Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - July 2009
Copyright 2009 - Polk County Publishing Company
Burn Ban Continues in Houston County
Houston County Courier, July 2009
A ban on outdoor burning continues in effect in unincorporated areas of Houston County.
The burn ban was originally issued on June 23 by the Houston County Commissioners Court.
During its regular meeting this week, the court voted to extend the ban for an additional two weeks.
It will be reviewed again at the next commissioners court meeting on July 28.
The court also approved a revised Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance which regulates construction of structures in designated flood zones in unincorporated areas of the county.
"We are very fortunate that we have very few structures located in flood zones out in the county," said Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt.
"To comply with requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program, anyone who wishes to build in the flood zone in the future is going to have to apply for a Floodplain Development Permit."
The judge explained that it will be up to the property owner to verify whether their property is located in a flood zone prior to building a new structure or making substantial improvements to an existing structure. Any property owner that is unsure of this can ask the County Judge's office for a determination, and there is no fee for this service.
If the proposed location is within a designated flood zone, the Floodplain Development Permit will require additional safeguards to help prevent damage to the structure in the event of a flood.
The court approved renewal of the county employee health insurance plan for the coming year with no change in benefits. The county participates in a health insurance pool sponsored by the Texas Association of Counties and administered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
The rate for employee only health coverage will increase from $435.10 to $465.56 for the coming year. However, Houston County is receiving a renewal credit of more than $119,000 from the pool, which means the actual net cost to the county for each employee will be only about $365 per month.
“The renewal credit is based on the fact that the pool has been very successful and profitable,” explained Judge Hunt.
“Houston County has been a longstanding member of the pool, and the credit is based in part on our years of involvement. This is a very successful program which saves us a lot of money.”
Commissioners authorized two expenditures from the county's Community and Economic Development Fund.
Revenues for this fund come from unclaimed capital credits from electric cooperatives and by law must be used for community and economic development activities.
The court approved payment of the annual insurance premium for the Houston County Visitors Center and Museum, as well as a $1,500 contribution to a Texas Forest Country marketing campaign, from the fund.
The court also heard a request for additional funding for the Houston County Senior Citizens Center in the new budget year.
Board President Norma Dell Jones and Executive Director Glenna Enos updated commissioners on the growth of the senior citizens program, including a tremendous growth in home-delivered meals for shut-ins.
Houston County has increased funding to the senior citizens program in each of the last two budget years.
Judge Hunt commented that this coming year's budget is going to be much tighter, but that their request would be considered. And, he noted that the commissioners court knows the money that has been invested by Houston County has been well spent and has benefited many senior citizens.
Houston County's new budget year begins on October 1.
The county judge is required to file a proposed budget by the end of July. The commissioners will conduct a budget workshop on July 28.
A public hearing on the budget, and formal adoption, is scheduled for Aug. 21.
In other business Tuesday, the Houston County Commissioners approved an agreement with Vista Com for maintenance of the dispatch voice recording system at the Sheriff’s Office and approved renewal of an agreement with Vaisala Inc. for maintenance of the weather reporting system at Houston County Airport.
Commissioners accepted the donation of two video recording systems from Anderson County Constable Larry Bennett. One of the systems will be used by Precinct 1 Constable Morris Luker, and the other by Community Service Supervisor Kenneth “Red” Smith.
Regarding staffing measures, the court approved the employment of Christina McKnight as part time clerk in the County Attorney’s office; approved the employment of Jonathan Paul Sensat as part time jailer in the sheriff’s office; approved a change in the status of Bruce Goolsby, road hand in Precinct 1, from part time to full time and approved a budgeted six-month pay raise for Rita Rodriguez, who has completed her first six months on the job as Office Administrator in the County Attorney’s Office.
Commissioners approved the sale of a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria and a 2005 Dodge Durango from the sheriff’s office through the Auctioneer Express online auction service and accepted a contribution of $3,000 from the City of Kennard for road and culvert work performed by Precinct 4 Commissioner Kennon Kellum.
The court authorized Precinct 1 Commissioner Roger Dickey to accept the use of a boom mower on a “loaner” basis from George P. Bain, with a no-obligation option to purchase after Oct. 1 and accepted for filing the annual road reports from all four County Commissioners.