NEWS HEADLINES

County’s financial rating improves

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, February 15, 2014

Wise County commissioners got good news at their meeting Monday.

Standard and Poor upgraded the county’s credit rating to AA. The county, which was at a AA-, didn’t even have a rating until a little more than two years ago.

“You’re a pure AA credit, and there’s only one thing above that …” said Leon Johnson with Southwest Securities. “These types of ratings don’t just happen.”

Johnson said the high rating is the result of commissioners working to keep county finances in order, and the efforts of the late County Judge Bill McElhaney, Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns and county Auditor Ann McCuiston. The trio spent time with analysts three years ago when the county sought its first rating, traveling to New York City to explain the county’s financial procedures and how it operates.

“They did an excellent job, and it’s also that relationship that you see here,” said Johnson.

Commissioners also approved an order authorizing the sale of bonds that will fund a $15 million capital expenditure plan. The money will be used over a five-year period to purchase equipment and vehicles for various county departments, and it prevents the county from having to include those purchases in the budget. Instead, they budget the annual payment, which in this case is just over $3 million.

When the capital expenditure plan, which outlines potential purchases, was presented in December, McCuiston said this type of program works well because the money is on hand.

“It lasts throughout that time, and they can only spend it on certain things,” she said. “It’s all planned.”

SALVAGE ORDINANCE

Commissioners discussed the county’s salvage yard ordinance and discovered that it’s not in line with state law.

A citizen plans to open a salvage yard east of Rhome on Texas 114, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White said another citizen had called, wondering if the business required a permit.

“I’ve talked to the gentleman who’s putting the business in,” said Fire Marshal Chuck Beard. “He has all the permitting and licensing from the state, and he’s willing to do whatever he needs to do.”

After further discussion, commissioners decided to review the ordinance and possibly rewrite it. A public hearing will be held in the future to discuss the issue.

GRANT DOLLARS

County engineer Chad Davis told commissioners he completed the prioritization of county roads as part of a grant application process. The application is an effort to secure more than $2 million from the state, which will be used to repair roads affected by oil and gas production. The program was authorized by Senate Bill 1747.

The deadline to submit application materials was orginally the week of Feb. 10-14, but commissioners’ attorney Thomas Aaberg said the state extended it to March 7.

CONSENT AGENDA

Commissioners also approved creating a consent agenda that will include department head reports, budget adjustments, claims and payroll, utility permits/right of way, interlocal agreements and contracts.

“Those are normal, everyday things that go on,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns. “We get them at court and take up court time having them read to us. I’d like to be able to look at it over the weekend. I don’t think it’s appropriate to give to us at court and expect us to digest it.”

Burns said commissioners will be expected to review these items over the weekend prior to a commissioners meeting. If there are no questions, they can all be approved at one time on the consent agenda, but if they have questions, they can be addressed during the meeting.

In other business, commissioners:

  • entered into a 40-minute executive session with legal counsel but took no action in open session;
  • approved the final plat for Fair Oaks Addition, Phase V, in Precinct 4;
  • approved variances for the preliminary plat of Montecito Estates, Lots 1-11, Block 1, in Precinct 1. Commissioners tabled approving the plat, pending a letter from engineering firm Kimley Horn.

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