|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
County OKs radio contract, extension of JP warrant plan
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — Polk County Commissioners approved a $72,000 contract Tuesday to reprogram radios for county road and bridge department. Work will begin to locate a transmitter on a radio tower operated by Sam Houston Electric Cooperative in North Polk County to make radio communication possible for Road and Bridge Precinct 3. "We've been dead in the water since the beginning of the year," Commissioner Milt Purvis said. The FCC mandated all two-way radios users to go to narrow band frequencies, effective Jan. 1, 2013. Prior to Jan. 1, Purvis's work crews could communicate radio in some parts of their precinct, but often depended on cell phones to stay in touch with the precinct barn. That situation would not allow activation of an emergency management plan if called on to clear roadways or other disaster relief tasks in case blocked roads. The court approved a plan by DFW Communications that will address the equipment issues. Commissioners then voted to extend the pilot program for constables in Precincts 1 and 4 to collect a large amount of outstanding fines. At an earlier meeting, commissioners were under the impression that the project had not collected enough of the unpaid revenue to justify continuing. Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Darrell Longino reminded the court that the data reviewed includes a period of time that prior officeholder, Charlie Clack, was a "lame duck" and had no incentive to continue aggressively pursue collecting warrants. "Originally the constable actively pursued the outstanding fines and agreed to stop working extra jobs in Houston and he did that," Longino said. "Then after he was defeated he went back to his other interests." Longino said when Scott Hughes took office he "started off with a bang," then he was inundated with truancy cases. Since there is no criminal penalty for evading a civil summons, these "seasoned evaders" as Longino and Hughes described them, often take multiple attempts to serve. School districts have the option of filing truancy cases in any municipal, Justice of the Peace or county court that the family resides; but most Polk County schools have chosen to file cases in Longino's court, because Hughes spends a great deal of time serving summons throughout the county. "I spend a lot of time in Indian Springs, Big Thicket Lake Estates, Leggett, even in the City of Corrigan," Hughes said. "I would rather serve a felony warrant than a truancy summons." Longino said he and his staff specifically study case law on Compulsory School Attendance. "It's changed a lot since 1999. We've constantly got to evolve so we can get these kids back in school," Longino said. "There were 672 cases handled in the Pct. 1 court last year. Of those, 672 to 100 had to be served by a constable. Ultimately, the court and the sheriff's department agreed to work with Precinct 1 Constable to get him in the Sheriff's Office system. Overstreet asked Longino how the court kept records of violators paying because of contact with the constable or some other reason. "The previous constable would let us know that he was going to run the warrant file and focus on the (last names beginning with the letter A) and he would bring us a list of everyone in the file. If they came in, we changed the arrest code from the sheriff's office to the constable's office," Longino said. Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Stephen McEntyre said he is neither for nor against the pilot program, but there is not that level of communication between his office and the constable. "We were added last year. I have submitted to the court in writing what they have asked me to submit." McEntyre said. Longino recommended continuing with the warrant program, with oversight, so that constables can document efforts to contact violators with outstanding warrants and collect the outstanding fines, which Longino said amount to about $2 million. Longino had other insights about the decrease in fine revenue from the prior year. Angelina County opened a state-of-the-art weigh station on the southbound side of U.S. 59 and the license and weight officers that previously worked in Polk County were reassigned to work at that site. "A lot of those tickets were $300 and up. We're not getting the service in Polk County. We need to make an upgrade in Polk County to recapture the revenue stream. They are anticipating building one on the north end of Angelina County and that will cut us out altogether," Longino said. The loss of the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) grant also hurt fine revenues for the county. "Just in my precinct, we kept $60,000 over and above the year before when we were in the STEP program. In 2013, we only saw $20,000." After an executive session, Commissioners voted to terminate the fire protection contract with Holiday Lake Estates VFD and directed current officials with that department to deliver any equipment to the Commissioners Precinct Barn where it can be secured until differences among community members can be settled and a new department established. "Our one connection with all our fire departments is the funding that we have, Thompson said. "It's not a lot, but it's funding. All the fire departments have generators that came from Hurricane Ike monies — that's on the building. It's obvious to everyone that a fire department is an important part of the community. Our authority does not cover making y'all get along together and making it function right," Thompson said. "Your insurance rates, the health and safety of the community — there are a lot of reasons that it is important. That will be up to y'all. Thompson deferred to District Attorney Lee Hon who recommended that the court terminate the agreement and allow the district attorney's office to send a 60-day notice to the Holiday Lakes Volunteer Fire Department, (which recently has been doing business as United Community Fire Department). Hon said the county would demand all property and equipment that the county has an ownership interest in be turned over to Emergency Management Cooperator Larry Pitts. He said Pitts, and the District Attorney's office and County Auditor Ray Stelly would work together to determine what equipment that is. Hon's recommendation was put in the form of a motion by Commissioner Willis, seconded by Purvis and passed unanimously. Assistant Fire Chief Ed Mays said he had spoke with program administrator for the grants Joe Fox, who said the brush truck acquired by the department through a grant belongs to the 501(c)3 in total and they had pledged to give it to Scenic Loop VFD. "I think the district attorney is going to ask you not to do that," Thompson said. Ernie McClendon, an attorney representing the fire department, said the problem arose because the property owner's association canceled their lease. He said there are personnel issues in the subdivision, but the tensions between the Property Owners Association and the department, but cancellation of the lease has left the department unable to function. Sheriff Kenneth Hammack also addressed rumors, including comments made during the open forum, that 911 calls were not being forwarded to the Holiday Lakes Fire Department or first responders. "Some information has come to me from different sources that calls were not being forwarded and I asked Lt. Mark Jones if something was being done to the calls. That is all a bunch of bunk. The only person that can take anyone off the call list is me and that did not happen. I want to put those concerns to rest," Hammack said. The sheriff's office is there to serve you. After the meeting, Hammack said he had investigated the complaints. First responders for medical emergencies are called by Americare EMS not PCSO, but the sheriff had determined that the volunteers who were responding prior to the arrival of an ambulance did not meet the numerous criteria required by the Texas Department of State Health Services to be designated a "first responder." Most Red Cross and more advanced EMS training teaches that anyone can render assistance as a good samaritan, but that is not in any official capacity. J.L. Mayes said he is not receiving calls to act as a first responder because he did not renew his certification as an Emergency Care Attendant. Julie Mack, secretary of the Holiday Lakes Estates Property Owners Association, told commissioners the decision to cancel the lease was made because of the department's inability to function. "There are only five people on the fire department with two answering calls," Mack said. "Three did not live in the community and then they moved further away. Livingston and Scenic Loop fire departments could each respond faster. In this decision process, we were already in consultation with another group that had formed a governing body that has formed under the name 'Holiday Lakes VFD' since this group abandoned the name and had been using 'United Community VFD,' they picked up the DBA (doing business as). They are working on a charter. I don't believe the community will be without a fire department for long." Commissioners recognized members of the Polk County Historical Commission, which was recently honored with a Distinguished Service Award for 2012 by the Texas Historical Commission. The award acknowledged the group's efforts managing preservation programs that educate citizens and generate interest in the history and character of Texas. Further details on the criteria award appear in a separate story in this edition. Commissioners also voted to table action on appointing a county fire marshal and approved a master lease and sublease of the county building, which houses Angelina College and the commerce center. Prior to Tuesday's regular meeting, commissioners held the first of two public hearing on the proposed tax rate, but no one appeared to speak on the tax rate. The second hearing will be held at 4 p.m. Sept. 3 in the Commissioners Courtroom on the third floor of the Polk County Courthouse. Commissioners approved the appointment of election judges and alternates as well as voting locations, with the provision that additional details will be worked out and attached as Exhibits A and B, executed separately and filed as modifications, since the County Clerk is awaiting additional instructions from the Secretary of State's office. Also approved during Tuesday's consent agenda: • Approve offers to purchase tax foreclosed properties: (PCT 1) Lot 146, Section 3, Commodore Cape, Cause No. T09-077; Lot 36, Section 2, Shiloh Ridge, Cause No. T09-072; (PCT 4) Lots 217 thru 222, Section 9, Big Thicket, Cause No. T10- 267. • Approve the adoption of the Texas Department of State Health Services Indigent Healthcare Eligibility Standards, Documentation and Verification procedures for state FY September 1, 2013-August 31, 2014. • Set sheriffs' and constables' fees to take effect Jan, 1, 2014 and direct notification to state Comptroller, pursuant to Tex. Loc. Gov't. Code 118.131. •Approve renewal of lease agreement with Molly Locke for office space located in the M.G. Reily Humanitarian Building in Corrigan. • Approve renewal of independent contract agreements with Barbara Hayes-Medical Revenue Services, INC. –for administration of county indigent healthcare program and oversight of jail medical and aging programs. •Approve renewal agreement with integrated data services for county clerk's imaging software maintenance for FY2014. •Approve annual renewal of Americare contract for primary EMS/Ambulance service for Polk County. •Approve biennial service agreement with Metroplex Control Systems for maintenance of Judicial Center security system. • Approve renewal of agreement with Dr. Ray Luna as primary care provider for county indigent health care program. • Receive County Treasurer's amended 2nd Quarter Report (Jan-Feb-Mar) and 3rd Quarter Report for FY2013 (Apr-May-Jun). • Receive the Polk County retiree health care plan actuarial valuation report from Gabriel Roeder Smith & Company. • Approve Department of State health services contract #2014-001122-00, continuing grant award for "Potentially Preventable Hospitalizations" program & approve cooperative work agreement to continue related grant administration services. • Approve annual (software) maintenance agreement with Net Data for FY2014. • Approve joint use agreement with Chester ISD for election services pending legal review and approval by District Attorney. • Approve non-financial cooperative agreement to provide county aging services worksite assistance through a workforce solutions Seep East Texas 10-week work program.