CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — After months of negotiations, the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District is poised to remain intact — but with significant operational changes.
As KRIS 6 News first reported in October, the Corpus Christi City Council voted to withdraw from the public health district. According to the cooperative agreement governing the partnership at the time, the county was given 90-days notice, which would have triggered a split on Jan. 18. However, an extension was granted, which postponed the split.
On Tuesday, however, council passed a unanimous resolution, 9-0, authorizing an amended cooperative agreement between the city and the county — the fourth amended cooperative agreement since the public health district was established in 1984. The key difference in this one being that it gives the city day-to-day operational control.
In previous versions, employees answered to both city and county leaders. Tuesday's agreement gives the city's exclusive administrative control, including hiring and firing, over all employees. Five "transitional county employees," however, will continue to be paid by the county until their county retirement plans are vested.
The county also previously contributed a certain percentage to the district's operational budget. In this modified agreement, the county basically contracts services from the city and pays a fee.
Tuesday's city council resolution authorized city manager Peter Zanoni to authorize and execute the new agreement, with an effective date of March 1, to conclude negotiations with the county as long as the changes "do not materially increase the City's expenses and/or liability."
Nueces County commissioners also approved the amended agreement, 4-1, on Wednesday, so long as the changes noted during its meeting were accepted by the city.
Zanoni said late Wednesday that he hadn't seen Wednesday's county changes, but understood they were minor and expected a deal to be finalized by the end of the week.
Nueces County Pct. 4 Commissioner Brent Chesney said that he had four primary goals in working with the city.
"My mission was to take care of the people we serve and provide uninterrupted service," he said. "Not duplicate services and waste taxpayer dollars. Work hard to take care of our existing employees. Expand services."
He says that the agreement commissioners voted to approve does that.
"This agreement, while not perfect, accomplishes those goals, and I appreciate the county and the city for working together to get this done," Chesney said. "This is a good day for public health."
Canales, the lone dissenting vote in either vote, said that the county was able to strengthen the agreement, and a positive is that the health district is staying intact.
"If there's one thing that really bothers me, is that the rural communities, in my opinion, lose their voice," Canales said during the commissioner's court meeting. "The services that we will contract, we will do everything we can . . . I will do everything I can as a county judge, to make certain that each and every time we have that accountability."
Zanoni said it is a goal of the city to expand services and provide services previously cut by the district.
This is a developing story, as we learn more we will update you. Stay with KRIS 6 News for updates.