Houston County Courier - Local News
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Funding Extension Brings in $1 Million a Year
Houston County Courier - October 2008
The Houston County Commissioners Court opened its regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 14 by reviewing some good news. County Judge Lonnie Hunt noted that the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 which was recently passed by the United States Congress and signed by the president included a four-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act (SRSCA).
SRSCA is the program, which provides funding to counties and schools to offset the loss of revenue from the sale of timber in national forests. In Houston County, that means almost $1 million per year in funding.
For fiscal year 2007, $419,459 in SRSCA funding went into the Houston County Road and Bridge funds. Another $419,459 was divided among the five public school districts in the county. And $148,044 went for various improvement projects within the Davy Crockett National Forest. Combined, 12 East Texas counties and 52 school districts received more than $4.9 million in SRSCA funding last year.
Judge Hunt said the funding formula will change under the new legislation. “We are expecting a reduction of about 10 percent each year over the next four years,” he said. “But we are extremely happy that the Congress finally took action to live up to this commitment that the federal government made to national forest counties and schools years ago.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen noted that the legislation also included funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. Houston County has been receiving approximately $18,000 per year in PILT funding in recent years.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the Houston County Commissioners Court opened Step Two Proposals from three companies vying to be named Construction Manager at Risk for the new county jail and law enforcement center. The county's architect will score the proposals and each company will make a presentation to the court at its next meeting on Oct. 28. It is expected that construction will begin on the new jail by the end of this year.
The court gave its approval to guidelines for the Houston County Community and Economic Development Program. This program is primarily funded by monies received from the state comptroller from unclaimed capital credits from electric cooperatives.
The stated purpose of the program is to stimulate business and commercial activity, and community development, in Houston County. The commissioners court is responsible for administering and overseeing the program, and all expenditures must be approved through the county’s normal budgetary process.
The court accepted the only bid received for the sale of two lots in the city of Lovelady. The lots were the former site of the Precinct 3 County Barn on Hwy. 19 near the Lovelady Post Office. A bid of $2,889 was accepted from Michael R. Broxson.
The court approved the purchase of a new John Deere 770D Motor Grader for Precinct 3. The net cost after trade-ins is $100,500. Of that amount, $50,500 will be paid out of Precinct 3 funds and $50,000 will be financed through a lease purchase agreement with the county depository, Citizens National Bank.
The court approved acceptance of a 1986 Chevrolet van donated by the city of Crockett to the Office of Emergency Management and Fire Marshall. Fire Marshall David Lamb reported that the vehicle is in excellent condition with approximately 19,000 miles on it.
In other business Tuesday, the Houston County Commissioners:
- Confirmed the employment of Sandra Haynes for the newly created position of District Court Coordinator;
- Confirmed the employment of Karen Oestmann as office manager for the Texas Agrilife Extension Office;
- Confirmed the employment of Autumn Shaw as dispatcher in the sheriff’s office;
- Received orders from the district judges officially setting the salaries of court reporters, the county auditor and assistant auditors;
- Approved overtime pay for three road hands for work related to recovery from Hurricane Ike;
- Approved adoption of the Houston County Hazard Mitigation Plan;
- Approved a resolution to make application for the 2009 Indigent Defense Grant Program, which helps pay the cost of court appointed attorneys for indigent defendants.