Thursday, November 29, 2007






  Land buy option extended 90 days
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–The Henderson County Commissioners were joined by a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday when they were expected to either close on the purchase of 44 acres just inside Loop 7 for future expansion or pass on the deal.
After hearing six citizens voice their opinion, including Athens attorney Mike Head and retired judge Jack Holland, the commissioners decided to go for a 90-day extension on their option to buy.
The extension was offered by the property owner, in light of the recent public fervor over the county’s proposed purchase.
The extended option cost $5,000 and moves the closing date to Feb. 29, 2008.
Last week’s commissioners’ court also drew a large crowd and those speaking out against moving the county services away from the courthouse. Commissioners responded with a workshop with the City of Athens and its economic development corporation to discuss alternatives and needs.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Hall said if the city would help the county procure one complete block of property west of the courthouse, he would drop the land purchase option.
“That includes ample parking and the drive through, or we’re just wasting our time,” Hall said. “We do know this – in next 40-50 years the population of Henderson County will double, so we can’t sit and do nothing. We have to do something.”
The block west of the courthouse includes the Franklin Bank, its parking lot on the back side and its drive-through. Also on the block is a corner building being used by the Henderson County Performing Arts Council and a few small shops.
“If we could get that for say, $2 million, I’d drop the other purchase. The bank building is something we could use immediately,” Hall told The Monitor.
The delay on spending $500,000 was met with hardy applause.
“The best thing coming out of this is all of the involvement,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney said.
Hall suggested continuing that involvement by forming a committee to include a representative from each city in the county to study the county’s need for growth and evaluate options to met those needs. However his suggestion was not included in the motion to extend the sale option.
County Judge David Holstein elaborated on some of those needs. “In 20 years, the county is going to need another jail and a youth detention facility along with more office space. Help the court solve the problems of future demands. In 2001, a study of the county’s future demands was done. We’re charged with planning for the future of the county.”
In other business, the commissioners:
• added Baxter Fire Department to the county’s Prisoner Work Program Policy.
• appointed Don Foster, a water well driller, to the Neches & Trinity Valleys Groundwater Conservation District. He will replace Tom Martin, whose four-year term expires the end of 2007.
The other county representative on the board is Sam Hurley.
Commissioners were glad to have a water well driller on the board as a representative.
• paid $99,282.40 in bills plus $5,000 to extend the option on the land purchase totaling $104,282.40.

Commissioners try ‘Super Slurry’
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KAUFMAN–No, it isn’t a soft drink, it’s a water and cement base for road repairs the Kaufman County commissioners agreed to try.
The mixture is an alternative to oil-based products currently used to repair potholes and cracks in roadways.
Monday, commissioners approved the product after a demonstration in Precinct 2, under the watchful eye of Commissioner Ray Clark.
The slurry is water mixed with cement, ground up asphalt and dirt spread out on the road. “It looked pretty good,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Deller said.
“The price of oil is making it prohibitive for repairing our roads with oil-based products. We have to find an alternative,” he explained. The cost is slightly less than asphalt products, he said.
According to information furnished by TXI of Dallas, road rehabilitation costs were cut in half when Brownwood went to the slurry solution.
In other business, commissioners:
• contracted with a broker to sell property located at the Precinct 3 maintenance facility.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Kenneth Schoen suggested at a previous meeting the maintenance facility would be more cost-effective at another location.
• accepted the Tax Assessor/Collector’s monthly report as presented by Dick Murphy for September and October.
The September report is the completion of the 2007 fiscal year for the county, Murphy said.
The general fund tax roll for the year totaled $24,642,403 and 96 percent has been collected, he said.
The road and bridge (R&B) tax roll totaled $3,403,625, and 4 percent is left to be collected.
The October report begins the 2008 fiscal year. The general fund tax roll totaled $27,718,143 with 4 percent collected.
R&B tax roll is $3,830,152 with 4 percent collected.
The increase for the new fiscal year over the 2007 general fund is approximately $3 million, with a $400,000 increase for R&B.
• purchased a dump truck for Precinct 1, with buy-back options through BuyBoard at a total of $97,215.
• approved Kevin Hopkins and Alan Stavinoha as reserve deputy constables for Precinct 3.
• approved 30 mph speed limits and posting related signs on county roads 142, 143, 153 and 281.
• reappointed County Treasurer Johnny Countryman as a representative on the Appraisal District board of directors.
• tabled issuing a burn ban and accepting the performance bond for Shadow Lakes Phase 3.
• heard from County Judge Wayne Gent that 2010 is U.S. Census year. He asked commissioners to be thinking of someone to head the procedure in Kaufman County.
The federally-paid position will require the person to hire and oversee staff for the task.
• paid bills totaling $352,954.65.

Council may poll voters on dissolving police force
Monitor Staff Reports
PAYNE SPRINGS–Payne Springs residents may get to tell city leaders whether or not they want a city police department – or to even be a town!
The Payne Springs City Council directed city attorney Drew Gibbs to draw up two nonbinding propositions for consideration at the upcoming Dec. 18 council meeting.
Councilman Odell Terrell asked if there was a way to find out what the residents wanted, and Mayor Michael McDonald there was.
Terrell said he would support the majority vote. However, no one else agreed with him.
The taking-it-to-a-vote answer came toward the end of a two-hour meeting – much of it fueled by the council’s dwindling support for a police force.
It started with the refusal of the council to approve the October financial report. McDonald explained the payroll line was larger than usual, due to paying accumulated overtime for the city’s two police officers, Shane Renberg and Carey James.
“Who approved the payment of overtime?” Councilman Carl Powell asked.
“I did,” McDonald replied. “The city has always paid the officers’ overtime as a normal part of the payroll process. It has never required council approval before.”
Powell argued the council members should have been notified and made that decision. “The mayor does not run this city, the council does,” he added.
“Fine, you can start running the city anytime,” McDonald retorted.
Renberg delivered the monthly police report, which included 55 arrests, six for felonies and nine for DWIs, four traffic accidents, 48 calls and 39 assisted calls at the county’s request.
“The statistics clearly demonstrate the need for a police department with more than one officer,” McDonald said.
He referred to the resignation of Police Chief Carey James on Nov. 20.
James cited an irreconcilable conflict between himself and Powell.
A majority of the council denied James the customary $1 an hour raise in August. James completed his six-month probationary period back in June and was promised the raise. Throughout his employment with the city, James has been paid $10/hour. He began serving as police chief when Tim Meadows resigned in July.
At that time, Councilman Lynn Sorrel said he wanted to get rid of the department, and Powell agreed. However, the item was not on the agenda and so could not be officially acted on.
Animosity towards the police department surfaced again during discussion of the fiscal year (FY) 2008 budget.
Council members were presented a proposed budget in September, McDonald reminded them, and asked for their comments or motion.
“It’s time for this council to take action,” McDonald said.
Councilman Tom Hinkle made a motion to approve the budget, but his motion died for lack of a second. Then after a long pause, Powell said the estimated income from fines should be reduced by $50,000. Terrell agreed.
McDonald recalculated the net from around $50,000 to $21,188, which included two police officers, he said.
The motion was seconded, and the adjusted FY 2008 budget was approved. The proposed budget is based on a projected income of $349,324, and expenses totaling $328,137.
McDonald said he would have another police officer for the council to consider by the next meeting.
Powell insisted people he spoke with from the county said they would be able to assist the city, so a second officer wouldn’t be necessary.
When asked for specific names of people he talked to Powell said Sgt. Thomas Goodell and a woman, whose name he couldn’t remember.
Audience member Karen Juica asked who she should call when their one officer is off duty. She was answered by another audience member reciting Powell’s phone number.
Former councilman Walter Hellebrand informed the council that a fireman was recently buried who had been hit by a drunk driver.
“We definitely need a police department. Some councilmen need to rethink what they are saying and doing,” he said.
Juica reminded all that businesses pay a permit fee and need to know there are police officers to help protect them and their businesses.
“The residents need and deserve adequate police protection. Law and order and community safety are a necessity and the council should not be driving police officers out of the city. This was not what you were elected to do,” McDonald said.







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