Thursday, June 15, 2006

 
 

KC brings back burn ban
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KAUFMAN–The Texas Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) is just about as high as it can get.
All of East, North Central, Trans-Pecos, Edwards Plateau and most of Southern and South Central Texas is listed as in a severe drought.
The Drought Index is up beyond the 500 mark, and “predicted to be in the 600 to 700 range in our area by July 4th,” Kaufman County Fire Marshal Larry Ewing said.
Ewing asked commissioners Monday to approve a county-wide burn ban.
The ban was approved, with restrictions on all ground burning, fires in burn barrels and all other outdoor fires.
Also, commissioners approved a ban on all fireworks on sticks and missiles with fins.
Ewing said the suppliers and local fireworks dealers are being very co-operative, and will not be stocking banned items.
Switching his agenda, Ewing asked commissioners to consider setting minimum requirements and a job description for the position of county fire marshal and deputy fire marshal.
“We have not had anything in the past. I believe we should have something in black and white,” Ewing said.
Commissioners agreed, and instructed Ewing to draft a job description.
In other business, commissioners:
• agreed to enter into an interlocal agreement with the Elmo Water Supply Corporation to install sheriff’s department Mobile Data System equipment on the EWSC water tower located at 9978 County Road 390.
• authorized the Environmental Co-op to apply for a grant for tire recycling and clean-up project.
At one location, while the property owners were on vacation, someone dumped 6,000 to 7,000 tires on their property, Co-op director Marilyn May said.

 

Counties order bans on fireworks
Kaufman calls general burn ban, Henderson will follow soon
By Diane Murray
Monitor Correspondent

CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Henderson and Kaufman counties have ordered bans on fireworks with sticks and missiles with fins.
Kaufman has gone further, placing a 60-day county-wide burn ban on all ground burnings, trash burning in barrels and all other outdoor fires, according to a press release from the county fire marshal’s office.
(See related story on the Kaufman Commissioners Court meeting on page 4A.)
The Henderson County fireworks ban does not apply to other kinds of small fireworks, nor professional displays sponsored by municipalities.
Henderson County Commissioner Precinct 2 Wade McKinney noted the fireworks ban did not apply to Black Cats or Roman Candles.
Henderson County held back on a general burn ban, at least for another week, to give time for road construction crews to finish clearing and trench-burning for the U.S. Highway 175 widening project between Eustace and Athens.
Henderson County is rated third to the highest rating for flammability by the Keetch Byram Drought index, and under severe drought conditions, according to the Palmer Drought Severity Index.
With that in mind, highway crews have not done any burning without a water tanker nearby, McKinney noted.
The commissioners fear a burn ban might stop work on the highway.
They decided to check with Texas Department of Transportation before instituting a burn ban.

 

GBC starts own water department
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–Taking another step in the process to assume control of the East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District, the Gun Barrel City Council formally established a water and wastewater department Tuesday.
“Obviously, this department is unstaffed at this time,” City Manager Corrin McGrath told the council. “To start to pursue (the takeover) and start notifying the powers that be in Austin, such as the TCEQ, we need this.”
The council’s action followed a brief report from councilman Keith Crozier, who said a meeting between city officials and ECCFWSD directors last week provided much useful information for everybody involved.
“It was a ‘get acquainted, get started, start communications’ meeting,” he told the council. “We were invited back to their next meeting.”
ECCFWSD General Manager Bill Goheen echoed Crozier’s comments at the end of the meeting.
“I think we had a very good discussion, and I’m looking forward to the next one,” Goheen told the council.
Officially, the council added Chapter 41 to the city’s code of ordinances – with the first section of the chapter establishing a Water and Wastewater Department for the city.
As outlined, the department would be headed by a director, but some controversy came over the wording of that clause.
Councilwoman Kathy Cochran said the clause, which read “appointed by the City Manager” should include “and serve at the will of the City Council,” just as it says for other department heads – specifically, the fire chief and police chief.
She also questioned paragraph P, which calls for the department director to “perform other duties and responsibilities as directed by the city manager,” noting that could enable McGrath to order the department head to fetch a cup of coffee or perform some other unnecessary task.
“If (that clause) isn’t in there for the fire chief and the police department, I have no problem with it,” she said.
“We can always amend it later,” councilman Marty Goss pointed out, and Cochran countered, “Okay, remove it.”
When pressed, Cochran offered a motion amending the introduction to have the department head serve at the will of the council and removing paragraph P.
“I’ve got a problem with that,” Goss said. “We’re tying his (McGrath’s) hands.”
McGrath pointed out the water/wastewater department is likely to have emergency situations arise late at night, which would require him to direct the department head to take actions.
“The point is, I have the authority to direct employees,” McGrath said. “This shouldn’t be an issue.”
“We should have confidence in our city manager,” Goss agreed.
Cochran’s motion died for lack of a second, and Crozier offered a motion to accept the Chapter 41 addition as written.
Cochran opposed, and councilwoman Patsy Black said she would like to see the introduction amended to read “at the will of the council,” as Cochran had suggested, although she did not support deleting paragraph P.
With a 2-2 tie, Mayor Paul Eaton was called upon to break the tie, and after some moments of consideration, he cast a “no” vote to defeat Crozier’s motion, 3-2.
Goss offered a new motion, amending the introduction to have the director appointed by the council, which was approved on a 3-0 vote, with Cochran abstaining. (Councilman James Jacobs was out of town and did not attend the session.)
 

Enchanted Oaks opposes takeover
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

ENCHANTED OAKS–The Enchanted Oaks City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to oppose Gun Barrel City’s bid to take over control of the East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District.
“Gun Barrel City has its own interests at heart, and not the interests of the other cities within the district,” Mayor Don Warner told the council. “We need to be on the record as to how we feel about this situation.”
Three members of the Payne Springs City Council also attended Tuesday’s regular Enchanted Oaks council session.
Payne Springs City Secretary Linda Carr told the council she and the council members would be reporting what they heard to their constituents and mayor.
As the discussion opened, Warner provided a brief synopsis of the GBC proposal, noting that in the last few years – in his personal experience – the ECCFWSD had kept water and sewer rates fairly stable.
At a recent ECC meeting, the district’s financial advisor reported the district had an AAA bond rating, the best available, and was considered financially sound and stable, Warner told the gathering.
Under current interest rates, there would be no financial advantage in refinancing the district’s debt, and the ECCFWSD meets all current water/wastewater treatment standards, he added.
“In my eyes, they’ve done a good job,” Warner said, which prompted him to ask what advantages the district’s customers would see if Gun Barrel City took over.
The ECCFWSD is a political entity created by legislative action, and Warner said he finds it difficult to understand how a municipality like GBC could take over another entity.
“I have a question for Dave (Burch, the new ECCFWSD board president, who was present),” councilwoman Zelma Montgomery said. “They want to take over the whole district?”
“There’s been no talk about dividing the district,” Burch replied.
Burch urged those present to attend the ECCFWSD meetings, noting in his past four years as a director, he’s seen that most meetings have no audience, except for reporters.
“You all have a stake in this, whichever way it goes,” he said.
It’s likely that, in the event of a takeover, Gun Barrel City would have some entity operate the south water and wastewater treatment plants, which have no physical connection with the northern half of the district (primarily GBC), and charge customers for services, Warner said.
“I don’t think that would be in the best interests of Enchanted Oaks,” Montgomery said. “It sounds to me like they’re trying to fix something that isn’t broken.”
“What motivation would they have to maintain and extend services in this area?” councilman Allan Bell asked. “We now have excellent service.”
“This is a major issue,” Warner said. “That’s why Payne Springs is here (referring to the council members in the audience).
“There’s no upside that I know of,” he added.
“If other cities take the same stand, they’ll have a hard time showing how that (taking over) will be an improvement,” Montgomery pointed out.

 

Correction
In the June 1 issue, it was reported that Richard Gunter, the man who died after diving from a boat ramp in Carolyn Estates, was warned that the water was too shallow.
His girlfriend, Tara Castro, denies that Gunter was ever given such a warning, on any occasion.