Thursday, October 18, 2007
County buys 40-acres inside Loop
Renegotiates Embarq’s phone service and saves $46,000 a year
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–The Henderson County Commissioners approved the purchase of a 44-acre track just inside Loop 7 and contiguous to the County Jail and Sheriff Department Tuesday.
The sale is expected to close Nov. 30, if all goes well.
The county plans to pay for the half million dollar purchase from funds in its Capital Improvement Projects fund. Plans for erecting the first two buildings have already been discussed.
Locating a property suitable for moving a number of county services to has been an ongoing discussion for the past three years, Judge David Holstein pointed out.
Commissioners agreed that the project should move forward. However, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry West voted against the measure, voicing concerns about railroad noise and the possible need to move powerlines going down the center of the property.
Real estate agent James Fielden answered other questions regarding easements.
Lone Star Gas has an oil pipeline running across the southside. Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Hall asked whether the county would have to encase those lines before being allowed to lay parking lot or roadway over it.
Fielden promised to look into the question and inform the commissioners.
“All these questions should be able to be answered satisfactorily before the closing date,” Holstein said. “That gives us more than 30 days to bust the deal if we need to, but I don’t think we’ll find a better location after having looked so long.”
“I just don’t want this to become another “40 Acres,” West said, recalling a 40-acre purchase by the county in 1987 bordering the East Texas Arboretum extending between State Highway 31 and U.S. Highway 175.
That property has been reduced since then from 40 to about 28 acres, Hall told The Monitor. Eight acres support a telecommunications antenna and another four acres was sold to the Department of Public Safety for its Athens offices.
In related business, the commissioners also agreed to accept a renegotiated service contract with Embarq.
Though only three years into a five year contract, IT manager Betty Spencer renegotiated the county’s deal, saving it $46,659 a year of $777 per month without a change in service. Instead of paying $2,168 a month, the county can begin paying $1,391 for the same service.
“I asked them why it was cheaper now,” Spencer said. “They said they can just offer it cheaper not than they could five years ago.”
West opposed the new five-year contract, not because he opposes saving money, but because he is totally dissatisfied with his land line service.
“I’ve been using these negotiations as leverage to get you better service,” Spencer said. “They have promised face-to-face contact with technicians to remedy your situation,” she said.
“More work has been done on the lines in the last three weeks than has been done in the last three years,” West agreed. “But until I see some results, I can’t put my vote to another five years.”
In other business, commissioners:
• tabled a request from County Attorney James Owen for new project management software, until the D.A.’s office and the IT Committee can take a look at it . Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney felt it required a little due diligence before approving it. Payment for the $24,000 Lucid I.G. software and its $1,000 monthly licensure fee would come out of the Hot Check fund, which has more than $100,000 in it, Owen said.
• accepted a final plat for two lots at the Wal-Mart in Gun Barrel City for recording purposes.
• paid bills totaling $220,541.47.
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