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Commissioners get first glimpse of county game room ordinance
by Tim Delaney
Jul 11, 2014 | 501 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tim Delaney photo
A game room recently opened just north of Bayside on the west side of Farm-to-Market Road 136.
Tim Delaney photo A game room recently opened just north of Bayside on the west side of Farm-to-Market Road 136.
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REFUGIO – County Judge Rene Mascorro apologized for taking a lot of time getting a proposed Refugio County game room ordinance draft ready on Tuesday morning, July 8.

In a workshop, he read the first draft of the proposed ordinance and said he had been working with attorneys in Austin on the draft.

He again apologized to the committee that was formed back in March that included four women from Bayside to determine the best ordinance possible. He never met with the committee.

“This isn’t a final hearing. We’ll have to have several readings,” Mascorro said.

Highlights of the proposed ordinance include increasing the current county permit fee from $400 to $2,000 per game room machine, requiring the game room buildings to be subject to all safety, health and building code standards, have 10-foot ceilings, prohibiting the game rooms to be used as residences, nobody under 21 years old allowed in the establishment, no alcohol beverages allowed in the game rooms. one full-size parking space per four game room machines, entrances marked with game room, alarm monitoring and serviced by a company, location not within 1,000 feet of educational facilities, medical facilities, places of religious worship and places where children congregate, no refunds for lost or stolen permits ($10 fee for duplicate permits), all access for law enforcement, fire personnel, inspectors (no private club scenarios), liability insurance, ADA compliant, no felons for employees, security guard service and much more.

Back at the beginning of the year, the county had considered working with cities to standardize game room fees at $1,000, but the commissioners court opted to put more teeth in its ordinance and passed on any increase at the time.

Since that time, at least five new game rooms have set up in the county.

According to County Clerk Ida Ramirez, she has collected the $400 game room machine fee for 506 game room machines since Jan. 1. That’s $202,400 the county collected from the permit fees.

Mascorro called the proposed ordinance “very restrictive.”

Commissioner Ann Lopez asked if any of the current game rooms are in compliance.

Commissioner Gary Bourland said he didn’t think any of the game rooms meet the square footage requirement, and he said he didn’t think “any of them are 500 feet from the roadway” as proposed.

Some question whether the current game rooms would be grandfathered in or be subject to the new ordinance was raised.

But Mascorro said when it comes time for renewal of permits, the game rooms would need to be compliant.

Mascorro said a $2,000 fee per machine is a good place to start, particularly since the town of Woodsboro is considering increasing its game room permit fee per machine from $1,000 to $2,000.

“We not trying to restrict anybody out of business,” Mascorro said.

He added that the ordinance is for the safety of county residents.

Karen Clark, a Bayside city councilman, said Woodsboro is going to go up on its fees, but it “can only go up so much.”

She said she had talked with one of Woodsboro’s city councilmen.

She said in another six months, Woodsboro will go up to $3,000.

“By the time you adopt this, you might want to go higher,” Clark said.

Bourland and Mascorro briefly discussed creating a game room compliance officer position.

Where criminal activity would be checked by the sheriff’s office and county attorney, compliance offenses would be checked by a game room compliance officer.

“We’re looking at something enforceable, not looking to run people out of business,” Mascorro said.

He added that if residents are going to the game rooms for entertainment purposes, then the game room “has to be a safe place.”

Mascorro suggested ceasing issuing game room permits until the ordinance is passed.

The idea to temporarily stop issuing permits was liked but would need to be run by the county attorney.

Mascorro projected that Jan. 1 would be the date the ordinance would go into place.

No action was taken in regular session, but another game room ordinance workshop was set for July 22, during the commissioners court regular meeting.

In other business, commissioners approved advertising for road materials and seal coating bids pertaining to the almost 10 miles of county road improvements under the Texas Transportation Infrastructure Project grant.

And commissioners authorized Mascorro to sign the updated schedule of road projects to be done under the project.

Commissioners took no action on aiding the town of Refugio with the purchase of a new tanker truck for the Refugio Volunteer Fire Department and filling a vacancy on the Refugio County Community Development Foundation board of directors.

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