Commissioners Court Agrees To Tax Incentive For Dike Solar Farm, EMP Credits For TxDOT Bridge Projects

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Increases To Jail & HCFD Budgets, Longevity Pay, OSSF Fees Also Approved

Hopkins County Commissioners Court Monday approved several items during a special session, including a tax incentive for a Dike solar farm, equivalent match credits for bridge projects and increases to jail and fire department budgets, longevity pay for county employees and OSSF fees.

381 Agreement

Hopkins Energy LLC project boundary as originally proposed to Sulphur Bluff ISD

The court approved a 381 agreement, which would provide a tax incentive to a Dike solar farm. The agreement is essentially the same as a tax abatement. However, with a 381 agreement, instead of not having to pay the agreed upon amount in exchange for locating the service in Hopkins County, the applicant would pay full taxes on the property up front, but would have what would be the abated amount returned when all terms for the incentive are met.

The 381 agreement the Commissioners Court approved Monday is a 10-year agreement with Hopkins Energy LLC which would decrease in incentive amount each year by 10 percent. The proposed Dike solar farm also has asked for limited tax liability agreements with Sulphur Springs and Sulphur Bluff ISDs and indicated a desire for a tax break from any other taxing entity within the boundaries of which the project would be located.

Barker made the motion, which was seconded by Anglin, to approve the Chapter 381 agreement for Hopkins Energy LLC as presented. The proposal received full approval of the court.

OSSF

Hopkins County Fire Department Chief Andy Endsley asked the Commissioners Court Monday to consider increasing the fees charged for On-Site Sewage Facility permits.

HCFD Chief Andy Endsley

“This is something I was tasked by the court to research as far as our fees for OSSF. We canvassed our surrounding counties and we are below what they are,” Endsley said.

Endsley proposed increasing the OSSF permit fee for a single family dwelling by $100 to $360 and commercial inspection fees would increase by $200 to $560. He said the additional fees for commercial permits because there are several more site inspections involved in the process

For instance, North Hopkins ISD over the summer required a 5-6 on-site process plus additional paperwork.

“There’s a lot of administrative work to get these inspections ready, even though it’s a one time visit to residential unless something’s wrong, but there are a lot administrative work on that side of it. This helps compensate that side of it,” Endsley said.

“This would be a one time a one-time only fee for building of a residence?” Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom asked.

“Correct, it’d be a one time deal, unless that resident is building a lot of houses,” Endsley said.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker made the motion, which was seconded by Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price, that the OSSF permit fees be increased as requested. The motion received unanimous approval of the 3 commissioners present and the county judge; Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley was unable to attend the Monday morning meeting.

Budget Amendments

Hopkins County Sheriff Lewis Tatum asked the Commissioners Court to consider amending the jail budget.

Auditor Shannah Aulsbrook noted an increase was requested because the original jail budget approved in fall 2019 did not include expenses or revenue from the housing of federal inmates in Hopkins County jail. Thus, the jail is over budget in food and medical operating.

Sheriff Lewis Tatum

“We predicted they would bring in from prisoner housing $80,000. As of today, they’ve brought in $259,000. So I’m asking you to give them $100,000 of that to bring their budget up, not in the red,” Aulsbrook said. “The budget amendment for the sheriff or for the jail is from the revenue he’s brought in.”

“We are in the process of making some changes at our farm to save some more money and try to bring that cost down on this, but we are also making quite a bit of revenue off of them,” Tatum said.

The funding received for is for housing and care of inmates while in custody at HCSO jail, but does not include salaries or wages for any jail or other sheriff’s office staff. The federal government will also reimburse the county for any transporting of federal inmates between facilities.

“If you look at projections for the year, that’s going to be quite a bit of money we’re going to be bringing in – at first we thought about $800,000 but it could be even more than that,” Tatum said.

“Is the state of Texas still continuing to having us hold many of their people that should have been in the prison system?” Newsom asked, referring to the decision for state prisons to not accept any additional prisoners through much of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a precaution.

Tatum said the county jail still has about 30 inmates who have been assessed time in prison, approximately 10 were released last week and another 8-10 or so are scheduled to be sent to prison this week if they pass the health inspection now required before an inmate will be accepted in a state prison.

Barker asked if CARES Act funding could be used to cover some of the costs associated with the longer term housing of inmates who have been sentenced to time in a state facility.

“No, we asked. They weren’t willing to pay for that. They may pay for some of the jailers who had to get overtime or things like that, but that’s all they are going to help with,” Aulsbrook noted.

Tatum said the program to house federal inmate is new, but one he feels will be a lot better once the county has a long term contract to do so and a routine and budget for the feeding and other associated costs are established.

HCSO Chief Deputy Tanner Crump anticipates potentially completing the application process within the next month.

Hopkins County Law Enforcement Center, 298 Rosemont St., Sulphur Springs, Texas

Aulsbrook reported the fire department budget also needed to be amended. The county was notified after the 2019-2020 budget was approved that the fire department had been approved for a SAFER Grant which allowed Hopkins County Fire Department to hire three firemen, 1 additional full-time firefighter per 24-hour shift daily for each of the three shifts.

The SAFER grant did not include cost of uniforms and PPE gear for the three firemen it allows the county to add, 1 additional full-time firefighter per 24-hour shift daily. That put required an additional $6,057, which would need to come from the county fund balance to fully cover the expense.

“This is actually structural firefighters gear and, actually, we saved $3,000 on that by hiring one of our part-time firefighters so we only had to buy two sets of PPE. They run $3,000 a piece. That’s from head to toe for the firefighters. We didn’t budget for it because we didn’t know we were getting the SAFER grant until after the budget had been set,” Endsley noted.

Newsom asked how much the SAFER grant funds of the 3 new full-time firefighters’ salaries.

Endsley noted the federal grant pays 75 percent of their salaries the first year, and 35 percent the third year of the grant program. The county was notified HCFD was selected for SAFER grant about a month into the 2019-2020 budget.

HCFD was able to use uniforms the department already had in reserve, saving on the cost of additional clothing. HCFD did budget in the 2020-21 budget approved earlier this month for the additional uniform costs.

Price made the motion, which was seconded by Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin, to approve the budget amendments for the jail and fire department as recommended.

Hopkins County Fire Department, 1286 Texas St., Sulphur Springs, Texas

EMP Credit

Hopkins County Commissioners Court approved a 3-page resolution which helps the county meet the required funding match for off-system bridge projects using equivalent match project credits from work already performed on other deficient bridges or deficient main lane cross-drainage structures.

Bridges that meet criteria go into TxDOT’s 10-year plan, so the projects designated in the near future were projects submitted at least 10 years ago by previous commissioners.

Hunt and Rains County have designated excessive EMP work in those counties to Hopkins County for work on Texas Department of Transportation off-system bridges.

Hopkins County is submitting the following $315,464.54 in EMPs in return for waiver of the local match fund from their participation-waived projects not yet awarded:

  • Culvert replacements — on Hopkins County Road 4719 near FM 2653, $3,320.51; on Hopkins CR 4707 near CR 4702, $3,058.10; Hopkins CR 4574 near CR 4581, $2,428.12; Rains CR 1140 at Glad Creek, $85,000; and Hopkins CR 1173 near CR 1174, $9,240.96.
  • Installation of a new culvert — Hopkins CR 1100 near FM 3389, $3,228.06.
  • Repair of bridge abutment and approach — Rains CR 3160 at Magee Brancfh, $9,662.13.
  • Sheet piling installation at east abutment and backfill — Hunt CR 3110 at Timber Creek, $13,770.57.
  • Construction of new bridge — Hunt CR 3512 at Little Creek, $76,026.09; Hunt CR 1072 at Cowleech Creek, $48,305; and Hunt CR 1091 at Holden Branch, $61,425.

Hopkins County’s required match is $170,565 for six bridge projects:

  • $36,996 on County Road 1152 over Big Creek;
  • $26,352 on CR 4714 over Crooks Creek;
  • $23,790 on CR 4767 over North Caney Creek Tributary;
  • $39,528 on CR 1138 over Turkey Creek;
  • $22,814 on CR 1137 over Mitcham Branch; and
  • $21,106 for CR 3545 over Mitchell Creek Tributary.

The resolution also authorizes the county judge to execute advance funding agreement with TxDOT for those 6 projects.

Hopkins County Commissioners Court

Other

Hopkins County Commissioners Court also approved as presented:

  • The annual Statewide Victim Notification System (SAVNS) maintenance grant contract. SAVNS is “an automated method of providing victims of crime with access to information and notification about changes in offender status and court events twenty-four hours a day. SAVNS provides crime victims with this information via a toll-free number and website. The system operates by networking status information from participating county and state contractors into a central database operated by a private vendor. Resources are allocated to the Office of the Attorney General by Texas Legislature to provide assistance in establishing contracts between county/state entities and the central database company, according to the OAG’s office.
  • An Additional $25 per county employee in longevity pay after a full year, increasing it from $75 to $100

At the recommendation of Price, the Commissioners Court tabled a request from Oncor Electric Delivery to construct an electrical power distribution facilities which would extend about 2,450 feet west, along County Road 4592 right of way, which is located 1.32 miles northwest of FM 1536 in Precinct 4. This gives the parties involved another week to further negotiate some differences between them.

Hopkins County Courthouse, 118 Oak Ave., Sulphur Springs, Texas
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Author: Faith Huffman

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