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,
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
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
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
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
• 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
• 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
“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
Precinct 3 Commissioner Kenneth Schoen suggested at a previous meeting
the maintenance facility would be more cost-effective at another
• 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
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
The Payne Springs City Council directed city attorney Drew Gibbs to draw
up two nonbinding propositions for consideration at the upcoming Dec. 18
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
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
“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
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.