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2011-03-10

Mr. Bregel rides to county's rescue

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

A request to Bandera County Commissioners Court at first seemed a no-brainer. However, it led to such a protracted discussion that, throwing in the towel, a county resident eventually offered to take care of the matter himself.
On Thursday, Feb. 24, Bandera County Extension Agent Warren Thigpen asked the court to make an exception to a county personnel policy, regarding reimbursement for overnight stays. Recently, while assisting local 4-H members who had entered a livestock show in Kerrville, Thigpen decided to take advantage of a special $59 room offer in an area motel. As he explained to commissioners, this decision was in lieu of leaving Kerrville at 11 pm, returning to his home to catch 40 winks before waking at 4 am and return to Kerrville by 6 am.
"When I came back and reviewed the policy, I realized you had to travel over 60 miles before you can be reimbursed for an overnight stay," he said. "So I'm asking you to consider paying for the room." Thigpen added frugally, "I wouldn't have stayed overnight if the room had been $100."
Judge Richard Evans quipped, "Staying up late and getting up early didn't seem to bother you years ago." Thigpen good-naturedly agreed with the assessment.
The judge then queried as to whether Thigpen's department had a budget for stock show expenses. Thigpen said he had funds for mileage, meals and lodging for shows in Kerrville, San Antonio, San Angelo, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston.
"Would this be an exception or a stock show expense?" Evans asked, noting, "I oppose exceptions as a rule."
The discussion then segued to a portended spike in gasoline prices - which some experts contend could top $4 a gallon this summer. The court attempted to determine whether it would be more cost effective to pay for a hotel room - even one inside the verboten zone - as opposed to spending perhaps more money for gasoline. "We may have to revisit the county policy," Evans suggested.
Auditor Christina Moeller admitted that the current policy is, at best, confusing. "Business vouchers are the worst part. It's hard to have a policy that fits everyone," she said.
County Attorney John Payne pointed out, "All of us drive but we're only responsible for ourselves. Warren's responsible for the kids and animals and he has the details and facts to back it up."
"If the stock show budget includes funds for lodging, I don't see a problem," said Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris.
One of his colleagues rejoined that while money was not a problem, making an exception to the policy might be. "If we make an exception, others will come."
However, others on the court downplayed that possibility, saying, "I don't see that happening."
When discussion circled back to revisiting the county policy and whether an exception should be made in this case, longtime county resident and court watcher Tom Bregel swung into action, offering to pay the $59 for Thigpen's lodging.
"Are you serious?" asked Evans.
"I am," Bregel replied.
After noting "in the last 15 years you've drunk that much coffee," Evans said that an item would be placed on the Thursday, March 10, commissioners court meeting to accept Bregel's offer formally.
Later, Evans said, "I tease Mr. Bregel a lot, but he's really a nice guy and we appreciate his generosity."
Eventually, overhauling the county policy regarding reimbursement for overnight stays as related to county business will also make an appearance on the court's agenda. For the record, the question about whether Thigpen's request was "an exception or a stock show expense" was never adequately answered - and probably won't be.


Pictured: Bandera County resident Tom Bregel