"Matagorda residents bring concerns to court" by: Mike Reddell

  Beach safety and vehicle permits headed a list of concerns about next week’s July 4th holiday at Matagorda Beach that were presented to commissioners court at its regular meeting June 24.
   Terri Treadway, representing a group of 13 Matagorda residents who attended the meeting, asked several questions about the county’s plans to keep swimmers from dangerous beach rip-tide areas and for enforcing the county’s beach permit requirements.
   Treadway’s questions also focused on enforcing laws prohibiting UTVs on the beach and trash pickups.
   She suggested using flags on the beach to warn of the rip-tide areas.
   Bay City Tourism Director Heidi Martinez was to see if city hotel taxes can be used to purchase such flags for the beaches, Treadway said.
   “There are rip-tides on the beach all the time,” Sheriff Skipper Osborne said.
   County Judge Nate McDonald asked about the flags and Treadway explained about using the flags – with different colors representing varying levels of dangers.
   There already are no-swimming hazard signs that “people hang their towels on and don’t pay attention.”
   “You don’t know that something won’t work until we try,” Treadway said.
   “I don’t think flags are the answer,” McDonald said.
   The judge did say the flag system used at Galveston Beach works well, but added that Matagorda and Galveston beaches are significantly different.
   Treadway also questioned the county’s approach to selling beach permits and enforcing the laws requiring them.
   “Will someone be selling beach permits?” Treadway asked about the upcoming holiday, referring to the county’s kiosk at the vehicle entrance to Matagorda Beach.
   “If not, can we get that person scheduled?” she added, mentioning the kiosk wasn’t manned during the Memorial Day weekend.
   When Treadway and others asked if the county would consider using volunteers to sell permits from the kiosk, County Attorney Denise Fortenberry said that person must be a county employee.
   That, in turn, drew court concerns about forcing county employees to work at the kiosk and the problems with possible overtime hours that must be budgeted.
   Precinct 2 Commissioner Kent Pollard, whose precinct includes Matagorda and Sargent beaches, said beach permits are sold in Matagorda stores and the county precinct barn.
   “Everybody knows where the county barn is,” Pollard said.
   Osborne later added that permits also were available at LCRA’s Matagorda Bay Nature Park and Rawling’s Bait Camp.
   Treadway also focused on the sheriff’s department’s enforcement of beach permits on vehicles. 
   She said that Matagorda residents counted 74 vehicles in a two-hour period without permits on Matagorda Beach during the Memorial Day weekend.
   “My people can’t collect cash,” the sheriff said of his deputies’ beach patrols, adding that “90% of the time vehicles are parked toward the beach.” 
   That means deputies would have to leave their air-conditioned trucks, he said, to go check and see if vehicles have beach permits.
   Treadway asked if the deputies could use ATVs or UTVs in checking for permits.
   “We’ve never been asked before” about using the all-terrain or utility vehicles, Osborne answered.
   When Treadway asked about enforcement of the permit law, the sheriff said the violation is a Class C misdemeanor – and it would be difficult to collect fine payments from “out-of-towners.” 
   “Serve and protect – that’s our job on the beach,” the sheriff said.
   “We want this to be perceived as positive,” Matagorda resident Karen Restivo told the court about the Matagorda group’s purpose in attending the meeting.
   She said residents appreciate the job Pollard and Osborne are doing.
   In discussing safety issues, County Emergency Management Coordinator Amanda Campo said the county’s Emergency Vehicle would be sent to the beach for the July 4th holiday.
   The unit can be used by first responders and other emergency personnel, she said.
   Pollard said he was frustrated by some parents on the beach who allow their children to be in or around the water – even as a beach rescue is underway.
   “Yet we get beat up on social media whenever someone drowns,” he added.
   In other action, the court:

  •     Accepted a donation of rescue rings and life jackets for use during Precinct 6 Constable Bill Orton’s beach patrol from Mike Zanella, project manager for Austin Road and Bridge.

   Orton said Zanella asked how he could help equip the constable’s department with life-saving equipment for beach patrol.
   Zanella donated four life jackets and three life-saving rings for use on patrolling the beach and Caney Creek.
   The equipment will go on the department’s Polaris Ranger, a UTV, used for beach patrol. 
   Each vehicle in the department will have life-saving equipment from Zanella, Orton said.
   Austin Road and Bridge is building the Sargent replacement bridge across the Intercoastal Waterway.

  •     Ordered the partial abandonment of four unimproved roads in Matagorda.

   Three of the Catalpa Street tracts to be abandoned belong to Ernest H. Treybig Jr., while the fourth Catalpa Street tract is owned by Sandpiper Management. 


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