Oct

28

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : October 28, 2016

Toni Muirhead (center). founder of the Family Resource Center, is honored with a proclamation by Gun Barrel City Mayor Jim Braswell (riht) for her sustained efforts since moving to the area in 1972 to reach out to the needy in the community. Her husband John (left) was also recognized as a past mayor of the city.

Toni Muirhead (center). founder of the Family Resource Center, is honored with a proclamation by Gun Barrel City Mayor Jim Braswell (riht) for her sustained efforts since moving to the area in 1972 to reach out to the needy in the community. Her husband John (left) was also recognized as a past mayor of the city.

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
GUN BARREL CITY–Gun Barrel City Administrator Brent Bauer is taking a pro-active stance to help prevent house fires in the city due to faulty electrical power hook ups. His recommendations to require a city inspection when one tenant moves out and another moves in was met with city council approval Tuesday. A $25 fee will be assessed for the service meant to ensure that ONCOR safety codes are upheld. Bauer read over the five checkpoints of the inspection and how each is related to tenant safety. If the residence fails to pass one of the points, the inspector will return in ten days for a re-inspection at no extra cost, Bauer said. “40 percent of house fires are thought to be caused by faulty electricity delivery,” he said.
Members of the city council and Economic Development Cooperation worked to save a 24-year tradition from failing on its silver anniversary. The Gun Barrel City Quilters annual quilt show was one week from being cancelled when its members couldn’t lock down a new venue for its April show, which was slated for the Cain Center in Athens. The Athens community center is closed for extensive renovations all of 2017, the guild learned in August.
“We were one week away from having to cancel the show,” guild spokesperson Casey Day told the council.
The Council awarded up to $5,000 to the group to hold their show in the city at a site being redeveloped by Cecil Saucedo, owner of Cochrans Cafeteria on Main Street. The former Safari’s drive through beverage barn has been broadened and closed in to accommodate big events, such as Quincineras, and now the quilt show.
The initial price of the rental was three times the amount the group was accustomed to paying. However, members of the EDC helped with the negotiation and got the price greatly reduced, and then offered to help with the funding from Hotel Motel tax funding, meant for the promotion of the sales of rooms in the city by those likely to attend multi-day events such as the quilt show.
Upon passage of the action, Mayor Jim Braswell said, “Welcome home, girls.” (Braswell was made aware of the situation and helped when he learned one of the guild members attended his same church.)
In related action, the council approved adding $10,000 in funding to two line items in the Hotel Motel budget toward Sporting Events and creating the line item for Special Events. It also approved the additional expenditure of $4,000 for the EDC Skate Park project to bring it into compliance with ADA requirements.
In other business, the council members:
• named The Monitor as the city’s official newspaper for the publishing of its new ordinances and public notices.
• heard the Toys for Tots October fundraiser doubled the results of its fundraising efforts, bringing in an additional $10,000 in donations and pledges. Spokesperson Jane Horton thanked the EDC for its sponsorship of the event. “This will help us to help many more needy children and their families at Christmas time. When we started this 15 years ago, we had to send people away. We won’t have to do that anymore,” she said.
• approved a CPI .9 percent billing adjustment from Republic Waste collection service. City manager Bauer said he learned that the true amount of CPI increase in the Dallas area is .8 percent, but that what the hauler was asking wasn’t out of line and amounted to a raise of $1.56 on a year’s worth of service to the typical residential customer. Council woman Anne Mullins opposed the motion.
• appointed Keith Butler, Steve Shorrock and Chris Williams to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
• recognized the week of Nov. 7-11 as Municipal Court Week.
• met new city employees, officers V. Parras and T. Walts; dispatcher Ariel Tipton and new court clerk Jaqlynn Bless.
• approved the revised Personnel Policy Manual, which adds Veterans Day as a paid holiday and rewrote the disciplinary section to nix the city’s current progression action plan.
• reset the November meeting for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15
• heard a plea from resident Brian Hicks to do more to support the LGBTQ community and to guard its members from discrimination.

Oct

28

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : October 28, 2016

By Britne Hammonds
Monitor Staff Writer
CANTON–Independent auditors warned the Van Zandt County Commissioners to clean up budget discrepencies or risk having to repay FEMA funds.
During the Oct. 11 meeting, auditor Kevin Cashion of Gollob, Morgan and Peddy, Inc. presented an 80-page audit for the county’s fiscal year 2015.
Cashion issued a warning to commissioners that certain procedures would have to change. Specifically, Cashion said adopting annual budgets that showed a continual deficit would have to stop. In addition, the practice of borrowing from different fund balance accounts would need to be changed.
During the lengthy presentation, Cashion touched on the actions of previous county auditors and also reminded the commissioners “this is the second year in a row that the commissioners have been cautioned for specific accounting practices.”
Cashion also pointed out problems in the treasurer’s office, including a failure to comply and being understaffed. Other major issues listed were: the county using FEMA funds while being deficit; and implementing the segregation of duties.
“Overall, as a county you are in a better position from a financial standpoint,” Cashion said. “Improvements had been made but there are a few things that still need to be done.”
Cashion and County Auditor Freddy Thomas emphasized to the commissioners that unauthorized borrowing of cash funds with restrictive purposes remains a problem in the county.
“All departments need to understand they need to operate within their approved budget. For example, in 2015, the main reason the county went over budget was due to $440,000 being spent on the jail that was not in the jail budget. “We have now used up all of our excess money and we are going into 2017 with no cash reserves,” Thomas said. “We are emphasizing to all county departments that the budget is set and we have tried to give all of the departments a fair budget. But, if they go over that budget, the county would be in trouble financially.”
Cashion added that recent accounting practices make it unclear just how much cash in is the bank. “It is misrepresentation of how much cash is actually in the bank, the way we have operated historically.”
“You are borrowing from other funds to pay bills. You can’t borrow from those restricted amount funds,” Cashion said.
He also advised commissioners to be “very, very careful,” with funds received from FEMA.
“We have got to be very, very careful about taking money from federal funds and using those funds for operations. The funds can be pulled out and put into a separate account. I suggest that you do that to avoid any opportunity for the state to say there is misallocation of funds. You do not want to have to pay the federal government back,” Cashion said. “Pull those funds out, put them into a separate account and do not run the risk of misappropriating those dollars.”
County Departments
Cashion touched on the problems concerning the treasurer’s office.
“Your treasurer’s office has a lot of responsibilities. There are only two people in that office. The ball is getting dropped along the way,” Cashion said.
Cashion said he had talked with County Auditor Thomas concerning segregation of duties, specifically because the treasurer’s office handles human resources of the county. He strongly recommended a position be created for an HR representative.
Cashion summarized by saying deposits need to be made in a timely manner to comply with local government code and that the treasurer’s office is understaffed.
Cashion also suggested that segregation of duties of other county departments would also be necessary. “The (county) auditor may need to audit some departments monthly to see where things stand because, you must remain in the approved budget,” Cashion said.
County Judge Don Kirkpatrick thanked Cashion and Thomas on their work on the audit.
“We have fixed the auditor’s office and have made improvements. We do believe we have a balanced budget for 2017. The caution to all departments is that there is no money to come over here and get. Stay within your budget even if it will be tight and stressful. We are going to do the best we can,” Kirkpatrick said.
“The problems that were in the audit are now being addressed, and that is progress. That is where the county needs to continue to head. But, the problems aren’t going to be fixed overnight,” Cashion concluded.

Oct

27

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : October 27, 2016

Staff and volunteers from East Texas Crisis Center Staff and volunteers from East Texas Crisis Center[/captio

t-shirts2

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–Different colored shirts are hung on a clothes line stretched across the Henderson County Court House lawn in a demonstration of the county’s dirty laundry when it comes to domestic violence during this last week of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Each T-shirt color represents a type of domestic violence or abuse and carries a very personal message from the survivor or loved one of a murdered victim of the under-reported crime.
East Texas Crisis Center staff and Victims Relief Ministry brought the issue to the public square Oct. 25, to make residents aware that these types of crimes have culminated in the death of 158 victims in Texas in 2015 and that these situations are found in homes across the state, crossing all social-economic and racial barriers.
A part of the proclamation made on Oct. 4 by Commissioners Court, states it is everyone’s duty to report the crime, step in or otherwise find ways to break the cycle of abuse and death. “At the very least we hope we may possibly save a life by bringing these matters out into the open,” ETCC director Della Cooper said.
Commissioner Wade McKinney thanked the tireless volunteers for their continued service, and work to impact this societal condition. “We support you and are proud of you,” McKinney said. “Everyone in the community shares responsibility to break the cycle of abuse,” he added.
During an opening prayer Victims Relief Ministry officer Jim McKee said, “Invigorate our burden, Lord. Invigorate our resolve. May justice and love prevail.”
At the close, Cooper directed staff to release balloons in memory of those who have lost their lives from someone they once trusted and loved in a violent act of domestic abuse.