Thursday, September 23, 2010

 

 

 

Bridge reopened!
Monitor Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Possibly the most-traveled bridge in the county was reopened Tuesday, after being shut down for nearly a week.
The Texas Department of Transportation reopened the bridges on State Highway 334 connecting Seven Points and Gun Barrel City about an hour before noon. The bridge was closed to traffic Sept. 15, after an area boater reported damage to one of the bridge supports.
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Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey and Courtesy Photo-TxDOT
Heavy traffic lines the State Highway 334 causeway bridge across Cedar Creek Lake at lunchtime Tuesday, after Texas Department of Transportation officials reopened the bridge just before noon. TxDOT closed the bridge Sept. 15 after a bridge support was found heavily damaged, possibly by a heavy barge. BELOW: Gibson and Associates concrete contractors complete about $20,000 worth of repairs.


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Afternoon commuters had to circle around the lake via State Highways 274, 198 and U.S. Highway 175, going up to 45 miles to reach causeway destinations Ceder Isle Beach Club and Restaurant, the Peninsula Crossing housing subdivision and Tom Finley Park.
TxDOT divers were on the scene first thing Sept. 16, and a contractor’s meeting was held Friday. By Monday morning, a work crew had begun to heal the hurt column.
TxDOT spokesman Larry Krantz said the column appeared to have been hit very hard with a heavy barge, to have caused the major damage.
Cracks – some going almost completely through the concrete column – were reported, Krantz said.
Gibson and Associates, concrete contractors out of Mesquite, won the emergency contract with a bid of $20,000, he said.
“These jobs usually always run a likely over (the bid),” he added.
“We’re real happy to have met this emergency and gotten the bridge reopened,” he said.
Less than two miles, the causeway expanse is likely carries the most traffic of any similar stretch or roadway in the county.

Kemp ISD voters approve tax rate hike
Result means additonal $957,000 in state funding to Kemp schools
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–Kemp Independent School District saw the passage of its tax ratification election Saturday.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a 13-cent increase, setting the overall tax rate at $1.56 per $100 property valuation.
(Tax rates on property owned by those 65 and older remain frozen at the rate it was when the taxpayer turned 65.)
The results were 204 favoring the proposal and 87 votes against it.
The Kemp school board trustees had already ruled that should the TRE succeed, a corresponding 13-cent decrease to the debt-paying part of the tax rate would go into effect, resulting in the continuation of the current overall tax rate of $1.435.
The proposal’s approval also results in an increase in state funding of $957,000, compared to what the district would receive if the proposal failed.
Trustees expect to increase the district’s I&S portion of the tax rate 2 cents to 3 cents next year to service the debt for the new high school campus.
The infusion of these annual funds are expected to continue through 2015 and perhaps through 2017, depending on action by the legislature.
The school district tax rate is divided between payments made to service a debt (I&S) and payments made to operate the schools (M&O).
Before the election, the operations side was set at $1.04 and the debt service side at 39.5 cents, adding up to $1.435.
Under current rules, the state rewards (with more funding) school districts whose M&O is set at the highest allowable, which is $1.17.
“We’re very excited it passed,” superintendent Dr. Peter Running told The Monitor Monday.
“You know we did 14 meetings with the public to talk about the TRE, and perhaps that made the difference,” he said.
The school board approved the 2010-11 budget based on the election’s success, so they will not have to go back and adjust it, as Mabank school trustees are having to do.
Voters denied a similar TRE for the Mabank ISD. This was the second year Mabank trustees tried to get this TRE passed.
A negative letter writing campaign just before the Sept. 14 election may have influenced the result.
Its passage would have meant an additional $400,000 in state funding for the Mabank school district.
Teacher and staff salary increases were contingent on the rate’s passage, Mabank school superintendent Dr. Russell Marshall said.
“We’re going to continue to do our best to provide exemplary education, but we’ll have to look at positions and programs to fight for a balanced budget,” he said.

Council talks water, grants
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Reports

KEMP–Kemp City Council members heard the pros and cons of buying water wholesale from another utility district Sept. 14.
City utility supervisor Chris Burns said it would be cheaper to buy wholesale water from West Cedar Creek Municipal Utility District, but that would be giving up control of the city’s growth and development.
Councilman Todd Weber added that going solely to wholesale water instead of refurbishing the water plant could result in the city losing its license to pump water from Cedar Creek Lake.
“Getting that took a lot of work, I’d hate for the city to lose that,” he said.
Burns said he’d like to install a Trident system at the water plant, similar to the one at the Tolosa Plant, operated by WCCMUD.
The cost is estimated at $1.2 million, he said.
Another priority for the Kemp water system is replacing the concrete trunk line from the plant to the water tower and installing valves on all the branches.
“That way, we could shut off just part of the system while we make repairs, instead of losing all the water in the system,” he said.
Council members unanimously chose Tim F. Glendening & Associates, Inc. to administer a $350,000 Texas Community Development Block Grant to replace the water line on 10th and 11th streets.
Glendening submitted the grant application on behalf of the city in December, 2008, he said.
Burns said in light of the new priority, he plans to use the bulk of the grant funding on 10th Street, as it needs more pipe replacement than 11th Street.
While making repairs, he was able to get a close look at those pipes recently, he added.
A timeline and financing plan to refurbish the water system and plant are yet to be decided.
Council members held a budget workshop Monday to prioritize city expenditures and discuss adopting the tax rate.
The council selected KASA Engineers of Tyler to provide services for the grant.
In other business, council members:
• heard that the city secretary would be out on sick leave for about six weeks.
In the meantime, municipal judge Regina Kiser will assist in that capacity.
• authorized the submission of two Texas Community Development Block Grant applications for $275,000.
The first will be decided this year with work to start in 2012; and the second anticipates completion of work in 2012-13. Each carry a 35 percent match, due upon satisfactory project completion.
The first grant will be earmarked toward correcting state violations in the water system.
The second is a planning grant overseen by the Texas Department of Rural Affairs and will go toward an overall Capitol Improvement Plan. The plan will survey all of the city’s infrastructure including drainage and roads, water and sewer systems, Glendening said. Having a plan with boost the city’s chances for future grants, he added.
Since the total costs on both projects exceed the grant and match, the match is not a large concern, Burns said.
“We will continue to look for grants to help the city improve its water system,” Glendening said.
• signed the 2010 certified tax roll, which comes to $36,123,000.
• approved the 2010-11 fiscal year budget for the Economic Development Corporation. “We’ve earmarked $111,000 this year for projects,” EDC chairman Jody Deller said.
• were reminded of the Saturday creek side clean up next to the Kemp High School. Work is to start by 9 a.m. It is part of the annual Cedar Creek Lake Cleanup, organized by Tarrant Regional Water District.
• tabled action on changes to the police department personnel policies manual. There are still details to be ironed out, Chief Richard Clemmo said.
The biggest change is giving the hiring and firing board full authority to respond to the “smallest complaint to the firing of a police officer,” he said.
The six-member board, which includes a judge, two council members, a city officer, an officer from another department and a city resident, was set up to assure the public of accountability, Clemmo said.
“We’re not the ‘good old boy system.’ We may be small, but we are going to do things in a professional manner,” he said.
The changes to the policy also rewrites the department’s drug policy and drug testing procedures for officers, he added. Shortly after the Damon Smith case (about three months ago), we had all officers submit to follicle testing to determine if there had been any drug use over the past 90 days. All tested clean, he said.
Smith is waiting a Kaufman County Grand Jury indictment for his alleged theft of property from the Kemp Police Department and exchanging it for drugs. He is also accused of providing known drug dealers in Kaufman County protection in exchange for drugs. He landed his first paying job as a police officer with the Kemp department three years before his arrest the end of June.


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