Hopkins County Commissioners Court this week gave the go-ahead to the fire marshal to apply for funding for two ventilation fans for the county fire department, renaming of a SH 11 west spur and taking it on a county road, accepted fire protection agreements from volunteer fire departments submitting them by the Feb. 3 deadline, and consolidated voting centers for May elections.
Voting Center Consolidation
Hopkins County Clerk Tracy Smith asked the Commissioners Court to consider approving consolidation of voting centers for the May 7. This would simply cut in half the number of voting centers available for Hopkins County residents to cast ballots at on Election Day.
The election is a special election counties would not ordinarily have. (Typically, only schools and municipalities hold elections in May). Texas Governor called the special election for voters to consider two propositions which, if approved, would change the state constitution, Smith explained to the court. All of the necessary steps were not reached in time for the November 2021 Election, so the special election was called.
Hopkins County will also be contracting with the City of Cumby, Winnsboro ISD, Yantis ISD and Sulphur Springs ISD, entities scheduled to hold elections in May as well. Overall, there will be 6 instead of 12 voting centers for the May 7, 2022, Election.
The four members of the Commissioners Court present during the regular Feb. 14, 2022 meeting unanimously approved, on a motion by Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley and seconded by Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price, the request to consolidate to six voting centers in Hopkins County on May 7. Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker was unable to attend the meeting.
SH 11 Spur
Price noted that when state contractors built a bypass around the old S-curve on State Highway 11 west, straightening out the highway where numerous auto crashes have occurred in past years. The county was asked to take over the old part of SH 11 west, which is about 0.7 of a mile and has become a spur since the highway was moved to improve visibility and safety on that section of road west of Sulphur Springs.
The Precinct 4 Commissioner asked that the Commissioners Court agree to take on that spur, which would become County Road 4824. Bartley seconded the motion for that section of road, which Price estimates due to its construction should last longer than most county roads, to taken over by the county. The four member-court gave unanimous approval to the request.
Ventilation Fan Program
Hopkins County Fire Marshal Andy Endsley asked the Commissioners Court to allow the fire department to take advantage of the annual Homeland Security grant funding period to apply for assistance in attaining two 20-inch positive and negative ventilation fans that are battery operated so no additional carbon monoxide will be introduced into burned or burning buildings by Hopkins County Fire Department. The fans could also be used by the combined city-county Special Response Team (known as SWAT) if agents are introduced into a structure, to clear the building so law enforcement officers can enter. The fans could be potentially place in explosive environments and used without igniting.
The grant would be a for $13,250, and would pay 100 percent of the cost for the two ventilation fans, with no matching funds or in-kind match required by the county. They are much more powerful that a standard 20-inch box fan; the batteries alone for the ventilation fans cost approximately $1,000 per fan.
Typically, the grant process takes about 1 year. For instance, last year, the county submitted application for thermal imaging cameras. The month after the devices were purchased by the county, the funding was reimbursed.
Endsley noted that while the grant selection process takes about a year, getting the fans if approved shouldn’t take long. They are currently in stock.
Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom expressed appreciation to both Endsley and County Auditor Shannah Aulsbrook, who worked together on the grant application to ensure the application was completed if approved so that it could be submitted by the deadline.
Ark-Tex Council of Governments also assisted with grant preparation, Endsley noted, so other than staff labor involved in reading the required documents, there will be no cost to the county for fans, the fire marshal added.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin made a motion, which Price seconded, to approve the resolution for the Hopkins County Ventilation Fan Project. The request received unanimous approval of the court.
Fire Protection Agreements
Endsley reported fire protection agreements had been distributed to all of the volunteer fire departments in Hopkins County. The deadline for VFD officers to sign and return them was set for Feb. 5. These agreement stipulate what the VFDs agree to in exchange for certain funding and other benefits provided by the county. For instance, the court reimburses insurance costs, fuel costs, and provides a stipend to each VFD as agreed upon in the agreement to assist with operating expenses.
Over the last 2 years, the departments have each received air cylinders and last year also was afforded assistance of up to a certain amount of funding to be used to obtain tires for VFD trucks from vendor at a discounted rate.
The Commissioners Court had received only five returned fire protection agreements, one each from Arbala, Brinker, Dike, Pickton-Pine Forest and Saltillo VFDs. That means only half of the VFDs had returned a fire protection agreement by the deadline. Endsley said the deadline slipped up on him. County officials will be contacting the six other departments to try to get all agreements signed and returned by the next Commissioners Court meeting at hte end of the month.
All agreements submitted were accepted by the court during the regular Feb. 14, 2022 meeting.
During the citizens comments portion of the Valentine’s Day court session, Frank Brown addressed Bartley regarding the continued disrepair of the road leading to his residence. He reminded the Precinct 3 Commissioner of his visit to the court of Dec. 27 to express a need for rock on 1.7 miles of road. He noted Bartley’s road crew bladed the dirt on both sides of the road into the road but put no rock on the road. He said the winter storm made the road pure mud. He offered photos taken documenting the road conditions through the first of February. Approximatley 4-5 inches of oil dirt was spread on a road in the area, but not evenly, making it very difficult for him and other residents to drive the road to even go to the Post Office to get their mail regularly.
“You think I’m the only one complaining about you, but you forgot about that petition that I give you that has everybody’s signature on it from one end of 900 clear to 69. They can’t make it here like I can. I’m retired,” Brown told Bartley.
Bartley said he had anticipated returning to put rock on that road, but the weather prevented that occurring as soon as planed. As soon as conditions allow, the plan is to return on finish the work
Brown noted he has road equipment he could provide to perform the needed work, during the next dry stretch, if the county officials will produce and spread the rock. Oil dirt needs to be spread evenly over hte road.
“I figured, Wade needed all the help he can get. So, that’s my opinion. I’m not against you. I just don’t appreciate the work being done not proper. That’s all there is to it,” Brown said.
Bartley acknowledged that the Precinct 3 crew is under his supervision, and he is responsible for what they do. He too said if Brown has the equipment the assistance would be welcome. A dry stretch of day sis needed before the project can commence.
Executive, Work Sessions
Newsom at the conclusion of all other business during the court session, planned to enter into an executive session to discuss sensitive matters as allowed in 4-5 sections of Texas Government Code. He did not anticipate any decision anything from the closed session resulting in a vote. He said he would provide times for hte executive session to the County Clerk so they could be entered into the meeting minutes.
Newsom asked the sheriff, chief deputy, auditor and fire marshal to stay close while the closed session was held in the third floor meeting room. A work session was scheduled immediately following the executive session to discuss sheriff’s office and fire department operations, discuss building maintenance with Tom Glosup and conduct a budget work session.