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Hughes named interim public works director; Position to be filled in 30 days

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, September 26, 2018
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A new interim Wise County public works director was announced Monday, but commissioners hope to fill the position by the end of October.

Public works foreman Ross Jones has been overseeing the department since his boss, Keith Stone, was fired Aug. 27, but Jones recently notified the county he will soon be quitting for another job.

County Judge J.D. Clark told commissioners he appointed Special Projects Manager Glenn Hughes to oversee the department the next few weeks.

“I’ve asked Glenn, since he offices out there anyway, to keep it between the ditches out there until we get somebody,” Clark said.

Commissioners discussed the job description drafted by Clark and County Treasurer Katherine Hudson, made minor tweaks and approved its posting. It will be open for 14 days, and the hiring committee, which includes Clark, Sheriff Lane Akin and Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White, will have another 14 days to finish interviewing candidates and choose someone to recommend to commissioners court on Oct. 22.

White emphasized the need to hire someone quickly.

“With Ross leaving and the other long-term employees that I’ve been told could be leaving, we need somebody out there,” White said. “I’m glad Glenn has taken on what he’s done here, but I don’t think it needs to be long-term.”

Almost before White could finish his sentence, Clark said, “It’s temporary.”

“That department has had a tumultuous year with retirings and leavings and otherwise,” Clark said. “They’re working hard, and they need someone out there to help them.”

Burns added the department needs stability.

White said he had talked with public works employees, and they’re “just doing what they’re told.”

“But they don’t know what they’re going to be told to do next,” he said. “That’s my biggest concern. No reflection on you, Glenn,” which elicited chuckles from the group.

“They’re up in the air just like we are, and I think the position needs to be filled and whoever we appoint needs to take charge as soon as possible.”

PARK MAINTENANCE TRANSFERRED

Responsibilities previously assigned to the public works department, but which are not included in this job description, are oversight of the county’s flood control lakes and dams and maintenance and upkeep of Wise County Park on Lake Bridgeport.

Commissioners had already agreed to turn over maintenance of the lakes and dams to Director of 911 Addressing Wacy Beck, and this week they agreed to turn over maintenance of Wise County Park to the buildings and grounds crews. These are the same crews that maintain the Wise County Fairgrounds, under Hughes in his capacity as special projects manager.

“I think that’s worked real well to get work done out there,” Clark said.

Hughes said there’s a full-time maintenance crew at the fairgrounds, and he thinks a similar setup at Wise County Park would make a big impact.

“That Wise County Park, that thing could be tremendous,” he said. “Not that [retired Public Works Director] Tom [Goode] and them haven’t done a wonderful job … there’s been so much on the maintenance out there anyway that with just a little more development, this thing could be awesome, in my opinion.

“I don’t know what we’ve got financially and what we could do, but really it could help that part of the county.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance agreed, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy said more camper hookups would be nice.

“I camp a lot and to find a place like that, it would be awesome … if it had the facilities,” Hughes said. “It’s got so much potential.”

Lamance agreed that it could draw larger crowds, enabling the county to recover money spent to upgrade it.

“Look at Fort Richardson in Jacksboro,” Hughes said. “It’s booked all the time, and there’s not even a draw like there is here,” a reference to Lake Bridgeport.

Kennedy mentioned long-term improvements could include a nice bathroom facility with showers.

“I think the more we develop it, the more money will come in to offset it,” Hughes said. “In my opinion, it’s a no brainer.”

White mentioned he’s always been concerned about security at the park, but Akin said it’s settled down some in recent years.

“By my observation, and this goes back to my days as a [Texas] Ranger, there was so much meaness out there, and it was all the time,” he said. “I’d get called out in the middle of the night because of meaness. But we haven’t seen that, and it’s because of having the command post and having folks out there. Having that level of presence makes a difference.”

Akin added that more security might be needed and “sometimes going up on the prices help.”

Hughes said the more it’s developed, the more it will draw “higher end” campers.

Clark said there are capital expenditure funds designated for use at the park.

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