Thursday, September 25, 2008





HC digs into savings for fuel
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners declared a financial emergency Tuesday to provide funds for fuel to the Sheriff’s Department and to replenish the Road and Bridge accounts in the four county precincts.
The declaration helped release $213,000 from the fund balance, with $113,000 going to the Sheriff’s fuel line item. It is hoped that will be enough to see the department through the rest of the fiscal year ending Dec. 31.
The remaining funds were equally divided among the precincts at $25,000 each. Up until now, commissioners had been robbing other budget line items in the Road and Bridge accounts, primarily taking from road material funds to keep their road repairing vehicles filled up with gas.
“Now we can use these funds to replenish our road material fund, right?” Precinct 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence queried.
“Yes,” County Judge David Holstein replied. “It is for any item under Road and Bridge.”
The funds for Road and Bridge are being taken out of a fund balance set aside specifically for Road and Bridge items, Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney pointed out.
“It’s Road and Bridge money we have prudently saved over the years,” he said.
Commissioners also heard how Trinity Materials intends to become more efficient in transporting materials in the flood plain to its plant. The company furnishes materials for ready-mix concrete and other applications.
Trinity spokesman Matthew Hallmark presented plans to install an earthen bridge equipped with three-foot diameter culverts across a cutoff from the Trinity River.
“In no way will it be blocking or connected to either Cedar Creek Lake or the Trinity River,” Hallmark stressed.
He showed commissioners an aerial view of the area and proposed project.
The State of Texas Government Land Office has signed off on the project, as has the county’s Emergency Management Coordinator Joy Kimbro.
The reason to bring it before the commissioners is to meet notification requirements, because it is located within a 100-year flood plain, and for filing purposes, Hallmark said.
When completed, the earthen bridge will provide easier access for upkeep and repair to 14 miles of levees, he added.
In other business, commissioners
• approved an amendment to a contract with the owner of the public boat ramp in Caney City, who leases the ramp to the county for $10 per year and waiver on the property taxes.
The amendment changes the length of time the county has to remove its improvements (bench, trash receptacles, etc.) should either party wish to terminate the agreement. Now instead of a year, the county has 90 days upon termination of the lease.
“This is only one of two public boat ramps for the entire Cedar Creek Lake,” Hall said. “It is definitely a benefit to visitors and residents alike to the lake.”
The lease contract had come before the court in recent weeks, due to the widening of the State Highway 198 bridge at Caney City, which will take up part of the 0.8-acre property now used for the boat ramp.
Due to bridge construction, the property was sold and purchased by a new party, so the contracts had to be renegotiated, Hall explained.
• agreed Hall would coordinate the clean out of a training ditch for the Fire Chief’s Association, so it can hold a trench rescue class in October.
• approved interlocal agreements for joint elections with Athens ISD, Cross Roads ISD and the City of Malakoff amounting to $17,378.
• approved an interlocal agreement with Gun Barrel City for past election services provided during the May and June elections, as well as an agreement to lease one of the voting machines owned by Gun Barrel City for the Athens ISD election.
• accepted three replats for recording purposes from Wildwood, Lake and Loon Bay subdivisions.
• heard progress on corrections to the roof at the jail, progress of the final phase of new construction and remodel.
The new visitation area has been opened, commissioners heard.
Red Dot is alleviating some of the leaking experienced during the recent storms by installing catch basins at the bottom of louvered windows, installing more downspouts on the north and south of the building and creating a catchment for the valley to get water off the roof quicker.
• paid bills totalling $276,133.41.

Council asked to approve $150K
EDC funds for Winn-Dixie owner

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–The Gun Barrel City Economic Development Corporation presented a performance agreement for approval to the city council Tuesday.
It proposes giving the owner of the Winn-Dixie $150,000 in two payments contingent upon signing leases with at least two businesses and presenting receipts for improvements made to the property, including work on the parking lot and facade, EDC president Steve Webster said.
The long vacant property has been considered an eyesore to city officials.
The deal has been driven by Beall’s desire to expand. Currently at 12,000 square feet, the business wants to double its space and sales and is in negotiations with the Winn-Dixie owner, a retired doctor and real estate investor based in California.
In addition, Hibbett Sports, is also negotiating with the owner for a 5,000 sq.-ft. space, Webster added.
“Beall’s already has three potential lessors for its current space,” he added.
The performance agreement releases $75,000 when leases are signed and another $75,000 after 90 days of receiving a certificate of occupancy from the city.
Beall’s projects increasing its sales tax revenue to the city from its current $34,000 to $89,000. Hibbett Sports stores average sales tax revenues at $16,000, Webster said.
“In the business world, if you can recoup your money in two years, you write the check,” Webster said.
“I think its a fantastic opportunity,” EDC member Michael Wagner said. “I’m concerned how to answer those who criticize giving money to an owner who hasn’t done anything for the city in 20 years.”
EDC executive Jack Thompson negotiated the deal with the owner and his representative. It is an important ingredient to the owner getting a $750,000 to renovate the property, Thompson said.
“The answer to your question is other businesses (in the center) will benefit from this (fixing drainage problems in the parking lot),” city manager Gerry Boren piped in.
“It’s a minimal investment which will pay big dividends in attracting new business to the center and increase the city’s revenues by $100,000 right from the get go,” Boren added.
The loan becomes forgivable, if the owner produces more than $150,000 in qualifying receipts of money spend on improvements, including those to the parking lot and facade, Webster said.
If all the elements come together, the owner is planning a May 31 completion date on the turnkey improvements, Webster reported.
A joint meeting of the EDC and city council was scheduled Tuesday to go over the fine points of the proposal.

City buys PA system
Monitor Staff Reports
PAYNE SPRINGS–The Payne Springs City Council got to “speak into the microphone” at its Sept. 16 meeting. It was liked so well, especially by those in the cavernous hall and at the right price with money coming from a renewable source, that it was easy for the council to approve purchasing the public address system.
Sam Lee of Lake City Music, at the request of Mayor J.D. Noble, set up a Behringer PA system prior to the meeting for the council’s use.
Noble told councilmen that the rules governing the court’s technical funds does provide for the purchase of a PA system. He also reported the fund had $7,000 in it.
The system the council ordered includes nine microphones, four monitors and 10 input jacks. Lee assured the council he could provide such a system for about $2,500.
Councilman Vic Brazzell moved to purchase the system and not exceed $2,700. Councilman Odell Terrell seconded and the motion passed. Rodney Renberg was not in attendance.
In other business, the councilmen:
• took no action to keep off-duty police cars parked at the community center/city hall.
The city’s attorney outlined some of the liability issues for the city, favoring city cruisers being left at the city hall.
However, Brazzell questioned whether the use of the vehicle was part of the police chief’s pay and the reasoning behind the council formerly not issuing a pay raise.
Former Mayor Michael McDonald confirmed that had been the agreement.
Brazzell said he’d like to hold off taking any action on this until a new employment agreement could be worked out with Chief Shane Renberg.
• took no action to approve a resolution seeking a $250,000 community development grant to repair drainage issues in Southwood Shores.
The resolution would have required the city to identify a fund from which it would provide a 5 percent match, or $13,900, by the year 2010.
Noble said he had been working on the 2009 budget and there was enough money to fund the match for the grant.

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