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Stories Added - November 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
County leasing space for sheriff
Trinity Standard - November 2008
GROVETON – Additional office space for the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department was given the green light Monday by the Trinity County Commissioners Court.
During their meeting in Groveton, commissioners agreed to lease a fifth building located on Highway 287 across the street from the courthouse and jail.
The county had already agreed to lease four of the five buildings owned by the Thornberry Family Partnership at that location. Offices now located in the courthouse are set to move into those four buildings for about 18 months while the courthouse undergoes and extensive renovation.
During Monday’s meeting, County Judge Mark Evans told commissioners that Jonathan Thornberry had agreed to lease the county the fifth building at a cost of 65 cents per square foot or $1,192 per month.
While the $6.6 million renovation project for the courthouse does not include the jail, Evans told commissioners that Sheriff Brent Lee simply needs more office space.
Thornberry currently is in the process of renovating four buildings for the county and will “build out” Building 5 to meet the needs of the sheriff’s department.
The original construction schedule had called for the county offices to have already been moved and renovation work to be underway on the courthouse.
However, delays in obtaining final approval of the construction plans from the Texas Historical Commission postponed the start of the project. THC is providing the bulk of the funding for the work under a $5 million courthouse preservation grant approved earlier this year.
In related action, the county formally postponed the occupancy date of the four buildings until Dec. 1.
“I doubt we will be able to move before the middle of December and even that might be optimistic,” Evans said.
The judge explained the renovation project has now been delayed by Hurricane Ike and the damage it left in Galveston.
“Unfortunately our architects (Michael Gaertner Architects) had their offices in Galveston and have been forced to relocate. That has delayed things,” he said.
Evans added that in the aftermath of the hurricane the demand for construction workers has climbed and Thornberry is now having problems finding enough help to complete the county’s temporary office space.
JP office space
In other building related action Monday, the commissioners authorized Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Sam Blair to investigate the possibility of either building a new office or purchasing a portable building.
Blair’s office in Apple Springs was destroyed on Nov. 3 by what is believed to have been an electrical fire.
Pct. 4 Commissioner James Alford told the commissioners had had checked around and located a portable building in Lufkin that could be moved to the site.
However, because the cost of the building exceeded $25,000, Evans said the county would first have to advertise for bids before such a purchase could be made.
Evans noted that the wooden office building that had been used by Blair was a “total loss” and it would have to be removed from the site before another structure could be erected.
Alford said his road and bridge workers would be able to remove the remains of the building and haul it to a dump site in Angelina County.
Trinity County Clerk Diane McCrory noted that some of the JP’s records did survive the fire but were damaged by smoke. She told commissioners she would help Blair contact a company that specializes in restoring fire and smoke damaged documents.
“When I had the fire in my office a few years ago, they did an excellent job. I’m sure they will be able to help you,” McCrory told Blair.
Since the fire, Blair has been working out of the courthouse in Groveton but told commissioners Monday he was anxious to move back to the Apple Springs area.
Road opening sought
During the meeting, Robert Sims asked commissioners to reopen a portion the old County Line Cemetery Road located in the Nogalus Prairie are of Precinct 4.
Commissioners agreed to call a public hearing on the matter to be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. At that time, those for and against the reopening of the road will be given an opportunity to address the issue with commissioners.
During Monday’s meeting, Sims explained that in 2006 he purchased 340 acres in the area and until February, had been using a “cow trail” road through the Davy Crockett National Forest to access the land.
However, in February, the U.S. Forest Service closed that access, forcing Sims to find a new way into the property.
He told commissioners that he plans to eventually develop the property as weekend and vacation homes on 10 to 15-acre tracts of land and needs access.
“County Line Cemetery Road, up to approximately 1950, came off County Line Road and went through my property to Forrest Road 527,” Sims said. “The County Line Cemetery Road is now closed by a locked gate at the property owned by Mr. A.A. McMullen.”
Sims and his attorney asked the county to have the gate removed and to reopen the old road. They said they were not asking the county to make improvements to the old road .
“Mr. Sims will take care of that once the road is reopened,” the attorney said.
County Attorney Joe Bell noted that under state law, access to the County Line Cemetery cannot be blocked but said more research would have to be done to insure that the road beyond the cemetery had at one time been a public road.
Alford noted that his road and bridge crews have maintained a portion of the road but had not been going all the way to the old cemetery due to the locked gate.
During the meeting, commissioners also:
· Approved changes to an agreement with the Westwood Shores Property Owners Association regarding the contract deputy constable program. The association currently pays the county to have two full-time deputy constables working as security guards at the subdivision. The changes in the agreement reflect the increase in salaries paid to county employees that went into effect on Oct. 1.
· Approved the 2009 Personnel Policy Manual for county employees. The biggest change in the manual is the addition of a new “sick pool” program. This will allow county employees to donate some of their sick leave to other workers who have suffered a catastrophic illness forcing them to use up all of their own sick time.
· Created a Sick Pool Administrative Committee to oversee the distribution of sick time donated by county employees. Named to the committee were County Treasurer Joe Bitner-Bartee, County Auditor Sheila Johnson, County Clerk Diane McCrory, county insurance manager Robbie Thomas and (representing non-supervisory county employees) Kathy Brown.