|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
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$1.1 million animal shelter rejected
BY GREG PEAK
LIVINGSTON – A $1.1 million bid to build a new animal shelter was rejected Tuesday by the Polk County Commissioners Court. The court, which currently operates a 74-kennel animal pound in Leggett, sought the bids to construct additional kennel space and an office area that would include an area to hold cats. The bid also included an animal treatment area, fencing around the facility and a covered area for livestock. "I don't think any of us were expecting these numbers," Polk County Judge John Thompson said after the bids were presented. J.E. Kingham Construction Co. of Nacogdoches submitted the lowest of the four bids on the project. The base bid was for $988,000 with an additional $130,000 to construct 74 more dog kennels. Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet also voiced surprise at the cost and asked what it was going to cost in the future to staff and maintain the facility. "I don't think we're going to have to have someone there 24 hours a day, but we're going to need someone seven days a week to feed and water the animals," he said. He noted that based on information he has obtained from cities and counties that operate such animal shelters, the costs could climb up to $250,000 per year when you add in the cost of food and other supplies. Pct. 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis said he would prefer to hold off on the project and take the time to determine how much public support there would be for spending over $1 million for a shelter. The commissioner did vote to reject all bids on the project but indicated they will continue to look at developing a better shelter facility in the future. Appraisal district vote In other action, the commissioners voted to support Polk County Tax Assessor- Collector Leslie Burks and Onalaska area nominee Tom Curran with their votes to serve on the Polk Central Appraisal District's board of directors. They voted 4-1 to cast 761 of the county's 1,682 votes for Burks to go along with the 73 she received from other local taxing entities. This gives her the 834 votes she needed to win a seat on the PCAD board. The remaining 921 votes were awarded to Curran, assuring him a seat on the board as well. The only "no" vote on the issue came from Thompson, who said he preferred not to select an elected official for a PCAD board seat, "To me it seems like a conflict of interest for elected officials to sit on a board that will determine how much tax revenue they will receive," Thompson said. Pct. 1 Commissioner Bob Willis, who offered the motion to give Burks the votes she needed to win, argued that because she is an elected official, she will be more responsible to the voters. "To me, someone who is appointed is insulated from the public," he said. In the end, the other commissioners sided with Willis and voted to support Burks. Thompson noted in the past the commissioners have used their votes to also insure a geographic diversity among the board members. Curran, who was nominated from the Onalaska area, was given support from the commissioners for that reason. It was noted the only other non-Livingston area nominee – Calvin Jones of Corrigan – had already earned over 1,000 votes from other tax entities and was assured a seat on the PCAD board. Fire marshal's post Commissioners also voted 4-1 Tuesday to advertise for a part-time fire marshal/arson investigator. Thompson noted that in the past the fire marshal/arson investigator's duties were given to the county's Environmental Enforcement Officer. Jay Barbee, who performed those services for the county retired and was replaced in October by Deryl Oates as the EEO. Oates, however, would have to undergoing training in order to be certified as a fire marshal/arson investigator. Thompson noted that during the selection process for the EEO, there was one applicant who already had state certifications and could immediately assume the duties of fire marshal. He recommended a part-time person be hired to handle the fire marshal/ arson duties as well as handle a number of permits required for construction in rural areas. The judge suggested they advertise the position for seven days to see if there was anyone else who was qualified and the commissioners agreed, with Willis casting the only "no" vote. Other business During the meeting, commissioners also: • Learned that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is proposing to construct improvements on Highway 190 between Livingston and Onalaska to include additional passing lanes in two locations, new turn lanes at the FM 3126 intersection and reconstructing the turn lanes at the FM 3152 intersection. • Agreed to take part in the TxDOT County Transportation Infrastructure Fund Grant Program. Thompsons said the county is eligible for $448,000 in funds to improve roads affected by oil and gas production. The grant would fund 80 percent of the cost of improving the roads that qualify. Commissioners agreed to hire the Addison- Bass law firm to help facilitate the grant in Austin at a cost of $5,000, which will be paid using grant fund. • Voted to cancel their next regular meeting scheduled for Dec. 24 but agreed to call a special meeting if the need arises. • Recognized County Auditor Ray Stelly, who is retiring at the end of the year. Commissioners approved a resolution thanking Stelly for his service and presented him with a plaque. • Received an update from the Texas AgriLife Extension service on their activities over the past year and their plans for the future. The presentation included representatives of the Polk County 4-H Council and Susan Tullos of the Piney Wood Lakes chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist program.