, or on Twitter

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