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Williamson County, Austin move forward with traffic safeguards in busy area near Round Rock ISD schools

Story and link below are from KXAN News

  • 20 June 2019
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 4131


by: Will DuPree

Posted: Jun 19, 2019 / 08:48 PM CDT / Updated: Jun 19, 2019 / 08:50 PM CDT

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A joint project between the City of Austin and Williamson County may help address some long-standing traffic and safety concerns near several schools in the north Austin area.

The Austin City Council approved an agreement Wednesday with Williamson County to potentially add new safeguards along Pearson Ranch Road, which runs by three Round Rock Independent School District school buildings. The proposal now needs approval from the Williamson County Commissioners Court, which may vote on it in early July.

The plan came together after months-long discussions between Terry Cook, the county commissioner for precinct one, and Jimmy Flannigan, the City Council member for district six.

School leaders, parents, and city/county officials helped formulate the proposed fixes to deal with safety issues for vehicles and pedestrians alike near Patsy Sommer Elementary School, Elsa England Elementary School and Pearson Ranch Middle School.

“What we have, unfortunately, with two of those schools [Elsa England and Pearson Ranch] is that Round Rock ISD built them on one side of a very busy street,” Flannigan explained. “All of the kids that attend that school are on the other side of that very busy street, so you have kids crossing and having kind of a traffic nightmare. The more unsafe it is to cross the street, the more parents put their kids in cars and make the traffic nightmare worse, so we have evolved a series of improvements in partnership with Williamson County, which will hopefully address most, if not all, of these concerns.”

Successfully Treating and Healing Abused Children and their Families in Wilco

Oped by Commissioner Cook

  • 20 June 2019
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 4129

Commissioner Cook visits with CEO Kerrie Stannell on the proch of the Williamson County Children's Advocacy Center in Georgetown. They are joined by Charlie, the Golden Doodle, who calms the children with his peaceful and affectionate nature.

While nothing is bright about child abuse, there is a beam of hope for many abused children through services provided by a national and international organization also found in Wilco.

The Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center, led by CEO Kerrie Stannell, offers intervention services to victims of child abuse, including sexual abuse, from birth to 17. 

Centers like the WCCAC originated in 1985 through the leadership of former Alabama Congressman Robert E. “Bud” Cramer who envisioned a coordinated system of services for abused children.

His efforts led to the creation in 1985 of the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The innovative approach of combining law enforcement, criminal justice, child protective services, medical and mental health workers into one local team began then.

Today there are more than 1,000 Children’s Advocacy Centers throughout the United States and in more than 33 countries. Texas has 71 CACs, including our own WCCAC that opened in 1997 in Georgetown.

Our center has 22 full-time and three part-time professional staff members, plus Charlie the Goldendoodle.

All services offered to victims and their non-offending families are free. However, the WCCAC is not a residential facility; children removed from their homes are placed with a relative or in foster care.

Law enforcement officers or CPS social workers assess each situation to determine if a child (and/or family) should be referred to the WCCAC.

Staff use extreme care to make children feel safe and comfortable.

A child first undergoes a forensic interview with one of four interviewers, including a Spanish bilingual person.

Three observation rooms are paired with three interview rooms to allow law enforcement and CPS workers to view live interviews on closed circuit TV.

The video-recorded interviews can assist later with investigating and prosecuting these cases. 

Recorded interviews also reduce the number of times a child must repeat the account, lessening the child’s stress and the potential that the child might inadvertently omit or change some detail.

In 2018, the center provided 812 forensic interviews, with 21 percent for ages 0-5, 35 percent for ages 6-11, and 44 percent for ages 12-17.

Of these interviews, 506 children were interviewed for suspected sexual abuse, 161 for suspected physical abuse and 145 for at-risk categories, including witnessing crimes. 

The WCCAC also provided advocacy services to 454 families that year.

Commissioner Cook Hosts 2019 Williamson County Citizens Bond Committee Meeting

Meeting held Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in Precinct 1 at Jester Annex in Round Rock

  • 23 May 2019
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 4136

The Williamson County Commissioners Court formed a Citizens Bond Committee to hear from cities, municipal utility districts, schools and others regarding the potential need for roads and trails around the county. These hearings will help the committee members determine if the county should consider a bond election in November 2019. If the committee decides that bonds are needed to fund projects, then the committee is to propose projects to the Commissioners Court for potential funding. The Commissioners Court will then consider their recommendations and make a final determination regarding bond language to be placed on the November 2019 ballot. 

County Judge Bill Gravell selected former Precinct 3 Commissioner David Hays to chair the committee, and each Commissioner named two people to the committee. Other committee members are:

Precinct 1: Meg Walsh and Mitch Fuller

Precinct 2: Joe Bob Ellison and Matt Powell

Precinct 3: Tim Lear and John Marler

Precinct 4: Ron Randig and Bryon Brochers

The next meetings will be:

May 30, 5:30 p.m. – Pct. 3 Georgetown Annex, 100 Wilco Way, Georgetown, TX

June 6, 3:30 p.m. – Historic Courthouse, 107 S. Main St., Georgetown, TX

June 13, 3:30 p.m. - Historic Courthouse, 107 S. Main St., Georgetown, TX

Commissioner Cook listens to project needs from members of the Upper Brushy Creek Water Control and Improvement District before the meeting.(rt) Alysha Girard, General Manger; (center) Kathy Cook, Director; and Mike Freeman, President .Commissioner Cook reviews documents on projects with Committee member Mitch Fuller, Pct. 1; seated is Meg Walsh, Pct. 1 and standing next to her is Joe Bob Ellison, Pct. 2 member.

Assisting victims of crime on the scene and beyond

Oped by Commissioner Cook

  • 16 May 2019
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 4441

Commissioner Cook showcases (left to right) Linda Sloan, volunteer; Pam Lowthorp, volunteer coordinator; Michele Kelley, volunteer; Hannah Nestorick, director, and Julia Cooper, caseworker with the Williamson County Victim Assistance Unit.

While we proclaimed April 7-13 as Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the work continues year-round.

The state Legislature passed legislation in 1989 requiring crime victim liaisons in law enforcement agencies and victim assistance coordinators in prosecutor offices. Both the Williamson County attorney’s and district attorney’s offices have victim services departments.

In Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick’s office, there are three full-time victim assistance coordinators who serve and care for victims and survivors of crime and their families while their cases are pending. They support the victims from the beginning stages of a case through the remainder of the court proceedings, appeals, parole process and even beyond.

The four victim advocate coordinators of Williamson County Attorney Doyle “Dee” Hobb’s office act as guides and serve as resources through the complexities of the criminal justice system, from intake to the prosecution of their cases and even aftercare.

However, my focus for this piece is the Victim Assistance Unit, a division of the Williamson County sheriff’s office and the first point of contact when emergency responders request assistance at the scene of an emergency.

After police, firefighters or EMS conduct their initial investigation of a crime, they often leave for other calls.

Following a traumatic event, people often feel helpless, confused and emotionally shocked. The unit representatives remain with victims in the immediate aftermath to provide temporary support. Hannah Nestorick, director of the victim assistance program, and two staff members work closely with 21 volunteers from the community to provide that support.

Reducing Ground-Level Ozone Regionally

by Commissioner Cook

  • 18 April 2019
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 4848

Commissioner Cook is holding her Ozone Action Day sign in front of the entrance to the Williamson County Jester Annex in Round Rock.NOTE: April 9 was the first time this year Commissioner Cook posted her Ozone Action Day signs at the Williamson County Jester Annex in Round Rock as the temperature climbed to 90 degrees.

With spring’s arrival, it’s important to remember ozone season has started and to understand what that means for our community.

Ozone is a form of oxygen with three atoms instead of the usual two.

Stratospheric ozone depletion is a global problem that was addressed through extensive work in this and other countries by banning solvents throughout the world that were believed to have depleted this layer of protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet light.

Time will tell if these endeavors were successful. So for now — remember your sunscreen.

The focus of regional air pollution control efforts is to reduce ground-level ozone, also called tropospheric ozone, and the most prevalent regional air pollution in Texas and the nation.

This ozone, the primary constituent of smog, is not emitted directly into the air but is formed through chemical reactions between natural and man-made emissions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight.

In Central Texas, high ground-level ozone is driven by nitrogen oxides generated through fossil fuels being burned in vehicles, factories, water heaters and other combustion devices.

As a member of the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition, I’m privileged to participate in develo


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