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Polk County News - Breakout

Hullihen tabbed as interim tax assessor-collector

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Steve HullihenSteve HullihenA new, yet familiar face has filled the position of tax assessor-collector, following retirement of Leslie Jones Burks from the role.

Steve Hullihen returns to help in a similar capacity, formerly employed in IT for the county.   

“Bob Willis hired me in 1984 to come work in the tax office, because the county bought a new computer system,” Hullihen explained of his first stint. “The county bought a computer system from IBM, and IBM told them it would do everything. He said that he needed somebody to run the computers. I graduated Ohio State in the summer of ’80, and I had a business degree applied to forestry. I was working for Champion in Corrigan right out of school.”

His first office was in the same building — the Polk County Tax Office on North Washington Avenue.

“The computer was sitting upstairs here,” Hullihen said. “It is not here anymore, but there was one computer here and we ran cables all through town and they were hanging off the poles and everything. The appraisal district was on the other side where the new Judicial Center is. The appraisal district and the tax office were on the same computer, so it was really handy and we didn’t have to send files back and forth. We had one set of databases and they appraised and updated it and we collected and updated it. It was a really good deal for the county and the appraisal district back then that saved taxpayers money.”

Hullihen remained until his retirement in 2015 after 31 years with the county. The experience, he said, was a happy one. Burks was employed when Hullihen left, along with three or four others that are still with Polk County.

While he’s not back for the computers, Hullihen said he volunteered for the position because the county has always been like family.

“They asked for a short list of people who could be semi-qualified and have a basis to come work in here. I have to go to training and there are two classes I have to take within the first 90 days. Then, I have to complete so many continuing education hours in the first year just to be interim. It’s a commitment.”

He will serve until a new tax assessor-collector is elected. That could occur in March of 2024, November of that year, or January 2025 at the latest.

“I am trying to keep track of what I’m doing, because there is going to be someone new coming in behind me and I want to be able to give them a list of what to do when they come in. That way it won’t be quite so overwhelming for them. I am here for the county, because it is a service to the community. I am trying to save the county some money too, so I am not trying to re-invent the wheel, but I’d like to make the transition for the next tax assessor-collector as easy as I can. I want to give them all the information they need to hit the ground running and do a good job for the people.” 

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Graduation ceremonies

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Everyone enjoyed the hat toss as Onalaska High School held its graduation May 26 at the Polk County Commerce Center. Fifty-six OHS students walked the stage to accept their diplomas. Students from Goodrich High School’s Class of 2023 hug their classmates during their graduation which was May 26 in the Goodrich Gymnasium. Nineteen GHS students accepted their diplomas.

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Commissioners court holds budget workshop

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Polk County LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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The Polk County Commissioners Court held a budget workshop during its regular meeting Tuesday during which it reviewed the debt schedule, reviewed the 2023 tax note worksheet and considered options to minimize the 2023 Series tax notes and also considered discretionary salary funds for each department. No action was taken.

Additionally, the Court discussed and took action regarding the fiscal year 2024 employee benefits, specifically the annually determined contribution rate for the Texas County and District Retirement System, approving a 10% consumer price index cost of living adjustment. Although the Court discussed employee health coverage (major medical), no action was taken.

An executive session was on the agenda for the Court to discuss and deliberate the purchase of real property. However, no action was taken upon return to open session.

A request from the sheriff to review options for contracted security to assist the sheriff’s office as needed for inmate medical transport and supervision and discuss funding options was on the agenda.

“We have some things that have been brought to the light in reference to some of the municipalities that make arrests. Currently, if someone shows up at the jail needing medical attention, we place that task on the arresting agency. We’ve received copies of opinions from the AG’s office that say if that individual is presented for commitment then we have to take that individual and in doing so, now I’m responsible for getting them to the hospital. And staffing is already an issue,” Sheriff Byron Lyons said. The Court agreed to review the options and see what is available.

Action regarding bid No. 2023-12 for the remodel and addition for Precinct 4 road and bridge was taken. The Court approved the bid from TRW Construction Renovations LLC for $117,670 to complete the project.

The Court also discussed and took action regarding the Corrigan Sub-Courthouse renovation and construction plans. Basically, the plans provided by the design firm for the Court’s review included a wall with a door that cut off access from one side of the building to the other. This was a concern because has a public building, it is required that the public be able to freely flow within the building. The Court ended up approving the plans without the wall.

Through a random drawing, the Court will select members and reserve members for the county sick leave pool committee. The names drawn included Joanna Brown, Sharon Cain, Helen Fisher, Monica Goodson and Rachel Hill.

A memorandum of understanding between Polk County and the Precinct 1 constable to provide constable reserve deputy patrol in Precinct 1 was approved. The action will allow Kent Martindale to receive compensation of $20 an hour up to 30 hours a week from the Precinct 1 seizure funds.

Although the Court was slated to discuss and consider action on an amendment to the agreement with Integrated Prescription Management for indigent healthcare programs, the item was tabled for a future meeting.

“We terminated our services with Script Care and since then, the Department of Health and Human Services has done some drug pricing standards. We had asked for a representative to come but unfortunately, she was unable to make it,” Murphy said.

A request for a capital purchase to be paid from the fund balance and included on the fiscal year 2023 reimbursement resolution for the year-end issuance of legally authorized debt was approved, specifically, a sheriff’s request for the jail for aftermarket equipment on transport vehicles, not to exceed $29,229.

Offers to purchase tax foreclosed properties in Precinct 1 were approved. These included Lot 4 of Block 4 of Section 1 of Holiday Lake Estates and Lots 17 and 18 of Section 1 of Bullfrog Basin.

In personnel matters, the Court will reviewed and approved personnel action form requests submitted by department heads since the last meeting and received and recorded personnel action forms submitted by elected officials since the last meeting.

Fiscal year 2023 budget revisions and amendments, as presented by the county auditor’s office, were approved.

Items on the consent agenda included:

Approval of minutes of the May 16 meeting;

Approval of schedules of bills;

Approval of listing of previously authorized capital purchases to be included on reimbursement resolution;

Approval of an order designating surplus property;

Receipt of county auditor’s monthly report, pursuant to Local Government Code Sec. 114.025;

Approval of authorization for county treasurer to open a new Texpool investment account for restoration projects fund; and

Receipt of the treasurer’s monthly report for April.

Two people addressed the Court the opportunity to make public comments. The first was Jeff Chain who has been living in Polk County since 2020 and along with his wife and family are residents of Yarborough Loop and he is employed by LISD as a fourth-grade math teacher at Creekside Elementary School.

“I’m here on behalf of our neighbors. I’m just a little concerned about the state of Yarborough Loop. I’ve noticed on the northern end of 3126 between 2457 and 190 we’re the only road that’s still dirt. I’m just concerned. I’ve noticed after every rain it washboards out. The road is falling and potholing. I’ve noticed since the start of the year it’s only been regraded three times. I’ve noticed our taxes have proposed a significant increase yet the road and bridge fund has decreased according to the county budget,” Chain said.

“I’m just wanting to see what we can do to either pull funds from us or if there’s any reallocation of the budgeting to the road and bridge fund either just to chip and seal or get a better caliche road base or just something that would be a little more advantageous. There are lots you young families including mine and there are times when it’s difficult to take a wagon or a stroller on a walk,” Chain said.

“Thank you and may I encourage you to contact your commissioner directly and visit?” Murphy asked. “Yes ma’am, will do,” Chain said.

The second person to address the Court was Tyler Epstein.

“I’m here on behalf of Brenda Hambrick. San Francisco Road in Precinct 1 was closed and mistakes were made. The whole reason of Chapter 251.058 was written to protect interior landowners and make sure nobody was ever cut off from their road. And when this road was closed, nobody was sent notice and the procedures were not followed properly. We’re here to ask you review Bob Bass’s materials on county roads. His instructions and procedures for how to properly make sure that things are closed so that interior landowners are not cut off from their property. The whole reason that code was rewritten again a couple times and then again in 2015, this particular issue to make sure that all interior landowners and anybody that has an interests in the road before it is closed has notice and everything is followed. Therefore, they don’t access to their property. We’re asking that this item be put on the agenda, that that be rescinded and that way we don’t have Mrs. Hambrick not being able to access her property,” Epstein said.

Pastor Brett Lester of First Baptist Church of Livingston opened the meeting with prayer.

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Bags flew at the Lake Livingston Project recently as Trinity River Authority employees battled it out in a cornhole tournament. The event, which also featured a crawfish boil and raffle, served as the Lake Livingston Project’s spring fundraiser. Thanks to the efforts and generosity of the staff, $3,750 was raised to donate to Polk County Childrenz Haven. The nonprofit provides a variety of services to children who suffer from abuse or neglect. This is the second year in a row LLP has raised funds for the nonprofit, as last year they contributed $6,300. Courtesy photo

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Holiday Lake Estates VFD bolsters fleet

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Holiday Lake Estates13175

From Enterprise Staff

The Holiday Lake Estates Volunteer Fire Department used a $20,000 grant to equip a pickup with a firefighting apparatus that includes a water tank and foam unit. The grant was awarded through the Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program, which is administered by Texas A&M Forest Service.

Chief Arthur West said the apparatus, mounted on a four-wheel drive pickup, meets the department’s needs for a second brush truck that can get to places the department’s large brush truck cannot reach.

The unit includes a 250-gallon water tank, a 12-gallon foam tank, a hose reel and a 12-horsepower motor and will be used primarily for response to grass fires.

West said the truck responded recently to an oil tank fire and was able to easily traverse muddy roads that were inaccessible to the department’s larger vehicles.

“It’s just nice to have options like this,” West said. “We really appreciate how Texas A&M Forest Service understands the needs of smaller departments.”

West said new members are always welcome, and anyone interested is invited to attend the department’s training meetings every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at 224 Drews Landing in Goodrich.

As a member agency of the Texas A&M University System, Texas A&M Forest Service administers the Rural VFD Assistance Program and is committed to protecting lives, property and natural resources. The Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program is funded by the Texas Legislature and provides cost-share funding to rural volunteer fire departments for the acquisition of firefighting vehicles, fire and rescue equipment, protective clothing, dry hydrants, computer systems and firefighter training.

For more information on programs offered by Texas A&M Forest Service, visit texasfd.com.

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