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County opposes unfunded mandates

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Polk County LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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In what Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy referred to as “a yearly event,” the Polk County Commissioners Court approved a resolution in opposition to unfunded mandates from the state during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Again, the Texas Association of Counties has requested each county approve a resolution in opposition to unfunded mandates imposed by the state. The county auditor’s office recently completed an unfunded mandate survey and we do have to give a huge thanks to the auditor’s office because that’s a lot of work to try to gather that information,” Murphy said.

“Part of what happens when we receive mandates from the state and have to follow them, then they basically leech money away from the taxpayers and away from the county. The unfunded mandates on any given year can go anywhere from 35% to 45% of our budget,” Murphy said.

The Court received a nuisance abatement hearing determination for Cause No. A00522 following a hearing in a Polk County Justice Court and approved an order to abate and move forward. The property in question is located in Tree Harbor in Precinct 2.

Two requests for exemption from the county subdivision regulations were approved – one is the development of Abst. 77 of the A. Viesca Survey (154.381 acres) located in Precinct 1 and consisting of one tract with access to existing public road with no other common areas and/or streets and the other is the development of Abst. 77 of the A. Viesca Survey (two acres) located in Precinct 1 and consisting of one tract with access to existing public roads with no other common areas and/or streets.

The Court approved requests for capital purchases to be paid from the general fund balance and included on the fiscal year 2023 reimbursement resolution for the year-end issuance of legally authorized debt, specifically, after market equipment on a leased vehicle for the fire marshal, in the amount of $7,055 and an upgrade to the jail camera system, not to exceed $211,552.18.

The appointment of Rachel Slocomb Drake to the Burke Center Board of Trustees to fill the unexpired portion of Col. Howard Daniel’s two-year term that began Sept. 1, 2021 was approved.

A resolution for the restructuring of the adult sexual assault response team was approved with Shelly Sitton replacing Lee Hon, Tami Pierce replacing Beverly Armstrong, David Mitchell replacing Craig Finegan and Kaleb Barker replacing Leon Middleton.

Several items related to some of the local volunteer fire departments’ utilization of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds were approved, including the following:

Payment to Wanco for generator/light tower equipment for the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Nation VFD, in the amount of $10,000;

Payment to Lone Star Emergency Group to replace fire pump and pump motor for the brush truck for the Corrigan VFD, in the amount of $10,000;

Payment to South Polk County VFD Inc. for a brush truck for the Holiday Lake Estates VFD, in the amount of $10,000;

Payment to Dalmatian Fire Equipment LLC for 10 self-contained breathing apparatus packs for the Livingston VFD, in the amount of $10,000;

Payment to Nalcom Wireless Communications for radio equipment for the Segno VFD, in the amount of $7,557.50;

Payment to Red Barn for materials to replace the roof and rafters for the Segno VFD, in the amount of $2,442.50;

Payment to W.S. Darley & Co. for firefighting equipment for the Goodrich VFD, in the amount of $10,000; and

Payments to Thomas Supply, Lowes Home Centers, Tejas Paint & Flooring and General Wire & Electric Supply for materials to renovate the Indian Springs VFD station, not to exceed $10,000 in total.

In personnel matters, the Court reviewed and approved personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and reviewed four authorized emergency hirings – two at the sheriff’s office, one in maintenance and one in road and bridge. They also approved an update to the personnel management system.

The Court approved the fiscal year 2023 budget revisions and amendments as presented by the county auditor’s office.

During informational reports, Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes presented a report to the Court regarding the services provided by his office.

“I took office January 2013 and had one vehicle, one laptop that didn’t work and a bunch of evidence that wasn’t documented. Now, we fund my office fully. I have two fulltime contract deputies that are paid full time. They get the benefits and the insurance and the incentive package. I have three parttime employees that are paid, contract deputies because they’re not considered county employees, and support staff. What I come here today to talk about is we’ve been trying to work out an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with Goodrich School District since August. It boils down to the children’s safety, the teachers’ safety and the community’s safety,” Hughes said.

Two people addressed the Court during the portion of the meeting reserved for public comment – Billy Lambeth and Tyler Epstein.

Lambeth wanted to discuss a road at Outlaw Bend Subdivision. “The road makes an S and the school bus has to make two or three turns to get to it. An oil company was going to drill a well and I let them cut that corner of that S out. When the oil company gave it up, in my agreement they had to take the rock up and plant trees. I told them to leave it, I was going to try to swap it to the county. I went to Tommy (former Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet) three years ago and he said no, y’all didn’t want it. I put that place up for sale and if y’all want it now’s the time or it’s going to have to go back to the S curves. I’ll give y’all the new easement but I want y’all to abandon the old road and give it to me,” Lambeth said.

“You need to discuss that with the new commissioner. If you’ll provide that to the new commissioner, then he can take a look at it,” Murphy said.

Epstein wanted to discuss a gate on Sandy Land Road. “There’s a gate on Sandy Land Road by C.M. Hardy that is there blocking off a county road and there is no reason for it to be there. It’s not there by law. It needs to be removed. I’ve got an affidavit signed by a gentleman testifying to the fact that he put a fence over a county road on Horace Bond Road in 2006 and that is, again, a county road that’s being blocked, less than 20 years. I’ve also got an email from Bob Bass where he let Mr. Vincent (former Precinct 2 Commissioner Ronnie Vincent) know that a road laid out by a jury of view had to be formally abandoned or it’s still a county road and I have access to it. The commissioners court has not addressed that or taken advice from counsel. I think it’s owed to the taxpayers to explain why they are fighting litigation right now against the advice of counsel when by law, the county attorney is telling you that it is still a valid road because it hasn’t been abandoned properly and every effort has been made to find that this road has been abandoned and it’s not been. The other issue is the school owns two acres on this road that is also public property that if this can’t be accessed, it’s essentially landlocking public property as well, which can’t be done,” Epstein said.

Items on the consent agenda include:

Approval of the schedules of bills;

Approval of an order designating surplus property;

Receipt of the county auditor’s monthly report, pursuant to local government code Sec.114.025;

Receipt of the county treasurer’s fiscal year 2022 fourth quarter report;

Receipt of the sheriff’s department’s 2022 racial profiling report;

Approval of the sheriff’s request to submit an application to the office of the governor for the fiscal year 2023 criminal justice grant program for a special victims officer;

Approval of the sheriff’s request to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance for an evidence/procurement manager position;

Approval to construct a wall at Precinct 2 Road & Bridge in the amount of $1,000 to be funded out of the Precinct 2 Road & Bridge operating expenses fund; and

Approval of the purchase of a 2019 truck with trade-in for Precinct 1 Road & Bridge in the amount of $41,700.

Pastor Sonny Hathaway of Central Baptist Church of Livingston opened the meeting with prayer.


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