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Stories Added - January 2010
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Move by Drilling Company Costs Houston County
Houston County Courier -  January 2010

CROCKETT - Houston County Commissioners Court was informed Tuesday that the county would lose more than $40,000 in property tax revenue this year because Aquila Drilling Company decided to render a large drilling rig for taxation in Wichita County
Commissioners were updated on the matter by Charles Rush, department manager with Pritchard and Abbott, a valuation consulting firm which works for the Houston County Central Appraisal District.
Rush reported that the rig, capable of drilling wells in excess of 20,000 feet, was placed on the Houston County tax roll with a value of $10,525,000. 
He noted that the rig was located in Houston County on Jan. 1 and was believed to have been located in the county for several months. 
However, Aquila Drilling elected to take advantage of a provision in state law which allowed it to render all of its rigs in its “home situs” location, which is Wichita County.
Rush assured commissioners that $10.5 million was a fair value for the drilling rig in question.  However, the company rendered it with the Wichita County Appraisal District at a value of just over $4.5 million.
“This sounds like a brother-in-law deal to me,” commented County Judge Lonnie Hunt.  “I understand that the law allows them to render the rig in another county.  But the law also says that county appraisal districts must appraise all property at fair market value.  If that rig is worth $10.5 million here, then it should be valued at $10.5 million in Wichita County or anywhere else.”
He added, “The Latexo ISD saw a reduction of  $127,352.50 in property tax revenue because of this.  But they will be able to recoup most of that from the state because of the way school finance works in Texas.  The county has no way to recoup any of our loss.”
“We are happy to have the drilling activity here, but the fact is these rigs tear up our county roads, and it’s only fair that they pay their fair share of taxes here to help compensate for that,” Judge Hunt added.
In addition to a loss of $40,626.50 to the county, the change is also reducing tax revenue to the Emergency Services District No. 2 by $6,578.13 and to the Houston County Hospital District by $3,157.50.
In other matters, the commissioners voted to accept $9,000 in grant funds awarded under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). 
The majority of the funds will be used for sidewalk repairs at the courthouse. Commissioners authorized Double K Concrete Construction of Grapeland to replace 917 square feet of sidewalk and install one wheelchair ramp at a cost of $6,000.  The grant will also fund the purchase of chairs, and signs identifying the accessible entrance and parking for early voting.
The commissioners approved a joint grant application with the City of Crockett to install security systems and cameras at the courthouse. 
The grant is from the U. S. Department of Justice.  The county and city are eligible for $18,546 but must submit a joint application to receive it.  The Crockett City Council will take up the matter at its Jan. 19 meeting.
Commissioners proposed awarding a bid to Cutshaw Chevrolet of Grapeland for purchase of three new trucks to be used as patrol vehicles for the sheriff’s office. 
The Cutshaw bid was $24,850 per vehicle.  One lower bid of $23,990 was received from an out-of-county dealership.   Commissioners agreed that the best bid was the local bid from Cutshaw. 
However, final action cannot be taken until the next meeting since the law requires the lowest bidder be notified and given an opportunity to appear before the commissioners court.
Commissioners authorized the sheriff’s office to accept a $500 donation from the Sam’s Club Foundation.  The money was placed in the county’s Project Lifesaver Fund and will be used to help purchase equipment to benefit citizens suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
And commissioners voted to transfer all county cell phones to a new government rate plan with Verizon Wireless.  The Auditor’s office estimated the new plan would save the county approximately $2,000 per year.



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