Improving Hays County’s criminal justice system and reducing spending across various platforms are two primary issues Ruben Becerra plans to initially tackle as he begins his term as County Judge.
Becerra, who claimed the Hays County Judge seat in November, presided over his first official commissioners’ court meeting Jan. 8 to a full courtroom.
Becerra said he hopes to have answers to efficiencies in the county’s criminal justice system within the next two months. That includes looking into the county’s practice of outsourcing inmates to neighboring jails due to overcrowding.
Currently, the Hays County Jail is undergoing an expansion as part of a $250 million bond measure approved by voters in 2016. Of that amount, $106.4 million was earmarked for jail expansion, as well as a new law enforcement center and 911 system.
“We’re addressing the jail of course, the expansion,” Becerra said. “But I don’t consider that a solution. What I want to do, while we have new judges stepping into spaces at this moment in time, we have the opportunity to see the process through fresh eyes.”
Becerra said the system’s greatest strength is those who currently work within the process, from the jail to the courts. However, Becerra said there are inefficiencies that exist within the process, from arrest to incarceration to trial. Becerra said he expects to have a plan within two months.
Environmentalism is Becerra’s second biggest focus for the year. In recent months, Hays County’s Commissioners Court voted to support Protect Our Blanco, an organization against the city of Blanco’s proposed wastewater treatment plant expansion, which could increase the amount of treated effluent discharge into the Blanco River.
Locally, Buda and Kyle are both working toward updating and expanding their wastewater treatment plants to accommodate for growth.
“So far, I support what the court has done, and I want to continue to support any effort to foster and shore up additional environmental stewardship,” Becerra said. “Having access to clean water ways is important.”
As his term progresses, Becerra also hopes to reduce spending across multiple platforms with the goal of maintaining quality.
“We have opportunities to revisit what we’re doing as a county for our residents,” Becerra said.
Becerra also hopes to revisit how the county is operating the Indigent Health Care Program, a state-mandated program requiring counties to provide assistance to qualifying residents who do not have health insurance.
“We have opportunities to revisit and renegotiate,” Becerra said. “I got the bill for what we pay on pharmaceutical. I want to find a way to bring more competitiveness to that, to bring the cost down.”