Delayed roof repairs dampen spirits

As Wise County welcomed spring showers this week, the jail staff side-stepped buckets catching water from the facility’s leaking roof.

The building was damaged in an ice storm a year-and-a-half ago, and an engineering firm was hired to repair the roof almost eight months ago.

But no work has been done.

County Judge J.D. Clark said the insurance adjusters with the Texas Association of Counties and Eikon Consulting, the engineering firm hired by the county to oversee the project, have been at odds over the cost and scope of the work.

Glenn Hughes, the county’s special projects manager, expressed frustration at Monday’s commissioners meeting.

“I keep telling them there’s ongoing damage on this thing, and if we don’t get something done pretty quick, they’re going to have a lot bigger claim on this building.”

Hughes even suggested Eikon put a temporary cover over the building to try to reduce the continued damage. He said it would cost about $90,000, but he was hoping the suggestion would push them to come to an agreement on the cost of the actual repairs.

“Mainly my point was to get them off center,” he said.

Clark told the Messenger Friday that he, Hughes and commissioners attorney Thomas Aaberg met with the TAC insurance pool adjusters and Eikon representatives Thursday.

TAC and Eikon agreed to a cost of $1.4 million. There is still no projected start date for the project, but Clark was confident work would start soon.

Meanwhile, more rain is predicted next week.

The jail is the last of 11 county buildings to be repaired following the ice storm in December 2013.

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County to clear creek bed to eliminate regular flooding

Sandy Creek will be cleared by the county just northwest of Alvord to alleviate flooding. Wise County commissioners approved the work Monday at the request of Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns.

“I have three citizens here that would like help with the blockage in Sandy Creek,” he told fellow commissioners. “It closes County Road 1590 about six weeks out of the year, and it’s been blocked [at times] since I’ve been commissioner.

“It’s a problem for folks living past Sandy Creek and causes a four- to six-mile extra traverse if you live in that area to get to work or Highway 287.”

Burns noted that it’s also a public safety issue because the water gets up to 4 feet deep. The commissioner said there are two bridges in this area, one of which is underwater in these situations and one that is not.

His request was to clean out property owned by Trinity Industries between CR 1590 and Farm Road 1655.

“There’s only about a 5-foot drop between those two roads, and in an area that’s a mile-and-a-half, three-quarters of it is blocked,” he said. “There’s no defined creek channel.”

Burns said the work he was suggesting wouldn’t totally eliminate the flooding, but it would allow the water to drain.

“Are we talking about pulling all the brush out and maybe digging a channel?” asked Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy.

Burns said “yes” and that property owners to the north of CR 1590 had already done so, but work was still needed on the south side.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White asked if the bridges were “good.”

“They’re sufficient,” Burns replied. “They’re underrated. It really needs some more bridges, but in order to build a bridge through there it would be 1,000 feet long.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance wanted to know more about the county’s scope of assistance.

“The best thing would be to use an excavator and clean out the channel and push the dirt up in piles,” Burns explained. “That would be the quickest, easiest and cheapest thing to do, if Trinity Industries would allow us to do that.

“We have a track loader that we could utilize to stack up the overburden.”

He said it would be a summer project probably taking two men about 30 days to complete.

“I basically need permission to contact Trinity Industries and make arrangements with them if they’d allow us to do it,” Burns said. “If you’d allow me to use right-of-way funds, that would be great, but if not I need to use precinct funds.”

Commissioner White thought precinct funds should be used, saying the work should be done “for safety purposes, if for no other reason.”

County Engineer Chad Davis noted that when the creek is out of its banks emergency services can’t get through.

“We’re not going to correct every ill here because we can’t build a channel big enough to prevent the flooding, but we can make it a few days event, like it used to be, instead of a week at a time,” Burns said.

The commissioner said he had previously contacted Trinity Industries about doing the work, but they refused. He’s heard that the property may have sold because Trinity is no longer mining it, but it’s still listed under Trinity on the tax roll.

“Is this in the county’s scope that we would have done, have done or should’ve done?” Lamance asked.

Public Works Administrator Tom Goode said the work would fall under the county’s Big Sandy Watershed Agreement with the citizens of the county and the water control improvement district.

“We have done some channel work on Denton Creek, and we have done some on Salt Creek,” he said.

Burns said he didn’t anticipate many expenses besides fuel, which would have to come from precinct funds.

The Precinct 2 commissioner made a motion to go into an agreement with Trinity Industries and proceed with the work. White wanted to add the contingency that if Burns got into a bind financially, commissioners would help him with money from the right-of-way fund.

The motion passed 4-0.

In other business, commissioners:

  • approved the sheriff’s request to upgrade his department’s tracking devices;
  • approved destroying out-of-date ballistic vests;
  • approved the purchase of a 2015 Ford Police Interceptor to replace a totaled S.O. vehicle;
  • approved accepting unclaimed capital credits from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and dividing that money between the children’s charities supported by the county;
  • approved seeking bids for a truck tractor at the request of Precinct 1;
  • approved again seeking bids for pre-coat rock because none were submitted the first time;
  • canceled the bid with Impact Promotional, which provides the uniforms for the Wise County Sheriff’s Office and Wise County EMS;
  • awarded the sale of scrap metal to Bridgeport Iron and Metal;
  • accepted a $500 donation from Sid and Bonnie Hodges to the Sheriff’s Office;
  • accepted a donation of various items, including plywood and poultry cages by the Wise County Youth Fair Board to the county fairgrounds;
  • approved the final plat for Green Acres Subdivision, lots 1-5, in Precinct 2; and
  • approved the final plat with a variance for Casa Linda Addition, lots 1-7, in Precinct 4.

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Meeting Previews for Saturday, April 11, 2015

NORTHWEST ISD – Northwest ISD trustees will review the 2015-16 compensation plan during a workshop 5:30 p.m. Monday. The workshop will precede the 6:30 meeting that includes contract extensions for teachers and administrators and contracts with Durham Transportation and ARAMARK for food service. Trustees will also discuss a waiver from the TEA for days missed due to winter weather and paying employees impacted by the weather.

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – Wise County commissioners will discuss Monday authorizing County Judge J.D. Clark to initiate a thoroughfare study with North Central Texas Council of Governments. They will also consider taking action to assist with drainage blockage in the Upper Sandy Creek on County Road 1590 and Farm Road 2265. The meeting is 9 a.m. in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur. It is open to the public.

DECATUR CITY COUNCIL – The Decatur City Council will consider an agrerement with the City of Bridgeport to share costs of a billboard advertising for the Main Street programs of both cities at Monday’s meeting. The council will also hear a presentation and approve the Decatur Community Wildfire Protection Plan, consider and act on a lease agreement with Ed Bell Construction Company regarding city-owned property, act on various plat and replat applications and declare May as Motocycle Safety Awareness Month in the city. The meeting is at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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Commissioners travel north for first mobile meeting

The first installment of Wise County Commissioners Court on the Road is next week in Slidell.

The public is invited to the school cafetorium 7 p.m. Tuesday to talk with commissioners and other county officials.

The meeting is the first of four to be held quarterly throughout the county and is part of a community outreach program proposed by County Judge J.D. Clark and approved by commissioners Feb. 26.

“Instead of expecting everybody to come to county government, then [let’s] take the county government out to everybody else,” Clark urged commissioners.

Slidell students will lead the Pledge of Allegiance to begin Tuesday’s meeting, and Clark will report on upcoming county issues.

Commissioner Danny White will talk about projects in Precinct 1, and Sheriff David Walker will explain the county’s K-9 program.

Community members will have the opportunity to address commissioners during open forum. The rules are the same as a regular commissioners meeting: A speaker should first identify himself or herself by first and last name. There is a three-minute limit, and large groups interested in the same topic should select a spokesperson.

State law prohibits commissioners from deliberating on anything brought up in open forum unless it is on their posted agenda.

Commissioners Court on the Road will be at Alvord City Hall in late June. A specific date and time has not yet been set.

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County commissioners to hit the road

Wise County commissioners will venture outside the county seat this year to mix and mingle with the public in a series of four mobile meetings.

The group unanimously approved the program, proposed by County Judge J.D. Clark at their meeting Thursday, despite initial pushback from Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White.

In an effort to reach out to the community, Clark proposed having quarterly evening meetings, each in a different county precinct. At each meeting there will be a community forum, a report from the county judge on recent and upcoming county issues, a report from the commissioner of that precinct on current and upcoming projects and a report from a department head or other elected official to showcase the work of that office or department. Clark also plans to have local students lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Any agenda items would be for discussion only because according to state law, commissioners are not allowed to take action on items while outside the county seat.

Clark explained that 9 a.m. meetings on Mondays are not convenient for many people to attend, and he felt like the mobile meetings would allow officials to “more effectively and directly engage with the communities in Wise County.”

“Instead of expecting everybody to come to county government, then take the county government out to everybody else,” he said. “I think there may be some months where we’re the only ones, but there may be some months where the place is packed, and they want to hear what we’re up to.”

Clark had proposed that if approved, the first meeting be in Slidell during March.

White was quick to voice his opposition.

“I have concerns about this, and I’m going to be very blunt,” he said. “We get asked occasionally to come to different areas to talk … I’ve been asked to come to a certain area east of town to tell people why I’m doing things the way I’m doing them.

“It gets into more of a gripe session than it does anything,” he said. “And like I’ve explained to them, if we went somewhere every time people wanted us, then we might as well tell our wives we’re not going to be at home.”

Clark said these programs would have a structured format, and although people would be allowed to speak in community forum, commissioners are not allowed to discuss anything with them. Commissioners can only listen.

“Then, say you’re the commissioner … and you’re going to report on what’s going on, you don’t have to open it up for the crowd to say, ‘What do you think?'” Clark said.

White wasn’t convinced.

“We don’t have to open it up, but you know as well as I do that they’ll open it up for you,” he said. “I mean, I’ll do whatever. It’s not a bad idea. I agree, but at the same time … are you asking all commissioners to be at Slidell or just the commissioner in that precinct?”

Clark said he’d like for everyone to be there that’s available.

“I think the county would appreciate it,” he said.

“I don’t mind speaking,” White said. “Don’t misunderstand me. But if it’s going to turn into a gripe and complaint session, I have a phone. They can stop by my barn. I don’t have to spend my night times out there doing that.

“Is that OK to say it like that?”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns said if it’s moderated right, the meeting shouldn’t result in a “free-for-all.”

White continued to complain.

“Moderated, that’s the key,” he said. “But you’ve got four or five of us up there, and you’ve got 50 people in the precinct …”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy reassured White that he had nothing to worry about.

“I don’t think anyone will turn out to see you anyway,” Kennedy said with a laugh. “So you’re safe.”

Clark said he understood White’s concern, but he felt like it was important to give people a chance to “gripe, praise or whatever,” to which White agreed.

“I can take a minimum of four chewings per year, if that’s all I get,” Clark said.

White finally said he didn’t think it was “that bad of an idea.”

“I think it’s a good faith effort on the part of this court that we do that,” Clark said. “I think it’s good to go out and engage with people. What does it hurt to try it?”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance asked if the program was something they “can vacate if there’s a lack of interest.”

“Lack of y’all’s interest or someone else’s?” Clark asked with a laugh.

The judge went on to say that some months “it may just be us sitting around looking at each other, but I do think we’ll have some people that want to come out and visit with us.”

“I also think it’s a proactive way for each of you to say, ‘Hey, here’s what’s going on in this precinct,” he said. “I would appreciate y’all giving it a try.”

Kennedy made a motion to approve the mobile meetings program, and Burns gave it a second. After his protests, even White voted in favor of it.

The first mobile meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, at the Slidell High School cafeteria. In addition to the county judge and commissioner’s presentations, Sheriff David Walker will give a presentation on his department’s K-9 program.

Thursday’s meeting was rescheduled from Monday, which was canceled due to inclement weather.

COMMISSIONERS MOBILE MEETING

7 p.m., March 31
Slidell High School cafeteria

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County dispatchers recognized at commissioners court

Wise County dispatchers received three of six communications awards presented in November by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, and they were recognized at Monday’s commissioners meeting.

NCTCOG’s Jason Smith attended the meeting and told about each of the awards, which were presented at the entity’s quarterly supervisors meeting and luncheon.

“Out of the six awards that we present, three of them are in the room today,” he said.

Those who received awards included Caitlin Knobel, Telecommunicator of the Year; Zachary Bryden, 911 Professional of the Year; and Jeff Doughty, Supervisor of the Year. (They were featured in a Messenger story Nov. 22, 2014.)

Sheriff David Walker said the citizens of Wise County are in good hands when they call 911.

“We have an exceptional team down there, and these folks rise way above what we require and do a fabulous job,” he said. “Like (Jason) said, there’s 550 telecommunicators in our region – so for us to get three out of the six awards is pretty huge.

“They do a good job, and I appreciate it.”

DONATIONS AND BIDS

Commissioners accepted the following donations: $100 from Robin Lewis to the Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit; $400 from Pella Cemetery to the Public Works Department; and cat cages and a cat tree from Direct Animal Products to the Wise County Animal Shelter.

Several pieces of furniture were also donated to the county.

Commissioners awarded two pickup bids to Prestige Ford – one for a crew cab and one for an extended cab. The crew cab prices were $35,600 without carpet and $37,800 with carpet. The extended cab prices were $34,000 without carpet and $36,300 with carpet. Both are four-wheel drive with short beds.

They plan to purchase a crew cab with carpet for Precinct 2. Asset Manager Diana Alexander said they don’t currently plan to purchase a pickup on the extended cab bid, but it’s good for two months. That bid was originally sought at the request of Public Works Director Tom Goode, but in the meantime, he decided not to make the purchase.

Commissioners approved seeking bids for a 3/4-ton, two-wheel drive, extended cab pickup at the request of Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance. He wants it to have a long bed.

In other business, commissioners:

  • went into executive session to discuss property, but took no action when they emerged;
  • approved purchasing for $9 per ton a stockpile of rock from Martin Marietta that is currently located on Farm Road 2123;
  • appointed Jerry McEntire and Scott Farver, both of Boyd, to the Wise County Emergency Services District No. 1 Board;
  • approved the final plat for La Foresta, lots 1-3, in Precinct 1; and
  • approved the bond for Elections Administrator Sabra Srader.

—–

Most county offices are closed Monday, Feb. 16, for President’s Day. The next commissioners meeting is Monday, Feb. 23, in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur.

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County hires tech pro

A technology guru will be settling in among Wise County officials this week.

Tuesday morning county commissioners approved hiring Steven Melton of Boyd as the systems administrator to oversee, maintain and manage the county’s technological systems.

County Judge J.D. Clark told commissioners that Melton is a network engineer and network administrator. He’s been working for Interop in Irving and in that position provides technical support for project development implementation and does network configurations. He also worked as a network administrator for five years at Turbomeca USA in Grand Prairie.

“Not only is he a really sharp IT professional, but he’s also creative and good at trying to find efficient and more innovative ways to work within a budget,” Clark said. “He understands those limitations.”

Clark also said Melton believes in cross-training and allowing people to grow professionally.

“We had a lot of extremely qualified people apply,” Clark said, “but he just seems like a good fit. I think he’ll be a good asset.”

Clark said he will start Thursday, Feb. 19.

The systems administrator position is a new county job that was created last November at the recommendation of then-County Judge Glenn Hughes and Prince Computing Corp., consultants hired last summer to evaluate the county’s computer systems.

At the time, Hughes told commissioners that “the county has grown so much technology-wise, this is what will bring us up to speed.” He said the current IT department was overwhelmed, and there were many systems within the county that weren’t compatible.

After the county began its search for a systems administrator, a Sheriff’s Office server was struck by the CryptoWall virus, and files that hadn’t been backed up were lost. The incident seemed to be further proof that a systems administrator was needed to better manage the technological systems.

Read more from Tuesday’s commissioners meeting in an upcoming edition of the Messenger.

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Moncrief brings new program to Wise

Moncrief Cancer Center in Fort Worth will roll into town with its cancer survivorship program in the coming months.

Dr. Keith Argenbright, director of the Moncrief center, told county commissioners Monday that the program will help patients not only heal, but also get back to work and “do what it is that they’re doing and be part of the vibrant community here.

“We’ve gotten good at detecting cancer and treating cancer, but one of the things we’re not good about is getting people back to where they were … and that is really what cancer survivorship is all about,” he said.

Some of the services offered through the program include exercise therapy, nutritional counseling, psychotherapy and genetic study.

“We’re excited to announce that we’ll be able to bring these services to Wise County through a mobile program,” he said, noting that it’s much like the mobile breast cancer screening program that Moncrief already operates locally.

Argenbright said the mobile cancer survivorship program will come to Wise County for the first time in March.

PROPERTY CONFUSION

On Monday, commissioners approved a quit-claim deed of a portion of lot 7 in Delta Ranch Estates at the request of Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns.

Burns said the property is on County Road 1271. This type of deed is a legal document giving property to the county. The property was purchased by Richard Pietila, and as part of the deal, the seller insisted part of the county road be included in the sale.

Burns told the Messenger that Pietila paid for that section of road because the deal was contingent on it being included, even though it never really belonged to the seller.

But since Pietila was being charged taxes on that portion of the property, he wanted to “give it back” to the county.

Commissioners attorney Thomas Aaberg had not seen the deed before the meeting and asked to quickly review it before it was approved. He asked why the land needed to be given back to the county when it never really belonged to the landowner anyway.

Burns said it was a paperwork issue.

“The deed was transferred to him, but it really wasn’t hers to sell,” he told the Messenger later in the week. “The legal description was there, but it had already been dedicated to the county years ago.

“It’s a screw-up in the title office,” he said.

Burns said he didn’t know if the seller had been paying property taxes on it or not.

According to the commissioner, Pietila bought the property two years ago.

“This is just paperwork to clarify that the county owns it,” he said. “It just says he no longer claims it. It’s a unique situation where we already own the road.”

He said he thinks the county has been maintaining the road since 1971.

OTHER BUSINESS

Special Projects Manager Glenn Hughes said the search for a systems administrator is going well, and three finalists were to each be interviewed a second time this week.

County Judge J.D. Clark introduced new Wise County Elections Administrator Sabra Srader. Her first day on the job was Jan. 20.

He also presented interim Elections Administrator Jim Parker with a plaque for his service to the county.

Commissioners also:

  • approved seeking bids for inmate pharmacy services;
  • approved seeking bids on pre-coat rock;
  • approved the final plat of Burks One Addition, lots 1-6, in Precinct 4;
  • accepted a $1,000 donation from Sweetwater Cemetery to the Public Works Department;
  • accepted multiple pieces of furniture donated by Devon Energy to Wise County Sheriff’s Office; and
  • approved selling a GMC four-door pickup, a pneumatic roller and a pup trailer from Precinct 2, a pneumatic roller and welder from Precinct 3 and a belly dump trailer from Precinct 4.

—–

Commissioners’ next regular meeting is 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10, in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur.

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County approves resolution to protect water

Wise County commissioners approved a resolution Monday supporting legislation they believe would better protect local water.

The legislation, if passed, would allow the Wise County Water Control Improvement District No. 1 to call an election in the portions of the county not already in the district, to determine if voters wish to be annexed into it.

WCID currently serves the west side of Wise County.

“Everything west of 287 or the Burlington Northern Railroad track drains into Tarrant County water district, and the eastern side drains into Grapevine Lake and that area,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns said. “That side of the county is not under the control of and has no representation for landowners out there – other than commissioners court.

“It asks that an election be called to allow those citizens to be in the district that’s already on the west side and have officers on that board and have a voice in their watershed, if they choose to,” he said.

County Judge J.D. Clark said under the Texas Water Code, 50 landowners could petition for the annexation, but he doesn’t think that’s fair.

“We think that’s just fundamentally wrong,” he said. “The major landowners shouldn’t just get to decide.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White said it would actually be a protective act for the people on the east side.

“I feel like the amount of tax is well worth the protection,” he said. “All this resolution is saying is that we want it on the ballot.”

Burns said they attempted to pass this legislation last year, but it failed due to an oversight on his part.

“We got it through the House, and to the committee in the Senate and it was about to go on the floor for a vote,” he said. “But I had failed to carve out the city of Decatur, which is already in a district … those folks would have been double-taxed.

“It was just a failure on my personal part,” he said. “I didn’t research it well enough.”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy spoke up and said the point was that it’s been in the works for several years, and this was an opportunity to push it forward again.

The resolution was unanimously approved.

OTHER RESOLUTIONS

Commissioners also approved a resolution opposing the removal of the county’s authority to regulate fireworks.

It states in part that “due to continued drought and the concern for public safety, such regulations are necessary to protect life and property.”

Other resolutions approved include one against the creation of a regional indigent health care system because it’s an unfunded mandate, requiring property tax increases in those counties, and it would not be efficient or responsive to local taxpayers.

They also approved a resolution in opposition to unfunded mandates.

Clark said the idea behind the resolution is that it’s easy for a state legislator to develop an idea but have no way to pay for it, expecting counties to foot the bill.

“Basically, if it’s a great idea, then you need to come up with a mechanism to have it funded as well, rather than putting it in the county’s lap,” he said.

Wise County Democratic Party Chair Tracy Smith spoke during the community forum at the beginning of the meeting in support of the resolution.

“Unfunded mandates are not a good thing for Wise County or any county at all,” she said. “I agree with this … unfunded mandates such as the elimination of property tax and replacing it with consumption tax is an unfunded mandate, and when we do this, we eliminate the ability to keep issues local.”

Lena Wells also spoke up and said she agreed with Smith.

Read more from Monday’s commissioners meeting in the weekend Messenger.

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, January 24, 2015

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – Wise County commissioners next week will discuss a resolution in support of voter choice for Wise County Water Control and Improvement Districts. They will also consider a resolution in opposition to removing the county fireworks regulation authority and another in opposition to unfunded mandates. The agenda also includes the recognition of a Wise County dispatcher and a closed session for property deliberations. The meeting is at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 26, in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur. It is open to the public.

HOSPITAL BOARD – The Decatur Hospital Authority Board of Directors will consider and take action Monday, Jan. 26, to appoint Todd Scroggins chief financial officer as treasurer of Wise Regional Health System. The board will also consider appointing Chris Forbis to place 3 on the board and Carey Williams to place 1 for two year terms beginning January 2015. The board will also consider purchasing an upgrade to the existing patient coding system. The meeting is 6 p.m. in the Wise Regional Health System board room. It is open to the public.

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County bumps up cap for consultants

Computer consultants are costing the county a pretty penny.

Wise County commissioners on Monday approved amending a contract with Prince Computing Corp. to cap expenditures with the company at $45,000.

When the firm was hired in August, commissioners approved spending up to $35,000, but as of Jan. 5, the county had already spent $39,500 with the company.

Special Projects Manager Glenn Hughes said Prince has ended up doing more extensive work than originally planned.

“When we hired Prince, it was for an audit to see where we were at and maybe share some quick fixes for our system,” he said. “But as they’ve gone along, they’ve come across some problems that weren’t in the scope of what they were originally going to do.”

He said the consultants also spent a lot of time working at the sheriff’s office when its server was hit with the CryptoWall virus in December.

“They’ve done a lot of things that weren’t in the original scope of things they were going to do, but it was at our request,” he said.

The contract with Prince runs through Jan. 31, and he said they would be used on an “as needed basis” after that.

Hughes also told commissioners that the county had received several good applicants for the systems administrator job, and he hoped to have someone hired by the first week of February.

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County ditches bad debt

Wise County commissioners decided Monday to write off $1.2 million in bad debt for Emergency Medical Services.

EMS Administrator Charles Dillard said the total reflects unpaid bills from 2009 to 2012.

He said these are accounts on which there has been no activity or payment, despite being sent to collections, and most live outside Wise County.

“We still have some ’13s and ’14s that are still active, and we’re working on those, going to collections and things like that to see what we can get,” he said.

The amount being written off for each year is as follows:

  • 2009 – $47,245.73
  • 2010 – $415,668.21
  • 2011 – $332,269.61
  • 2012 – $415,835.15

County Auditor Ann McCuiston said if any future payments are received on these debts, the county will accept the money. This action simply “cleans up the books.”

She said EMS debt was last written off four or five years ago.

PICKUP BIDS

Commissioners rejected for the second time bids for crew cab and extended cab pickups at the urging of Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns.

“I’ve been informed we can get a cheaper price and some more local bids if we change the specs to say just a ‘work truck package’ or a white truck with black interior,” he said. “I’d like to reject these bids and go back out for bid on the crew cab.”

County Judge J.D. Clark also suggested not being specific about the interior color. He explained that the previous bid request with specifications about interior color, remote start and carpet included pieces from two different types of packages, making it difficult for dealers to submit a competitive bid.

Commissioners agreed to remove remote start from the bid request but wanted to keep carpet as an option.

In other business, commissioners:

  • ratified advanced funding agreements with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for bridge repairs on County Roads 1590 and 2327. The agreement outlines the breakdown of federal, state and local funding for the projects.
  • approved the proposed TxDOT federal railroad signal project upgrade at County Road 3250 and Texas 114. County engineer Chad Davis said repair and maintenance work will be done to upgrade the crossing and commissioners’ approval is their guarantee to maintain the county road in that crossing right-of-way.
  • reappointed Dr. Jon Walker to a two-year term as Wise County health authority.
  • accepted six district clerk deputations.
  • accepted 12 county clerk deputations.
  • accepted 16 nominations and appointments to the Wise County Historical Commission.
  • approved seeking depository bids.

—–

County offices will be closed Monday, Jan. 19, for Martin Luther King Day. The next regular commissioners meeting is 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 26, in the third-floor conference room of the Wise County Courthouse.

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, January 10, 2015

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – Wise County commissioners will meet 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 12, in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur. They will discuss and consider write-offs of bad debt for Emergency Medical Services and consider the proposed Texas Department of Transportation federal railroad signal project upgrade at County Road 3250 and Texas 114. They will also consider reappointing Dr. Jon Walker to a two-year term as the Wise County health authority.

DECATUR CITY COUNCIL – The council will meet 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12 at City Hall, 201 E. Walnut, with a short agenda. They will hear a request from County Judge J.D. Clark to plat the 11.395-acre tract where the Wise County Fairgrounds sits on Farm Road 51 South, and consider nominating someone to the board for the Wise County Appraisal District to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Jimmy Parker. A work session to review the city’s proposed new zoning ordinance will be held after the meeting. Both the meeting and workshop are open to the public.

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, January 3, 2015

BRIDGEPORT – The Bridgeport City Council will meet for the first time in 2015 at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6, to discuss the Halsell Street Sidewalk Improvement Project. They will also consider awarding a bid for the same project and approving a sign agreement with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The meeting is open to the public.

COMMISSIONERS – Wise County commissioners will meet 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 5, in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur. Commissioners will approve bonds for several county officials and will hear an update from the Wise County Elections Commission on the search for a new elections administrator.

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New judge leads first meeting

County Judge J.D. Clark led his first commissioners meeting Monday.

The 28-year-old started a new tradition by saying the Pledge of Allegiance and having a moment of silence at the top of the agenda.

Members of the Wise County Veterans Group ceremoniously installed the U.S. and Texas flags in the courthouse’s third floor conference room and then led the group in the pledge.

Also on the agenda for the first time was a community forum. Boyd citycouncilman Tim Hammonds addressed commissioners and asked why, as part of their interlocal agreement, the city is charged $50 for every animal picked up by Wise County Animal Control, but people outside the city limits are not charged for the service.

Commissioners are not allowed to discuss or vote on issues brought up in public forum, but those topics can be placed on a future agenda.

The bulk of the meeting – the last to be held in 2014 – was routine business.

Clark outlined a timeline for hiring an elections administrator and told commissioners the deadline to apply for the job is Friday. The elections commission will decide which candidates to interview and would like to hire someone by the first of the year.

“The goal is to hire an elections administrator by January, and Jim can go on back to the house,” he said with a smile, referencing interim EA Jim Parker.

The county is also looking for a systems coordinator, and commissioners approved creating a hiring committee, which includes Judge Clark, Special Projects Manager Glenn Hughes, Sheriff David Walker, Fire Marshal Chuck Beard and Court Coordinator Debbie Barnett.

In other staff-related issues, Clark announced that Becky Dear retired from the county attorney’s office after 25 years, and he had received a letter complimenting veteran service officer Laura Spain.

He also presented a plaque to Hughes, thanking him for his service as interim county judge and interim commissioner, in both Precinct 3 and 4, over the last four years. Clark also recognized Gary Potts, who recently served as interim Precinct 4 commissioner. Potts was not present.

BUYING AND SELLING

Commissioners accepted Warner Radio’s $10 bid to purchase equipment on a radio tower near U.S. 81/287 and County Road 4228. The fire marshal said the equipment is 15 years old and is no longer being used by the county.

“It’s outlived it’s life expectancy,” he told the Messenger. “It was going to cost us more money to take the equipment off the tower than to just auction it off.”

The equipment sold includes runs of cable and three or four antenna on top of the tower. Beard said the cheapest bid to remove the equipment was $5,800, which didn’t include disposal. He said there is some county equipment remaining on the tower that is currently in use.

Commissioners also approved the installation of aluminum bleachers at the show arena on the Wise County Fairgrounds. They accepted a $26,215 quote from the Texas Department of Corrections as presented by Public Works Director Tom Goode.

Goode said his crews will tear down the current bleachers, and the installation of the new bleachers will be done by state jail inmates. He hopes the job will be complete before the Wise County Youth Fair in March.

Commissioners tabled a vehicle request from County Court-at-Law No. 1, as presented by Sheriff Walker.

They had recently approved the purchase of a new vehicle for the district court bailiff, and Walker said the county court was now asking to replace its bailiff’s car. A 2014 Tahoe has been ordered for the district court bailiff, and the county court was requesting the same.

“They’re driving a Dodge Charger now … they’re low-mileage, about 50,000,” he said.

Walker said if commissioners decided to purchase the vehicle, his department would take the bailiff’s current car and use it to replace one of their high-mileage cars.

Judge Clark questioned why the bailiffs need Tahoes, and he said he’d like to look further into the issue before taking any action.

In other business, commissioners:

  • tabled bids on 3/4-ton pickups at the request of Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns;
  • renewed the red flag burn ban
  • tabled increases for Tyler Technologies maintenance
  • approved purchase of a pickup from a co-op for the Public Works Department
  • approved selling an asphalt distributor truck at the request of Burns
  • approved appointing Ken Murray to fill the remaining term of a post on the Wise County Emergency Services District No. 1’s board of directors
  • approved Judge Clark’s bond

Look for more from the Dec. 15 commissioners meeting in the weekend Messenger.

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, December 13, 2014

BRIDGEPORT SCHOOL BOARD – The Bridgeport school board next week will discuss textbook adoption and facility renovations, as well as the results of a districtwide soccer questionnaire. Its meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at the administration building, 2107 15th Street, and is open to the public.

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – County Judge J.D. Clark will lead his first county commissioners meeting next week. Commissioners will discuss the process for hiring a new elections administrator, hear county engineer Chad Davis’ recommendation for receiving surplus bridge materials from the Department of Public Safety and will discuss maintenance offered by Tyler Technologies. Clark will also give his recommendation on the makeup of the systems coordinator hiring committee. Clark has also added to the agenda a community forum, in which citizens may share comments or observations related to county business. There is a three-minute time limit, and large groups should designate a spokesperson. The meeting is 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 15, in the third floor conference room of the Wise County Courthouse in Decatur. This is the last regular meeting for 2014.

PARADISE CITY COUNCIL – Next week nominees for the vacant Paradise City Council seat will be interviewed, and one will be selected to serve. The process will occur during the city council’s regular meeting 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at Paradise City Hall. The council will also conduct a public hearing on the submission of an application to the Texas Community Development Block Grant Program (TxCDBG) in the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Affairs. The council will also discuss hiring Carl Deaton to conduct the city’s annual audit.

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New judge takes office

County Judge-elect J.D. Clark is on the job.

During a special meeting Wednesday, county commissioners accepted the resignation of interim County Judge Glenn Hughes and appointed Clark to serve the remainder of Hughes’ term, which runs through Dec. 31.

First Day

FIRST DAY – District Judge John Fostel gives the oath of office to County Judge J.D. Clark Wednesday morning. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Clark was sworn in by District Judge John Fostel, who teased the 28-year-old, saying “this is your last chance,” just before issuing the oath of office.

“How long did it take for Bob Holloway’s hair to turn white?” Fostel joked, in reference to the locks of a former county judge, who served 1983 to 1986.

Clark is likely the youngest currently serving county judge in the state, and Fostel noted that he was the youngest Wise County judge that he could remember, at least during his own tenure in the county.

Clark took the oath before a room packed shoulder to shoulder with family, friends and other county officials.

“It was a little surreal,” he said Friday. “… I was no longer a spectator but part of the meeting.”

Clark has been attending county commissioners meetings for months and said the knowledge he gained during that time will ease the transition. He went straight to work Wednesday afternoon.

“So far it’s been a lot of routine business while I get my bearings here and learn how different procedures work,” he said.

Clark said he wants to “get a feel for what (he) likes and what (he) might do a little differently.”

“It feels like a good fit for me,” he said. “I don’t feel out of place at all. I’m just glad to be at work.”

Taking Office

TAKING OFFICE – Interim County Judge Glenn Hughes (left) swore newly elected Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy into office Wednesday morning. Later in the meeting Hughes resigned his position. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Newly elected Precinct 4 Commissioner Gaylord Kennedy also took office Wednesday. Interim Commissioner Gary Potts resigned, and Kennedy was appointed to serve the remainder of his term.

Both Kennedy and Clark will start the terms to which they were elected Jan. 1.

Hughes, who was appointed interim judge following the death of County Judge Bill McElhaney, has returned to his post as county special projects manager – his job prior to filling in as judge.

He thanked all of Wise County Wednesday when he resigned.

“I want to thank everybody, all the departments, department heads and people of Wise County for putting up with me for the last eight or 10 months,” he said. “It’s been thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve learned a lot, and I appreciate the people of Wise County so much more.”

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Resignations lead to changes in county lineup

Wise County commissioners are expected to accept the resignations of County Judge Glenn Hughes and Precinct 4 Commissioner Gary Potts at a special called meeting today.

Commissioners will also canvass the votes from the Nov. 4 election and will appoint people to fill the unexpired terms of Hughes and Potts.

More than likely, judge-elect J.D. Clark and Gaylord Kennedy, who won the Precinct 4 post, will be appointed to those positions. The meeting is at 10 a.m. in the Wise County Courthouse and is open to the public. (Read more in the weekend Messenger on newsstands Saturday.)

Despite the anticipation of welcoming new officeholders, county officials have plugged along on regular business the last two weeks with meetings Nov. 3 and Nov. 10.

LAW ENFORCEMENT VEHICLES

Commissioners on Nov. 3 approved the purchase of seven Chevrolet Tahoes, six for the Sheriff’s Office and one for the 271st District Court bailiff, at the request of Sheriff David Walker.

The S.O. vehicles will be paid for with designated capital expenditure money, and courthouse security funds will cover the cost of the district court’s vehicle.

The new Tahoes, all 2014s, will help the sheriff out of a bind while providing most of the new vehicles needed in fiscal 2015. Walker reported at the Oct. 13 commissioners meeting that the Tahoes purchased by his department in fiscal year 2014 ended up being 2015 models, instead of 2014 as promised by the dealer.

The sheriff had ordered equipment for the 2014s, but was unable to use it when the newer models arrived.

The equipment supplier said it would give him credit, allowing him to make an exchange, but he told commissioners last week that he was only going to get $4,000 for about $13,000 worth of merchandise.

In an effort to make the most of the 2015 vehicles and the 2014 equipment, he decided to go ahead and acquire the next six Tahoes that were scheduled to be purchased in FY 2015. The new fiscal year started Oct. 1, and capital expenditure money for FY 15 was also available on that date.

The 2014 equipment will be installed in the most recent batch of vehicles approved for purchase, and the 2015 models will be outfitted by a company in Temple.

He told commissioners he plans to use this company for all future equipment installations, too.

“When we order in the future, they will outfit (the vehicles) with radios that work on our system, and stripe them, etc.,” he said. “It’ll be cheaper and quicker and easier for the auditor and everyone because we can make one order, and it comes lock, stock and barrel – done.”

Walker said his department had outfitted its own cars for years, but that was no longer feasible. The most recent vehicles purchased will be used for patrol, and one will be made a canine unit.

OTHER BUSINESS

On Nov. 3 and Nov. 10, commissioners also:

  • approved the Western Surety Co. official bond for interim Elections Administrator Jim Parker and Wise County Auditor Ann McCuiston;
  • approved the Western Surety Co. rider bond for Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Craig Johnson;
  • approved a re-plat of Zimmerman Addition in Precinct 3;
  • approved a final plat for Vista Oaks, lots 1-6, in Precinct 1;
  • approved a re-plat for Stonegate Park, lots 35A and 35B, in Precinct 4;
  • accepted donations to Public Works – $65 from the Bridgeport Mexican Cemetery, $500 from Alvord Cemetery and $500 from Friendship Cemetery;
  • accepted donations to the Sheriff’s Office canine unit – $1,000 from Hanson Aggregates and $2,000 from Devon Energy;
  • accepted a $293.15 donation to the animal shelter from Cans for Canines;
  • approved a list of standing county committees;
  • tabled a final plat for Currey Addition in Precinct 1; and
  • tabled nominating someone for the Wise County Appraisal District board of directors.

After today’s special meeting, commissioners are not scheduled to meet again until Dec. 15.

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Meeting Previews for Saturday, November 8, 2014

DECATUR CITY COUNCIL – When they meet at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, the Decatur City Council will consider a rate increase request from Progressive Waste Solutions for residential and commercial garbage service for 2015. Also on the light agenda is a request to close some streets for the Chamber of Commerce’s “Moonlight Madness” parade Saturday, Dec. 6, and a couple of appointments – Brian Bosworth as a reserve police officer, and Murvelle Chandler to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The meeting is open to the public.

BOYD SCHOOL BOARD – The Boyd school board will meet 6:30 p.m. Monday for its regular meeting. The board will hear an update on construction of the ag barn and will discuss softball field renovations and improvements, as well as budget amendments to cover those expenses. The board will also hear a report on the No Child Left Behind, NCLB, Highly Qualified Report.

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – Wise County commissioners meet twice next week. The first meeting – 9 a.m. Monday – will include the discussion of putting together a hiring committee for the newly created systems coordinator position. (See related story on page 1A.) Commissioners will also consider revising county committees, and they will tend to regular business, including consideration of bids, roadway and construction joint venture project agreements and plats. The second meeting is 10 a.m. Wednesday to canvass the votes from the Nov. 4 election. The agenda also says commissioners will accept the resignations of County Judge Glenn Hughes and Precinct 4 Commissioner Gary Potts. Commissioners will turn around and appoint people to fill those posts, most likely the winners of Tuesday’s election. Both meetings will be held in the third-floor conference room of the Wise County Courthouse. They are open to the public.

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Upcoming Meetings for Saturday, October 11, 2014

DECATUR COUNCIL – The Decatur City Council will convene at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 201 E. Walnut. They’ll consider several appointments to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Adjustment and will vote on second readings to raise library fines, airport fees, water and wastewater fees. They’ll also look at continuing to contract with the Wise County Appraisal District for property tax collections, and look at a police department request to make Deer Park Road from Eagle Drive to Preskitt a one-way road northbound from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30.

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – Wise County commissioners will consider on Monday a request from Fire Marshal Chuck Beard to hire an outside communications consulting agency to link all the radio towers and systems. They will also discuss trying to acquire two modular buildings through the federal government, as they continue to seek additional office space. Regular business will include consideration of bids, discussion of plats, project agreements and committee and department head reports. Commissioners meet at 9 a.m. in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur. The meeting is open to the public.

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