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Commissioners Court Approves Equipment Financing, Grant Funding, ATCOG Agreement

Hopkins County Commissioners Court approved equipment financing, grant funding, an Ark-Texas Council of Governments agreement, designated two days as County Clean Up Days, and rescinded an agreement with the hospital during their regular meeting Monday, March 22, 2021. A citizen also addressed the court during public forum regarding the planned Dike solar project.

Grant Funding

Hopkins County Fire Marshal/Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Endsley reported the county has been approved to receive funding for the purchase of two mobile generators through the hazard mitigation grant program under DR-4416. One generator is a 220 KW mobile diesel powered generator and the other is a 100 KW generator.

Hopkins County Fire Marshal/Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Endsley

Endsley noted that GrantWorks wrote the grant for the Hopkins County Critical Facilities Generator Program. As part of the grant, the county agreed to provide plug and play stations for the generators. A budget amendment will be requested at a later date to cover the county’s portion of the cost.

“This covers all of the volunteer fire departments throughout our county. All the volunteer stations, which is 14 stations; a couple of the departments have sub stations. Then we have Como water and sewer facilities and Brinker and Martin Springs were two other water co-ops that did not have standby generators. Standby generators proved their weight in gold just a few weeks ago during the winter storm we had,” Endsley explained,.

“For the record, the other rural water district do have stand-alones?” Barker asked.

“Yes, at one time all of them had it. Since that time, former Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker helped with that several years ago. We had three of the water co-ops split off into three individuals. That’s why those I mentioned did not have generators at their main pumps.

Barker noted that Brashear Water Supply did not have power for a period of time during the storm and ran on the generator for an extended period of time. The generator proved very useful for those residents.

“They do prove their weight in gold,” Endsley noted. “They sheriff’s office didn’t miss a beat their whole time with their inmates. Matter of fact, we moved inmates from other counties to ours because we had power, and everything was up and running. So everything worked flawlessly.”

Endsley noted that there will be opportunities in the future to apply for additional grants to better equipped the various county departments support critical infrastructure.

Price made the motion, which was seconded by Barker, and unanimously approved to accept the grant funding. Then, Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin proposed designating County Judge Robert Newsom as authorized signature for the documents pertaining to the grant program.

Newsom noted that the county has the opportunity to potentially help North Hopkins Water Corporation apply for a grant. However, an interlocal agreement is needed between the county and Ark-Tex Council of Governments to begin that process. He asked the Commissioners to approve the interlocal agreement with ATCOG to get that process started. Price seconded the motion, which then received unanimous approval of the court.

Dike Solar

Michele Barnes told the commissioners addressed the commissioners regarding what she considers a lack of transparency on the part of the Commissioners Court regarding the planned solar project in Dike. She said the small ad that was placed in the newspaper prior to a public hearing before taxing entities considered approving tax incentives for the project gave no indication it was in regard to a proposed solar farm in Dike. The notice listed Hopkins Energy LLC, she said, but did not include the word solar.

Michele Barnes addressed the Commissioners Court during the regular March 22 meeting

Barnes acknowledge she would not have seen the notice anyway, because she didn’t move to Hopkins County until 8 days later.

She said questions addressed to the judge and commissioners did not result in sufficient answers. She contends the county did not effectively represent the interests of the residents they are elected to represent because they did not ask appropriate questions to provide the answers to their questions prior to granting the incentives for the Dike solar project.

She said a hand count of individuals at the Save Dike From Solar meeting conducted March 13 at Dike Community Center showed only a percentage of the 385 Dike residents have internet, and only about half of those know and have the capacity to participate in a Zoom Virtual Town Hall meeting to be conducted from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight (March 22) with county and ENGIE project officials. Inability of residents to attend the meeting is indicative of a lack of transparency, Barnes told the court.

District Judge Robert Newsom noted that the Commissioners Court plans to be at the Civic Center at 6 p.m. for the meeting which will be conducted virtually with ENGIE officials but in person with county officials. All county residents and interested parties, especially Dike residents, are invited to attend the town hall meeting at the Civic Center to voice their concerns and questions to both county and company officials.

Those who can and do wish to participate in the meeting virtually, may click on the following link to register to join the virtual meeting: Click Here

Equipment Financing

Commissioners on March 8, 2021, agreed to allow Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker to purchase of a 2019 Volvo Pneumatic Roller for Precinct 1. The roller will be purchased from Romco Equipment Company through Buyboard. The cost for the purchase will be $64,860. Because the equipment is being purchased through Buyboard, the county is not required to go out for bids for the project, County Auditor Shannah Aulsbrook reported at the March 8 meeting.

On Monday, March 22, Aulsbrook reported the county had received two bid quotes from local banks to finance the purchase over 5 years. Alliance Bank’s bid was for 2.75 percent interest, but also included a $2,000 document preparation fee and another $650 origination fee. Aulsbrook said she was told by Alliance Bank officials that smaller loans, which the $64,860 loan is considered to be, are harder to do. Since they are out the fees for an attorney to draw up the contract, those fees will be charged to the applicant for smaller loans. City National Bank offered to cover the loan at 3.25 percent interest, with no additional fees, starting July 15, 2021. The county auditor recommended going with CNB’s proposal, because overall is for a lower amount than Alliance Bank quote.

Barker proposed accepting the CNB lease purchase financing agreement. The motion was seconded by Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price, and received unanimous approval of the four-members of the court present at Monday morning’s court session. Wade Bartley was out for a medical procedure but planned to be at the Virtual Town Hall meeting hosted at Hopkins County Civic Center with ENGIE to discuss the planned Dike solar project, Hopkins Energy LLC. Residents and concerned citizens are invited to attend to ask questions and address concerns directly to county and ENGIE officials at the 6 p.m. meeting.

Rescinded Agreement

The Commissioners Court also voted to rescind an interlocal agreement between the county and CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital-Sulphur Springs.

Endsley reminded the court that the agreement was approved by the commissioners in November on Nov. 9. This was drafted to potentially allow for reimbursement of all or part of the salary for the Local Health Authority Nurse, who was brought in spring 2020 to assist Dr. IL Balkcom 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 thought to already be in the payroll system at CMFHSS, with the hospital paying her check since March for those services. The agreement was approved to allow for some reimbursement of pay as the LHA nurse, Endsley noted at the Nov. 9 meeting.

Two weeks later, the Commissioners approved the same type of interlocal agreement with Hopkins County Hospital District, dating back to March 2020, allowing the LHA to hire Registered Nurse Brynn Smith to assist Balkcom. HCHD then would as part of the agreement pay Smith, since it was determined she was actually an employee of the hospital district, which had been paying her salary. The HCHD then could potentially apply for reimbursement through the CARES Act for funding for her duties as LHA nurse. The agreement with HCHD remains in effect, with a few adjustments, according to Endsley

However, CMFH-SS is not a taxing entity, therefore, the county has to rescind the agreement with the hospital, but noted the agreement with the hospital district continues because it is a taxing entity.

Hopkins County Commissioners Mickey Barker and Greg Anglin, Judge Robert Newsom and Commissioner Joe Price

Other Items

County Judge Robert Newsom asked the court to consider approving amended rules and regulations for non-consent towing in the county. He noted that he and Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tanner Crump are on a committee for such matters and during a recent meeting made a few changes.

“We actually took some of the rules and regulations off and loosened up the rules and regulation of non-consent towing,” Newsom said.

“This is also the sheriff’s office opinion to simplify the rules and regulations, does that sound right?” Newsom asked Sheriff Lewis Tatum, who affirmed it is.

Newsom then made the motion, seconded by Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin, to approve the non-consent rules and regulations as presented. The court unanimously approved the non-consent towing rules and regulations as presented.

The judge and all four commissioners were recognized for completing educational training through the VG Young School of County Commissioners Courts held at College Station Feb. 2-4, 2021.

Farmers Electric Cooperative’s request for utility easements across County Road 1170, east of County Road 1171 was also granted by the Commissioners Court during the March 22, 2021 meeting.

Hopkins County Commissioners Court also designated April 23 and 24 as County Clean Up Days.

Author: Faith Huffman

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