By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
GUN BARREL CITY–A waste removal contract and a 3 percent fee to be collected from customers of the service both failed to gain approval from the Gun Barrel City Council when it met March 22.
The contract with Republic Waste Services that has been negotiated for more than a year began to unravel in the opening moments of the meeting, when prominent citizens and volunteers on the Economic Development Board voiced their disapproval with the process and certain issues of free enterprise.
Steven Schiff and Gary Damiano, both EDC board members, pointed out that the city is only weeks away from seating new people on the council and hiring a new city manager. Shouldn’t this decision hold until the new officers are in place and brought up to speed on the issues involved? They also said that for all the city’s talk of transparency this fee, which they viewed as essentially a tax, has never become the subject of a public hearing and in light of citizens’ recent vote against a city property tax. Also at issue was the length of the contract, extending to 2023 (seven years).
The fee is meant to offset the cost of some road repairs caused by the heavy waste haulers operating throughout the city on a regular basis. The waste collection contract stipulates this fee be collected with the bill and remitted to the city. David Skates, who ran unopposed and expected to be seated in May, asked the council to table both items, calling the fee “definitely a tax.”
Damiano pointed out that his own research found the roll-off dumpster charge to be substantially higher than other providers; and further that he was prevented from hiring a different vendor, due to the exclusive nature of the contract the city has with Republic Waste Services. Should he have hired a roll-off from another company, he learned he could be issued a citation and charged a $200 fee from the city for doing so.
The district manager for the waste collector said the higher rate on roll-offs subsidize the low-cost of residential trash removal and the distribution of the requested larger recycling carts stipulated in the contract. The length of the contract coincided with the city’s stipulation that only single axis trucks be used in the city (for less wear and tear on city streets). He explained that he currently has one such truck and with this new contract he could finance a second single-axis truck. The rest of his fleet are double-axle trucks. The manager also pointed out that the trash hauler pays the city a franchise fee that plays into the numbers as well.
Councilman Ron Wyrick, who joined the meeting sometime after the public comment session came to an end, attempted to remind the council members that the contract represented a list of needs the city has in a trash collection service weighed against the cost to a provider to meet those requirements.
When the item came up for discussion, Mayor Pro Tem Rob Rea said, “This 3 percent could potentially be viewed as us making a backdoor effort for a tax that wasn’t there before.” “We’re not talking about a lot of money at $45 per quarter or $6 per year (additional fee). “This particular deal has been anything but transparent,” he said. When the vote was taken on the 3 percent fee, the motion was soundly defeated. And after much discussion, the council voted to take no action on the waste removal contract. The current agreement continues through 2018.
Earlier, council members agreed to sponsor an event of The United States Lawn Mower Racing Association in the city, June 11-12.
Councilwoman Linda Rankin proposed that instead of using $6,000 of EDC money to promote this event Hotel-Motel fund money be used. Rankin said she had spoken to the treasurer and learned this event qualifies for such funding. She told the council the Hotel-Motel fund had $159,112. This dedicated fund is to promote events that will most likely fill hotel rooms in the city.
In other business, council members:
• agreed to revise the Boots to Business Grant Program to stipulate the honorably discharged veteran be the primary business owner as a qualification for the program that helps veterans set themselves up in their own businesses.
• approved an additional $1,000 expenditure for one camera to be located at the Skate Park, and monitored by the police department after the construction is completed.
• moved the April 25 meeting to April 19, as to not interfere with early voting for the May 7 election.
• allowed coolers into July Fest within the concert gates only, for a $10 fee. No glass containers allowed. In seven years, only made two arrests at these events with only one related to alcohol consumption, Chief Damon Boswell said.
• ratified EDC’s Façade Program Grant to Star Nails for their new location on SH 198 in the amount of $2,318, half the amount the business is investing in three new signs at the location.
• agreed to approve EDC sponsorship in the amount of $2,000 for the Whiskers & Wags Gala to be held April 23 at the Athens Country Club.
• appointed Linda Bruner, an 11-year resident, to the Planning & Zoning Commission.
• approved the Police Department’s Open Carry policy.
Posted by : April 13, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Posted by : April 10, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
KAUFMAN–Kaufman County Commissioners resolved to start the process to implement a Veterans Court in Kaufman County. There are currently about a dozen such courts in Texas. Collin County 292nd District Court Judge John Roach implemented the first such court in North Texas, which now is organized in a region to include Rockwall County and now Kaufman.
The purpose of the diversionary program is to insure that veterans who have been injured in combat and have been charged with a criminal offense due to such injury can receive treatment and or rehabilitation and be successfully reintegrated into society.
At any given time about 50 to 75 inmates in Kaufman County are veterans, commissioners learned.
To qualify for the program, it must be determined that the individual’s crimes are materially connected to combat injuries suffered as a result of honorable service in the United States Armed Forces.
The projected costs of the program is estimated at between $400 and $750 per individual, with Veterans Affairs and other agencies involved in the program’s ongoing support.
The program lasts from six months to two years, depending on treatment needs and rate of progress.
Commissioners also heard a lengthy report on the progress of some 20 road projects, seeking grant funding, and in various phases of development. This video-taped report, presented by John Polster of Innovative Transportation Solutions, may be viewed in full on line from the Kaufman County Clerk’s website, under Commissioners Court, March 28 meeting.
He said the State Highway 34 bypass is scheduled for completion in May. The $14 million project creates a four-lane road to divert throughway vehicles, such as semi-tractor trailers, away from downtown Kaufman. The construction is around 86 percent complete, Polster said.
The intersection improvement plan for U.S. 80 is expected to cost $6.6 million. The project will upgrade and expand existing two-lane, undivided road to a four-lane, divided intersection at FM 148 in Terrell.
Polster also discussed plans for other intersection improvements and advanced planning for FM 548, phase one of FM548 North, the FM 148 bypass and the county thoroughfare plan.
County Auditor Karen Cooper passed out a written report to Commissioners and gave a terse two-minute statement, which included telling commissioners that they are “out of compliance” by asking her to certify reports from the treasurer and tax assessor/collector after they have already accepted or approved the reports.
“Sometimes the laws have not been followed,” she said.
“The auditor has authority and responsibility to make sure things are coded correctly and that this county is safe-boarded their assets,” Cooper, whose been with the county for two years, said.
“The county auditor audits all financial statements, including the county treasurer’s report before you accept it, so you’re out of compliance by having me certify that it’s correct (after the fact). Your county tax assessor, her report, is not in agreement with my general ledger. I’m financially transparent, she wanted to be compliant, so she put those adjustments in there. That’s all I’m going to say. You need to read this,” she said and then sat down.
The paperwork she distributed quoted the statute regarding the auditor’s office.
“I’m not sure what we’re suppose to do,” Wood said, noting that the discussion is not an action item.
Treasurer Ronnie Oldfield said he’d like some kind of approval so every time he submits with his report can be signed off on. “It’s up to you’ll to oversee the process. I just sign the checks,” he said.
A short discussion on approvals which best achieve the Court’s documentation goals was held.
In other business, the directors:
• heard the Sheriff’s Office report on the Harris Radio System installation. Microwave and fiber optic systems are installed and operational. Interlocal operability testing is set over the next two weeks with an implementation date of April 18 the goal.
• after re-entering open session, granted three of four requests for tax abatements for the City of Terrell, one involving the construction of a Walmart refrigeration warehouse.
• issued an order prohibiting the possession of firearms in the Kaufman County Courthouse and Office Buildings.
Posted by : April 10, 2016| On :
April proclaimed Sexual Assault-Domestic Violence Awareness
and Child Abuse Protection Month
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHEN–Henderson County Comissioners agreed on the importance of proclaiming April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month and took that opportunity to thank the volunteers and paid staff at the HELP Center, East Texas Crisis Center, Child Advocacy Center, Family Peace Project, Child Protective Services and first responders for the role they play on the frontlines of these devastating offenses.
HELP Center Director Leslie Saunders reported that 430 children were served for abuse and neglect last year. She added that Henderson County, though no longer among the Top 10 of Texas counties per capita with the most victims, is now in the Top 20, she said.
“It is one of the sad realities we have to deal with, and we can’t thank you enough,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney said.
In other business, commissioners:
• approved a resolution to move the Game Warden Memorial from the Texas Fresh Water Fisheries Center in Athens to the State Capital in Austin. The request came from the Game Wardens Association representative Kenneth Head. A replacement is planned for the center, Head said.
• authorized a private auction of resale properties located in Mabank and Kemp ISDs acquired by the County due to delinquent tax. The school districts have had success at selling off these properties in their local area, McKinney said.
• accepted payments from Holloman Corp for road damage to country roads in Precinct 1 in the amount of $54,000 and in Precinct 2 in the amount of $60,000. The firm was laying gas pipe for Atmos Energy during very wet conditions which contributed to the damage, commissioners noted.
• approved a contract with the Malakoff Volunteer Fire Department to be a secondary resource for emergency services within the county without monetary numeration. The contract allows the department to rebuild its membership and prove its reliability going future, as it gains more members.
• noted the hanging and framing of the current map of Emergency Service Districts in the County, furnished by the Tax Appraisal District.
• set April 26 at 9:15 a.m. for a public hearing to extend a 35 mph speed zone for a total of three miles affecting county roads 4613 and 4614 to the intersection with State Highway 19, in Precinct 4.
• approved two right-of-way permits to East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District to tap pressure sewer mains on Signet Drive and in Three Harbors Subdivision to serve new homes.
• approved 16 contracts with volunteer fire departments to provide firefighting in the unincorporated areas of the county, totaling $166,691.20.
• paid bills totaling $156 for FY 2015, the last amount in a capital murder case, $91,269.84 in FY 2016 and $166,691.20 for the volunteer fire department contracts.