|Trinity Standard - Local News
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Commissioners decide to hold off on burn ban
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – Although dry, windy weather was forecast for the region, Trinity County commissioners decided Monday to postpone implementing a rural ban on outdoor burning. During their meeting Monday morning in Groveton, the sound of a rain shower could be heard in the meeting room, which commissioners agreed would help ease the danger of wild fires in the area. “Things have begun to get green again and I would like to hold off on a burn ban,” Pct. 3 Commissioner Cecil Webb said. The other commissioners agreed and despite a forecast for dry and windy conditions later in the week, decided to hold off on the burn ban order. “This could be a mighty dry year and once we put a burn ban in place, we could be under it for an extended period,” Pct. 2 Commissioner Rich Chamberlin said. “I’d like to hold off for as long as possible,” he said. “If we need to, we can come back during a special meeting (to approve the burn ban),” Webb said. County Judge Doug Page noted that a Texas Forest Service report indicated that over the previous seven days, that agency had responded to 60 wildfires, which destroyed 20,803 acres throughout the state. Local fire departments have reported 96 wildfire covering 3,048 acres. He added that as of Monday, 167 Texas counties were under burn bans. On Monday, far west Texas was classified as a “high fire danger” area while the rest of the state was rated to be in “moderate” danger. However, on Wednesday or Thursday, a warm and dry southwest flow is expected to enter the state and elevate the fire danger to most of Texas to “high” or “critical.” The commissioners agreed to continue to monitor the situation and would reconvene for a special session to reconsider the matter if needed. Deputy constables named In other business Monday, commissioners approved a request from Pct. 4 Constable Ronnie Hunt to appoint two new deputies for his department, including retired Texas Ranger Pete Maskunas. While based in Lufkin, Maskunas has served the Trinity County area, investigating a number of cases ranging from murders to complaints involving law enforcement officers and public officials. Hunts noted Maskunas recently retired and when he called to congratulate him, he also invited him to join his department as a part time officer. Deputy constables in Trinity County do not currently receive salaries and are considered to be volunteer officers. They do receive fees for serving civil court papers and the county is currently studying ways to compensate them for gasoline used during the course of their duties. Hunt noted that Maskunas and his wife currently reside in Hudson, which is just north of the Trinity County line in Angelina County. Also approved as a deputy constable on Monday was Glenn Rightmire, a 25-year law enforcement veteran who served with the Clear Lake Shores police as with constable offices in Montgomery and Harris counties. Hunt noted that Rightmire has resided in Trinity County for the past two years and is one of his neighbors. Delinquent tax collections During the meeting, commissioners also considered but tabled action on a proposal to change the delinquent tax collection firm contracted by the county. On the agenda was a proposal to offer the contract to the Austin-based law firm of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson, which had the county contract until 2008. All four of the commissioners said they were surprised by the agenda item because they awarded a new contract in February to the current collection law firm of Perdue, Branden, Feilder, Collins and Mott. Page indicated that the change was being sought by County Tax Assessor-Collector Lindy Madden Warren, who was recommending the Linebarger firm. The commissioners noted that until seeing the agenda item, they had no indication that there was a problem with the current collection firm and Pct. 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham said he felt “insulted” that the matter was on the agenda without some type of prior warning. Chamberlin also indicated it had caught him off guard and wanted more information. “I’ve heard nothing negative (about the current firm) and I am surprise by the quickness of this, especially since we just approved a new contract last month,” Chamberlin said. He suggested that the matter be tabled until the April meeting to give him and other commissioners time to investigate the matter. The vote to table was approved 4-1 with Worsham casting the only “no” vote. Other business During the meeting, commissioners also: • Proclaimed April 9 as the Davy Crockett Bear Chase Marathon Day in Trinity County. • Authorized the county to take part in Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) offered through the national non-profit organization Experience Works. Under the program, people with limited financial resources who are 55 or older can be hired part time by the county and be paid through a federal grant awarded to Experience Works. • Took no action on a request from the Whispering Pines Golf Club near Trinity for a variance in the Trinity County burn ban police. The club had asked commissioners to exempt them from future burn bans if they agreed to establish a burn pile area and install special fire control measures around the pile. During their discussion Monday, commissioners indicated that by granting one burn ban variance, it would “open the flood gates” for requests from other subdivisions. • Voted to seek bids on limestone rock for road work. • Called a public hearing for 10 a.m. Monday, April 11, on setting a new speed limit for Pinecrest Road south of Trinity. Currently, the entire road is posted for 30 miles per hour but commissioners will consider increasing that to 40 mph on the newly paved portion of the roadway. The unpaved section would remain at 30 m,ph. • Learned from Chamberlin that the Precinct 1 equipment lot in Trinity is in the process of being cleaned up. Two old vehicles, including a tank truck and pickup, have already been moved and that old fuel storage tanks and other equipment are targeted for removal. Chamberlin noted that the precinct has not operated road maintenance equipment for the past four years and the lot is not currently needed. At present, the county roads in Precinct 1 are maintained by Pct. 3 Commissioner Cecil Webb’s crews. “With only 15.6 miles of roads, its hard to justify being in the road businesses,” Chamberlin said and he thanked Webb for the work his crews had performed in recent years. • Replaced former County Judge Mark Evans with Page on the county’s building committee, which is currently overseeing the restoration of the Trinity County Courthouse. Also added to the committee was Chamberlin and former Pct. 2 Commissioner Jannette Hortman, who left office Dec. 31, 2010, was asked to continue to work on the panel. • Assured Constable Johnson that any policy to compensate deputy constables for gasoline used on county business would be applied to all four constable offices. Chamberlin, a member of the committee studying the matter, noted no final decision has been reached and invited Johnson to attend the next meeting of the committee.