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Commissioners Court Considers Employee Health Insurance Plan, Preliminary Plat, Air Agreement

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Auto Wrecking And Salvage Yard Ordinance Establishing Regulations, Requiring Licensing Approve For Hopkins County

Hopkins County Commissioners Court Monday morning, June 27, considered a number of items, including a request for an estate plat, auto wrecking and salvage yard regulations, employee health insurance options, and an extended agreement with Hoyt Breathing Air.

Estate Plat

Preliminary plat of Rios Estates

The commissioners were asked to consider a request made for approval of a preliminary plat of Rios Estates. County Clerk Tracy noted the request is for a simple plat, sectioning one lot into two lots.

There had initially been some confusions due to the road numbers listed on the initial proposal, FM 2653 and County Road 4112 were listed, but do not intersect.

After getting clarification on the matter, Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker and Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price saw no problem with the request as proposed.

“I still want to look at this now that the road numbers have changed because I was very confused the other day. So, I’ll drive out there today and look at it. I’m sure there’s not going to be any problems, as I understand it, the way that it is,” Barker noted, before making the motion to approve the preliminary plat of Rios Estates. “I think we can go ahead and approved the preliminary and, if there are any changes, we’ll get with Tracy [Smith, county clerk]. But, I think it’s going going to be fine.”

Price seconded the motion, which then was approved by the Commissioners Court.

Hoyt Agreement

Hopkins County Fire Department Operations Chief Doug Skinner asked the Commissioners Court to consider approving instead of an annual agreement, a three-year agreement with Hoyt Breathing Air Products to lock in the price for three years. The department’s cascade system is tested quarterly each year, as required by Texas’ fire commission.

(An air cascade system serves as bulk storage of high pressure breathing air to be used to refill breathing apparatus cylinders used in fire fighting. Cascade systems can be used in either stationary or mobile applications.)

According to Skinner, the price for the tests went up from last year to this year. The agreement would lock in the rate for the service for the next three years.

Barker made a motion, which Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin seconded approving a three-year agreement with Hoyt for the required cascade system tests.

Health Insurance

Hopkins County officials have been discussing during work sessions rates and options for employee health insurance for the 2022-2023 contract year, and Monday were asked to consider approving the 2022-2023alternate plan proposal for employees from Texas Association of Counties (TAC) – Health and Employee Benefits Pool.

“The renewal rates for the same plan that we have we discussed was a 3% increase and TAC [Texas Association of Counties] gave us options for how to lower the rate or to save money,” Hopkins County Auditor Shannah Aulsbrook said. “The option that was given to us was an HMO plan, which was the same deductible — everything the same for employees, except that it’s an HMO and it’s a savings of $96.99 per employee.”

As a Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO plan, employees moving forward would be required to obtain their primary doctor’s referral before they could see a specialist. Most people already receive a referral from their doctor to see a specialist.

Doctors within the plan were checked and, according to Aulsbrook, it appears all Hopkins County physicians are covered. One commissioner, who sees an out-of-town doctor, found his doctor listed on the approved list for an HMO plan as well.

Another option discussed Monday was participation in a pilot program through TAC, assisting with up to 15% of health insurance costs for dependents of county employees. TAC then would match 15%, providing a 30% savings to employees who choose to enroll their dependents in the county health insurance plan, according to Aulsbrook. Currently, the county does not assist with dependents’ coverage, so this would be a 30% savings for employees who choose to enroll their dependents in county health insurance through the pilot program.

The amount saved on the HMO plan could be applied to cover the county’s 15% for dependent insurance through the pilot program, Aulsbrook explained.

Judge Robert Newsom noted that in his experience health insurance plans have gone up every year, but have never gone down.

At the recommendations of the county auditor and human resources department, Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley made the motion to approved the HMO plan and to offer the pilot program for employees’ dependents. Price seconded the motion, which the Commissioners Court then approved.

Wrecking/Salvage Yards

Another topic discussed by county officials during recent work sessions has been automotive wreckage and salvage yards. The Hopkins County Commissioners Court Monday morning, June 27, 2022 approved regulations mirroring those recently updated by Rains County officials establishing an ordinance regulating auto wrecking and salvage yards.

Essentially, any junk yard or auto salvage yard must be licensed by the county, unless these businesses fall within a municipality with its own regulations or is a recycling business. To apply for a license, the applicant must pay a $25 issuance fee to the County Clerk and submit it along with the completed county application and four 8×10-inch color photos showing the entire property, one from each direction. Each must include a plat from a registered surveyor showing hte location is no closer than 300 feet to any road, subdivision, residence, business or waterway under the authority of Texas Natural Resource Commission; allow the health department or environmental enforcement department to enter the premises for onside inspections, unannounced provided they are conducted at a reasonable time.

Applications will be posted by the County Clerk’s office at the courthouse for 14 days prior to any approval action by the Commissioners Court. Those awarded licenses may apply annually for renewal if conditions continue to be met.

Auto wrecking and salvage yards are to allowed to discharge any auto fluids on the ground nor fluids generated from washing auto parts or assemblies on to the ground. Storage batteries have to be elevated off the ground and sheltered from the weather to prevent found and water pollution from run-off. Any broken batteries or leaking cases must be store in a containment vessel capable of containing all the fluid of the battery and which wont’ corrode or decompose. Unmounted tires must also be sheltered from precipitation to prevent water retention and mosquito breeding.

All wrecking and salvage yards in Hopkins County must also screen it using natural objects, plantings, fences or other means so that the screen is at least 8 feet tall along side the portion of the junk or salvage yard that faces the road or a family residence. No part of the yard may be visible from any public road, business or residence.

If the business violates the regulations, including not properly screening the yard, failing to permit inspections, fails to remedy any violation identified through inspection, or the application has been falsified, the license would be suspended or revoked. Renewal could be denied for for those reasons as well. An auto salvage or wreckage yard would be made award of alleged violations found during the inspection, and a date and time no later than 30 days after the revocation or inspection for a hearing regarding the non-renewal.

Those found in violation of the ordinance may be subject to a fine of $100-$500 daily for the misdemeanor offense. Each day the violation continues is considered a separate offense, under the ordinance approved by the Commissioners Court and put into effect starting June 27, 2022. Existing businesses will have 30 days to apply for a license. New auto salvage and wrecking businesses would need to apply within 30 days of existence to the county for a license.

Hopkins County Commissioners Court — June 27, 2022

Other Items

The court also approved the consent agenda, which included minutes from two work sessions and a meeting; a request from FEC to conduct electrical power distribution facilities which will cross County Road 1127 south of FM 2653; and a request from Spectrum/Charter to construct underground conduit and fiber on County Road s3513, 3516, 3517, 3518, 3519 and 3520.

The commissioners also entered into executive session to discuss personnel matters. Cited on the agenda was Texas Government Code Section 551.074 and 551.0745

Section 551.074 allows the court in a closed meeting to:

"(1) deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of a public officer or employee; or (2)to hear a complaint or charge against an officer or employee."

Section 551.0745 allows the court to:

"(1) deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of a member of an advisory body;  or(2)  to hear a complaint or charge against a member of an advisory body.(b)  Subsection (a) does not apply if the individual who is the subject of the deliberation or hearing requests a public hearing."

The county judge said he did not anticipate the executive session to last long. The court entered into the closed meeting at 9:28 a.m. and had yet to resume in open forum 30 minutes later. Newsom had not return KSST’s phone call regarding the matter late Monday afternoon.

After the regular meeting concluded, the Commissioners Court was scheduled to begin the first of what are scheduled to be a week of work sessions with the sheriff and fire marshal to discuss operations, revenues and expenditures, proposed improvements and repairs; Tom Glosup to discuss building maintenance; Civic Center general manager regarding events, repairs and improvements, revenues and expenditures; to discuss culverts throughout the county; and budget work sessions for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

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Author: Faith Huffman

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