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County extends burn ban for 30 days

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BurnBan2 STOCKBy Emily Banks Wooten
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The Polk County Commissioners Court approved extending the burn ban in the unincorporated areas of the county for 30 days during its regular meeting Tuesday, based on recommendations from the Polk County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Polk County Office of Emergency Management.

A proposed order authorizing fire department service area changes to the Polk County, Texas map for the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) was discussed and approved.

“The 911 network mapping which serves the 11-county DETCOG region has undergone some technological advancements as part of going into the next generation 911,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said. “All changes of Polk County boundaries for the volunteer fire departments are brought to the Court by the fire departments. We do not go in and arbitrarily change boundaries for the fire departments. We always take the fire chiefs into consideration. We do not want DETCOG or anyone else signing off on our mapping. We only want the fire chiefs determining this.”

Regarding Bid No. 2023-14 for the refurbishment of a 2002 CAT 12H motor grader for Precinct 4 Road and Bridge, to be paid for from the Precinct 4 fund balance, the Court approved the bid from Stone Metal Works out of Lovelady for $108,876.80.

Based on the recommendation of Jed Morris, the county’s engineer with Goodwin Lassiter Strong (GLS), the Court approved Legacy Oaks Subdivision located in Precinct 4. It was noted that Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Cassity filed an affidavit of abstention due to his involvement with the project.

The unauthorized replat of Lot 9 of Section 1 of Falcone Forest located in Precinct 4 was discussed.

“Earlier this year, a developer hired John Cowan & Associates to survey and plat, if necessary, Lot 9 of Falcone Forest Section 1 for the purpose of development. In May, the surveyor learned that the seller had intended to keep slightly less than an acre and they were asked to create a legal description for the remaining 2.045-acre tract and when they reached back to us, Becky discussed it with them and told them that would trigger a replat and that they would have to follow certain steps to get back in compliance. However, rather than wait to go through the appropriate process, the property owner jumped the gun and sold the slightly more than two acres on May 16,” Murphy said.

“There are multiple issues that Jed has noticed and none of them have been addressed. The process for replatting a subdivision requires you must notify you neighbors, provide a public notice and hold a public hearing so they can voice their opinion. Prior to the Court approving or disapproving it, the public that lives in that area is supposed to get an opportunity to voice their opinion. So, they must resubmit the plat for approval following the replatting requirements and correcting all the issues that were noticed in the GLS letter,” Murphy said. “So basically, we have had some trouble with a couple of developers that take the attitude that they can apologize later, that they’re just going to do what they want to do and apologize later. This is a complete slap in the face to our local developers and our local surveyors that follow the regulations, that are doing it correctly and that are fully invested in us having a good, strong community.

“Jed’s recommendation, the recommendation from GLS, from our professional engineers, is that the Court refer this one to our attorneys pursuant to Section 13 of the regulations or legal counsel may issue an injunction to prevent further development, recover damages in an amount adequate for the county to undertake any construction or other activity necessary to bring about compliance which means ensuring adequate drainage or seek criminal penalties for knowing, willful or reckless violations of Polk County subdivision regulations because they were well aware of every single one of them. They have had a professional engineer try to help them get into compliance and basically chose not to,” Murphy said. The Court approved issuing an injunction until all concerns are corrected.

The Court approved a request from the district attorney to pay out time accrued as of Aug. 13, 2023 by the district attorney’s staff, utilizing funds remaining in the district attorney’s salaries line item, specifically, all FLSA comp and holiday time and all but 20 hours of equivalent comp time.

“They have been working overtime, they have been clearing as much as they can of the docket on their side. Due to vacancies, $156,934 will be remaining in the line item at the end of the fiscal year. The cost would be $30,257.52,” Murphy said.

The Court approved contracts for human resources, specifically, Tyler Technologies applicant tracking and Easy Llama for new employee training, two new services to replace the county’s current onboarding services. The new services will save the county money and provide greater functionality.

Also approved was a contract amendment between Polk County and Tyler Technologies for Tyler Teams-20, which will be paid for using COVID funds.

The county’s IT department received notification that the cameras and the DVRs that were installed at the Polk County Tax Office and the Polk County Annex have since been added to the state and federal non-compliant technologies list and present an unacceptable risk. Following some discussion, the Court approved updating the camera systems at these two locations at a total cost of $108,787.84.

In personnel matters, the Court reviewed and approved personnel action form requests submitted by department heads since the last meeting and also approved updates to the personnel management system. The Court also approved fiscal year 2023 budget revisions and amendments, as presented by the county auditor’s office.

The Court approved the early voting schedule for the November 2023 election, as requested by County Clerk Schelana Hock.

“Normally, in constitutional amendment elections, we just do five early voting locations, but because of one of the house bills of the last legislative session, there are some differences in how it reads and whether we can do that or not, so for consistency and to avoid confusion for the voters, we’re just going to do our 12 normal countywide voting locations that we’ve been doing,” Hock said, adding, “There will be two 12-hour days on the last two days of early voting that we’re required to do based on a senate bill.”

Ben Johnston and Ron Bayle, the president and chief operational officer of G-Energy respectively, attended Tuesday’s meeting, with Johnston apprising the Court that they have been analyzing potential sites in Polk County for the placement of a renewable energy facility.

“Within the last few years we have had different companies approach the county about building a landfill gas renewable energy plant so we reviewed and confirmed that the gas rights have been assigned to Santek and were transferred to Republic then we had some questions about it and so this led us to determine that when Republic took over the contract from Santek that Santek withheld it and so these gentlemen are here to represent the branch of Santek that is now called G-Energy and this is what they specialize in is recovery of landfill gas to renewable energy,” Murphy said.

The Court presented a proclamation to J.D. Coogler Jr., recognizing his upcoming 100th birthday on Aug. 29. Many members of the Polk County Historical Commission, on which Coogler serves, were in attendance showing their support.

Items on the consent agenda included:

Approval of the minutes of the July 25 special called meeting, Aug. 8 regular meeting and Aug. 15 regular meeting;

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 and record personnel action forms submitted by elected officials since the last meeting;

Approval of the transition from in-person test to online test for the bilingual incentive for Spanish as a Second Language Program;

Approval of the engagement letter with Gabriel Roeder Smith & Company Actuarial Services to perform the fiscal year 2023 and fiscal year 2024 actuarial valuations relating to other post-employment benefits of the county (retiree health benefits);

Approval of Amendment No. 26 to the community services contract between the Department of Aging and Disability Services and Polk County Aging Services for fiscal year 2024 and fiscal year 2025;

Approval of the adoption of the Texas Health and Human Service Commission Indigent Health Care Eligibility Standards, Documentation and Verification Procedures according to the act with the addition of the following provision of optional services as allowed under V.T.C.A. Health & Safety Code Section 61.0285;

Approval of the adoption of healthcare eligibility standards, documentation and verification procedures for state fiscal year Sept. 1, 2023 through Aug. 31, 2024;

Receipt of the fiscal year 2024/2025 biennium budget for community supervision and corrections department pursuant to Local Government Code 140.004;

Approval of county clerk’s preservation and records restoration plan, which includes a county court records archive fee in the amount of $10, as reflected in the fiscal year 2024 budget;

Approval of an order of constitutional amendment election to be held on Nov. 7;

Approval of election judges and alternates for the one-year term beginning Aug. 1, 2023, as requested by the county clerk;

Acceptance of the total loss offer for a 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe and removal from county inventory as of July 2, 2023;

Approval of Precinct 4 Constable Darwon Evans’ request to appoint Kevin Burman to reserve deputy constable;

Approval of a roadway easement extension at Twin Harbor Drive located in Precinct 2;

Receipt of the county treasurer’s monthly report for July 2023;

Approval of the purchase of a desktop scanner, printer and printer stand for the Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace, not to exceed $1,200, to be paid from office furnishings/equipment;

Approval of the purchase of desk for the Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace, not to exceed $1,414.16, to be paid from office furnishings/equipment; and

Approval of changing the effective date for the payout of telecommunications and jail staff accrued time approved at the prior meeting from July 2 to July 5, 2023.

Pastor Sean Ferry of Pine Forest Baptist Church opened the meeting with prayer.


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