Sunday, May 14, 2006

 
 

ECCFWSD board issues letter
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–It was listed on a special meeting’s agenda as “Discuss and take action on notice of disqualification of a candidate for election to the Board of Directors.”
In a 10-minute meeting Wednesday, the East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District directors unanimously agreed to issue a letter to local developer Ken Landers, a candidate for the board.
The meeting drew more than the usual number of visitors, and at least two left the meeting under the impression the letter issued by the board informed Landers he was being disqualified from Saturday’s election.
Comments made by board president Giles Farmer, a candidate for re-election to the board, and Landers during the brief meeting reinforced that impression.
Such an action would have been a violation of the state’s election code, which states a candidate may be disqualified before the start of early voting or after polls close, not during the process.
However, that’s not what the letter said.
The letter, which did not include the name of any attorney, or any attorney’s notes on the subject, said the board had been notified Landers is a “developer of property in the district” under Water Code Section 49.052.
As such, Landers was ineligible to hold an elective office as a board member. “Indeed, a person who willfully occupies the office of director and exercises the powers and duties as a director when they are disqualified can be convicted of a misdemeanor and removed from the Board,” the letter stated.
The letter also included an unambiguous threat: “We sincerely believe it would be unfortunate for anyone, including members of the Board, to have to bring a criminal complaint against you for violation of Section 49.052, or to resort to other remedies stated in the law.”
However, the board has said on numerous occasions the Heritage Cove at Gun Barrel City development headed by Landers is not within the district’s Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) for either water service or sewer service, most recently in a letter signed by Farmer dated April 7.
When questioned about this Thursday, Farmer said the “district,” as legally defined, included land in Payne Springs area, and, under a complicated formula, meant the 42-acre Heritage Cove project would be in the district.
“We’ve had three lawyers look at this,” he said.
During the meeting, Farmer said he also found Landers had not registered to vote in time for Saturday’s election, and thus was ineligible for that reason.
Farmer said he called the voter registrar and found Landers had registered to vote April 30. Voters must wait 30 days to be able to cast a ballot, which means Landers was not eligible to vote in Saturday’s election.
“You’re not eligible, and we can’t certify you (as a winner in the election),” Farmer told Landers.
“That’s the way you wanted it,” Landers replied.
“We’re following the law,” Farmer countered.
“Can you get a letter from the Secretary of State’s office saying that? I’ll bet you can’t,” Landers said.
Secretary of State spokesman Scott Haywood confirmed Thursday Landers would have to be registered in time to vote for Saturday’s election in order to be eligible for election.
“The courts have ruled that way,” Haywood said.
Landers, who was a registered voter in Hood County before moving to Gun Barrel City, did not have to be registered in Henderson County to file for a place on the ballot, Haywood said, but added Farmer’s claim that Landers failed to register in time for the election “could be valid.”
 

Appraisal notices going out
Property values increase 10-12 percent overall
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Chief appraisers report an average 10 percent to 12 percent across-the-board increase in Cedar Creek Lake area property values.
Henderson and Van Zandt county appraisal district offices sent appraisal notices out this week. The Kaufman County Single Appraisal District sent out notices the first of the month.
“I can safely say property values are up by 10 percent,” Henderson County Chief Appraiser Bill Jackson told The Monitor.
Jackson said the HCAD sent out between 45,000 and 50,000 notices.
“We’ve seen healthy increases in the real estate market the last eight years,” he added.
Kaufman County Chief Appraiser Richard Mohundro said his office sent out about 35,000 notices, or a little more than half the total number of property parcels in the county.
Notices are sent to properties with new owners, all business personal property accounts, to anyone who requests a notice, and to all property owners whose property value has increased $1,000 or more.
Taxpayers have 30 days from the postmark on their notice to protest their appraisals.
Van Zandt County Chief Appraiser Brenda Barnett, who mailed out 50,000 notices with an overall 12 percent increase in taxable value county-wide, said a property owner’s first step in protesting an appraisal is to come into the office and discuss it with an appraiser.
“Many of these issues can be settled informally,” she said.
No appointments are necessary, and the longest wait time is 30 minutes, she added.
Mohundro says many disputes can be handled over the telephone.
If property has been damaged, such as termite damage, or wind damage from recent storms, and the owner has a cost estimate to repair the damage, the property value will most likely be reduced by that same amount, Barnett said.
It is helpful if taxpayers bring in pictures of the damage, or a closing statement of the amount they paid for the property, or sale amounts of similar properties nearby, she added.
“If it can’t be resolved, then we can set them up with a formal board hearing,” she said.
Appraisal Review Board hearings begin mid-June. By the end of July, appraisal districts will have certified property values for use by taxing entities.
All appraisal districts are required by law to appraise property at 100 percent of market value, which is determined by actual sale prices and other recorded transactions during the appraisal period. Appraisals are based on values as of Jan. 1 annually.
 

KISD voters alert
In the May 11 issue, Kemp Independent School District voters who live in Kaufman County were incorrectly instructed where to cast ballots in Saturday’s school board election.
KISD voters should cast ballots for the school trustee election and the Kaufman County bond issue at their regular county polling place.
KISD voters who live in Henderson County should cast ballots at the Calvary Baptist Church, located on State Highway 274 just north of the county line.
Precinct 13 voters, who are in the Kemp ISD, should vote at the Faith Baptist Church, located at 6013 Farm-to-Market 429, Kaufman.