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Dike Resident Submits Attorney’s Response To Judge’s Letter Regarding Incorporation Petition

Dike resident Kirk Reams Monday morning submitted to Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom during the public forum portion of the regular Hopkins County Commissioners Court meeting an attorney’s response letter in response to the judge’s letter regarding the incorporation petition submitted to him at a previous meeting. Michele Barnes, another Dike resident, also during public forum at the Sept. 12, 2022, Commissioners Court meeting addressed statements made during the prior court session regarding the community’s outreach efforts regarding the proposed incorporation of the small community of Dike.

Kirk Reams addresses Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom during the public forum portion of the regular Sept. 12, 2022, meeting of Hopkins County Commissioners Court.

Legal Response Letters

Reams said he’d contacted the County Judge’s Office Thursday afternoon to ask to have the issue officially put on the court agenda but, after being put on hold, was told it would need to be handled during the public comments portion the Sept. 12, 2022, Commissioners Court meeting.

“It is my taxpayer’s right and my citizen’s right to be on the agenda of the court,” Reams said. “I had the right to be on the agenda, just for the record.”

The Dike resident said, in summary, the letter to Newsom from Charles Zech of DNRBZ (Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal & Zech, PC, attorneys and counselors at law) contends that the documentation submitted to the judge does fully comply with and legally meet specifics for this set by the state in Texas Local Government Code 5.901 and Section 41.002. The judge’s letter specified additional documentation that was needed before an incorporation election is called, Reams noted.

“Everything I turned in is what you requested here; this is a stall tactic,” Reams alleged. “Put that on the records, this is a stall tactic to keep the citizens of Dike from incorporating.

“The second thing, I was offended. Everyone over here was offended, because you challenged our will to do this. You’re trying to stall,” Reams accused. ” It’s not your right to stall. If we turn stuff in legally, from what the State of Texas requires us to turn in, you have no choice but to issue an election over incorporation of Dike. You have no choice. That is in the law.”

Thus, Reams said, the response to the Judge’s letter, mailed Aug. 22, 2022, is from the incorporation lawyer representing the Dike residents who seek incorporation. He handed the letter to Newsom, as well as a copy to each of the four commissioners, noting he was “so upset” his hands shook as he did so.

Reams also noted that the letter from attorney Zech also addresses costs of an election, referenced in Newsom’s letter to Reams for the Dike community.

"Regardless the costs, there is no legal basis, or any statutory authority, for the County to assess the costs of the election against the Petitioners. In fact, the law is clear that costs are to be borne by the County. Elections under Local Government Code Chapter 8 are governed by the Texas Elections Code. Texas Elections Code 32.093 provides: The compensation of election judges and clerks shall be fixed by the following authority: (1) for an election ordered by the governor or a county authority, the commissioners Court," the letter from Zech to Newsom stated.

Reams argued that state law does not require the citizens of Dike to pay for the requested election.

“The State of Texas says that if an election is issued by a county judge, it is to be paid for by the Commissioners Court,” Reams said. “So, once again, I feel insulted that you insult our intelligence. This is our letter from our lawyer. I suggest you read it and read it good, because the very bottom, if you don’t respond the way you should, the County Judge, not nothing personal that you don’t want to do this, it’s your responsibility as the County Judge to let us have an election and to let the citizens decide whether we want to be incorporated or not, not you. That’s not your job. Your job is to issue the election.”

In the letter to Newsom, Zech contends it is the county judge’s “ministerial duty to order an election for incorporation and initial election of officers.” If Newsom does not call for the Dike incorporation election, he will be “subject to a mandamus suit in District Court requiring you to order the election.”

When Reams concluded speaking, Newsom asked Reams if he had a moment after court so he could visit with him about the matter.

“You’ve never asked me until now. Now, you’ve got a lawyer in play and now you want to talk to me,” Reams replied.

Kirk Reams presents to Hopkins County Commissioners and Judge Robert Newsom a copy of the letter drafted by an incorporation attorney to the county judge in response to the letter Judge Robert Newsom sent to Reams regarding the incorporation petition he submitted Aug. 16, 2022.

Newsom asked where Reams’ lawyer was located. Reams affirmed Zech is located in Austin. Newsom noted the lawyer who represents the Commissioners Court and County is also located in Austin, but if Reams had time to visit for a moment after court he’d be glad to visit with him. Reams agreed.

Newsom and Reams afterward each indicated each wants everything regarding an incorporation election to be done by the law, which each believes he has done the other has not. The judge’s request to speak with Reams was to discuss role of legal counsel in the matter.

Reams, the judge and his administrative assistant, two county commissioners, a sheriff’s deputy and a few other Dike residents all met in the assistant’s area of the judge’s offices after court. At least one raised voice could be heard coming from the office before the group dispersed Monday morning.

Background On Dike Incorporation Request

Residents and property owners in Dike community began researching the matter out of a desire to control what goes on in their community after they learned the Commissioners Court had approved tax incentives for a solar project planned in the Dike community.

When speaking up in Commissioners Court and a community meeting hosted by Engie and Hopkins County failed to achieve the goal of residents seeking to stop the solar project from coming to Dike, an attempt to get an injunction and other legal action also was sought. The Dike residents opposed to the solar company leasing private land and installing a solar facility in their community organized.

Initially, the Dike residents voices a hope to incorporate before construction of the solar project began, but were not able to do so. Michael Pickens, spokesperson for Save Dike from Solar, advised the Commissioners Court and County Judge in previous meetings recently that the residents in opposition to the solar facility were working on the requirements to make Dike an incorporate area, so that Dike residents have a say in decision-making that impacts their community.

During the public forum portion of the Aug. 15, 2022 Commissioners Court meeting, Reams read a letter drafted to Newsom, asking him to order an incorporation election, and appoint two election judges, and publish or post notice of the election as required, in accordance with Chapter 8 of Texas Government Code Chapter. He then presented the letter, along with a signed petition, and a map of the proposed area of Dike to be incorporated to the county judge.

Newsom mailed a response letter dated Aug. 22, 2022, to Reams regarding the incorporation election petition. The letter signed by the judge requested additional documentation for verification of petition requirements.

The judge indicated the letter, addressed to Kirk Reams who presented the petition Aug. 15 during Commissioners Court, was drafted and mailed based on recommendations from legal council.

In the letter, Newsom advises Reams that “additional documentation” is required to provide “satisfactory proof that the petition meets the statutory requirements” for a Type C General-Law Municipality” as proposed. He said the petition failed to provide detailed documentation establishing the number of inhabitants and territorial requirements for incorporation as outlined in Chapter 8 of Texas Local Government Code.

The letter calls for a detailed map or adequate descriptions are needed to tailor ballots for the registered voters within the proposed boundaries. The map submitted, according to Newsom’s letter to Reams, fails to provide adequate details in order for the Hopkins County Clerk to identify the registered voters within the proposed boundaries.

Once satisfied with documentation, Newsom said that would be used to research the cost of holding a special incorporation election and notify him of the cost estimate. Funds would have to be paid in advance to prepare for the election, and a draft order calling for an election would be needed as well.

Additional Public Forum Comments

Dike resident Michele Barnes also spoke during the public forum comments portion of the Sept. 12, 2022 Commissioners Court meeting, addressing comments made and questions posed at the Aug. 22 Commissioners Court meeting by Dike residents Kevin Lester and Richard Greer in relation to the proposed incorporation election and actions taken by Dike citizens in relation to the solar facility being constructed in their community.

Lester on Aug. 22, 2022 said he is opposed to the proposed incorporation because no one has spoken to him about it. No one has come to his door to tell him about it. His neighbors and to mother-in-law, who also lives near his residence, were contacted. He said his mother-in-law was asked to sign the petition for incorporation but received no information as to why she was being asked to do so. No flyers have been left at his home, on his door or in his mailbox regarding incorporation of Dike.

Barnes held up papers, which she said was sampling of the flyers that were mailed on a weekly basis over the last year to Dike residents’ Post Office boxes. She said the intent was to inform residents of the community meetings held at 2 p.m. most Sundays at the community center to let them know what’s going on in Dike. She said a brochure too was sent out listing the pros and cons for what will be happening in regard to the solar facility and incorporations efforts.

Michele Barnes shows some of the flyers sent to Dike residents’ post office boxes over the last year regarding Hopkins County Energy solar facility and the petition to incorporate Dike.

Richard Greer on Aug. 22 said his residence is located within the proposed incorporation map, but no one has tried to contact him nor, to his knowledge, has anyone tried to contact his mother-in-law, who lives next door to him.

“As far as the petition is concerned, we went out. We went to every house. If you weren’t home, we did not go back. Once we got the required signatures for the petition, we did not go back. So, if we did not see them at their home, we’re sorry about that,” Barnes said.

Greer also on Aug. 22, said his concerns were that, as is typically the case, incorporation will mean another tax implemented, which will affect the people who live there by taxing them more, and during a recession, which will put them further into a recession.

He asked who would be enforcing ordinances for the City of Dike if the community becomes incorporated? He pointed out that the sheriff’s office does not have the authority to enforce city ordinances; a city would need it’s own police department, which would have to be funded. He questioned where the funding for a police department to enforce city ordinances would come from? He asked if taxes collected from residents within the proposed 1.7 mile area to be incorporated would fund a police department. He said it was doubtful the people wanting the incorporation, the ones who don’t want the solar facility near them, would accept funding from the business, so that’d be quite a bit the citizens would have to come up with.

Greer asked who would maintain the county roads that, upon incorporation would be in Dike City limits, and where the funding for the materials, labor and equipment to do so would come from, the residents?

“I want to make a comment to their comment that there would be no services provided by the county if we incorporate. Well, if our property taxes go to the county government, then, in my eyes, I believe they are supposed to provide the services,” Barnes said. “If they don’t provide the services, then that county tax should be going to Dike and so that they can provide the services. So I don’t understand that, but I will do a little research on that because I want to understand that.”

Barnes also offered respect for Bo Potts, who also spoke on Aug. 22, for doing his own research, not just talking to local elected official and Engie, but attending the Save Dike From Solar meeting and seeking out additional information regarding solar facilities and incorporation before making a person decision.

She noted a group in Dike who are keeping to themselves, while seeking and researching professional information on incorporation and imparting that to the citizens of Dike, even though they do not choose to attend the Save Dike from solar meetings.

“Not only do we have an ethical obligation to stay informed but also have a voluntary responsibility to do so as a citizen,” Barnes said.

Author: KSST Contributor

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