Dec. 1 Is Deadline for Volunteer Fire Departments To Return Agreements To The County
Hopkins County Commissioners Court approved a number of items during the regular 9 a.m. session Monday. A deadline for volunteer fire departments to return signed contracts, appointed a county fire marshal and homeland security director, an agreement with the hospital for reimbursement of the Local Health Authority Nurse’s pay and an increase in indigent cremation fees were also approved at the Nov. 9 meeting.
The court proceeded with just 3 members on Monday, as both Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker and Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price were both out. The county judge also noted that his administrative assistant has been out for the last week as well.
Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom proposed increasing the amount paid to a local business that performs cremation for the county.
Newsom explained that for many years, dating back longer than his time as county judge, the county has paid $500 to the business for cremation when a Hopkins County resident dies in the county and has left no resources for burial, and who either have no family or whose family is unable to afford the cost to bury the deceased.
Typically, the business charges individuals and families who seek the crematory services far more. The business asked for an increase in the amount the county pay to reimburse their fees.
“This is a necessity, one of the things we do as a county,” Newsom said, when making the motion that the amount paid to the business be increased from $500 to $700. The motion was seconded by Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin. Wade Bartley also voted in favor of the increase, passing the matter unanimously by the three court officials present.
Fire Department Changes
The Commissioners Court approved requests for Hopkins County Fire Chief Andy Endsley to be appointed as County Fire Marshal, Emergency Management Coordinator and director of Homeland Security for Hopkins County.
Endsley explained that when HCFD was established 21 years ago, the department started not with a chief but a fire administrator. That carried over into the second top HCFD official’s time in office, then was changed to fire chief. At that time, the department had a part-time fire marshal, a position most recently held by Mike Matthews, who was officially appointed fire marshal in a full time capacity in June.
Endsley said county officials previously thought the fire marshal had to be triple certified, in firefighting, emergency medical services and law enforcement. However, it was learned that does not necessarily have to be the case.
After study of administrative laws, Endsley reported, having him appointed as fire marshal would actually be beneficially to the county. The marshal would just need to be appointed and bonded. He said he would still be doing the same jobs he’s been doing. Having the titles will fit better with the administrative code and laws.
Newsom noted the Hopkins is one of only about 5 counties in the state that have a county fire department. Most of the rest of the state rely on city and volunteer departments. Instead of requesting a change or exception to the statutes, the county opted to make the change to better fit current statutes. While the county judge typically is the emergency management officials, Newsom appointed Endsley to serve as coordinator and director of homeland security for the county.
The oath of office as county marshal was issued to Endsley, who heads the fire department, which oversees all three operations. He signed the required paperwork after the meeting as well.
The court then approved Matthews’ appointment as assistant fire marshal, assistant emergency management coordinator and homeland security marshal for Hopkins County. Matthews was not present for the meeting, but the judge noted, but would not be required to we re-sworn in and thus, did not have to be at the meeting.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley asked that the court set Dec. 1, 2020 as the deadline for volunteer fire departments to sign and return agreements with the county for the 2020-21 operating year. Bartley noted that while some have gotten their agreements in promptly in the past others have lagged in the length of time before returning the annual agreements.
Having those in by a certain day will help with recordkeeping and other business purposes. For instance, if a department does not have an agreement with the county they could be denied insurance, or if the VFD doesn’t have one and tries to file an insurance claim, it could be denied due to lack of contract with the county for services.
The court approved Dec. 1, 2020 as the deadline for department to get their agreements with the county in. This allows the VFDs as contractors under the county to be dispatched and respond to calls and receive benefits such reimbursement for vehicle insurance and fuel costs, providing workers compensation if a VFD member is injured on a call and monthly stipends.
Newsom said so far he has received only 1 contract that has been signed and submitted for court approval. Dike VFD’s agreement was approved during Nov. 9 session as well.
Auditor Shannah Aulsbrook asked the court to consider approving a budget amendment which would put $20,976.50 into Precinct 2’s road building fund. The amount was received from the City of Como as reimbursement for repairs made by a Precinct 2 crew on McBride Street. The court approved the budget amendment.
The court was asked to approve an interlocal agreement with CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital.
Essentially, Endsley explained, the agreement allows for reimbursement of all or part of the salary for the Local Health Authority nurse, who was brought on in the spring to assist Dr. IL Balkcum with contact tracing, answering questions from county officials and residents related to COVID-19, and obtaining information that is needed that only they have access to due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The LHA nurse was already in the payroll system at CMFHSS, so the hospital has been paying her check. This would allow for some reimbursement of of pay as the LHA nurse, Endsley noted.
“They can’t pay her without this. It needs to be retroactive,” Aulsbrook noted.
The agreement received approval of the three members of the court present at the Nov. 9 meeting.