Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - June 2009
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Burn Ban in Effect for Houston County
Houston County Courier - June 2009
CROCKETT - The Houston County Commissioners Court approved the recommendation of Houston County Fire Marshal David Lamb and put a burn ban into effect for all unincorporated areas of the county effectively immediately during their regular meeting held on Tuesday, June 23.
“Our drought index is already nearing 600 in much of the county,” Lamb told commissioners.
“And we have started to see more fires popping up over the last few days.”
Violation of the burn ban order is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
The order makes several exceptions, including burning for firefighter training, public utility or pipeline operations, planting or harvesting of crops, and burns that are conducted by a certified burn manager under Section 153 of the Natural Resources Code.
The burn ban will be in effect until at least Wednesday, July 15.
It will be reviewed, and a decision made on whether to extend it, at the next regular commissioners court meeting on Tuesday, July 14.
In other business, commissioners approved an order imposing a new countywide hotel occupancy tax to fund the promotion of tourism in Houston County.
The new tax, which is two percent of the price of a room, will go into effect on Oct. 1.
The Houston County hotel tax was authorized by House Bill 3669 which passed during the recent session of the Texas Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry on June 19.
“This is a win-win situation,” said Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt. “This will mean that visitors to Houston County will pay a small additional tax on their room, and the proceeds will be used to help attract more visitors. That in turn will help increase business for our local motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other lodging facilities, and will have a positive impact on our local economy.”
The judge expressed thanks to State Representative Chuck Hopson, Senator Steve Ogden, and other legislators from neighboring districts for getting the bill passed. The state imposes a hotel occupancy tax of six percent, and all cities are authorized to impose a local hotel tax. Counties, on the other hand, must have specific authorization by the Legislature to impose a county hotel tax.
“There are probably 25 or so counties in Texas where the hotel tax is authorized,” the judge said.
“We feel very fortunate to have gotten our bill passed. I know of at least two other counties in East Texas that had similar bills before the Legislature this year that did not pass. Our bill was also supported by the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, because they realize that this will be a positive thing for our local lodging industry.”
“By law, proceeds from the hotel tax must be used for promotion of tourism and the convention and hotel industry. Heritage tourism and recreational tourism already have a significant impact on the economy of Houston County. With further promotion, that impact can be much greater.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, County Extension Agent Jennifer Allen presented Commissioners Roger Dickey, Willie Kitchen, Pat Perry and Kennon Kellum with certificates recognizing their completion of continuing education credits through the V. G. Young Institute of County Government.
The Institute is an educational division of Texas Agrilife Extension and the Texas A&M University System. County Commissioners are required by law to obtain at least 16 hours of continuing education each year.
Commissioners also approved a resolution urging the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House to support legislation to correct the under-valuation of oil and gas properties in Texas during the upcoming special session of the Legislature.
A request to the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense for reimbursement of more than $70,000 in excess expenses for court appointed attorneys, many of which dealt with juvenile cases involving youth from the Crockett State School was approved.
Commissioners approved a request to the State Comptroller for an annual payment of unclaimed capital credits received from electric cooperatives. By law, these funds are earmarked for community development activities.