Hopkins County Commissioners recently discussed during work sessions possible proposals for an employee health benefit and for a substation for Arbala Volunteer Fire Department, Civic Center usage fees, progress on construction projects, and rail transportation needs.
Beth Wisenbaker, the former commissioner who is serving as a consultant for FEMA grant projects for the county, reported that the county’s declaration of a disaster in some areas due to October’s flooding rain was recognized at the state level. The county has to wait now to see if Hopkins County’s damage will be recognized at the federal level to determine what kind of grant recovery funding for which the county would be eligible to apply.
Current estimates are at $350,000 worth of damages countywide, but could change, depending on more intense assessments.
Now, each commissioner will need to estimate and document damages to submit for potential grant funding for help with repairs. They’ll need to take photos of the sites and “GPS it.” Someone would then be sent to look at it, much like an insurance adjuster.
Wisenbaker said if Hopkins County’s disaster is recognized in a presidential disaster declaration, the county could apply for FEMA funding. If not, the county can still apply for Community Development Block Grant funding.
Wisenbaker asked the commissioners to each return the information requested to her in the next week, so the county can get those applications in. CDBG grants, she noted are awarded to qualifying applicants on a first-come, first-served basis, she said.
CIVIC CENTER FEES
Hopkins County Regional Civic Center General Manager Adam Teer talked to the commissioners’ court about the possibility of raising fees in 2019. He noted there has been no rate increase since 2014. This would allow the fee to keep pace with increasing costs of upkeep, while allowing for a little more revenue overall. Groups that receive certain discounts would still be discounted that amount or percent.
The presentation is expected for court consideration and vote at a future session; the next one scheduled is Nov. 13, to allow the county to observe Veterans Day on Nov. 12.
Projects are progressing as much as possible given the recent rains. The Civic Center roof repairs should be completed this week, provided there are enough dry days to work on it, construction supervisor Tom Glossup said.
Black plastic is covering the back half of the slab at the new county annex building being constructed by the jail, to keep it from filling with rain water before it can be inspected and moving forward with that part of the project.
The 8th Judicial District Court is trying out the sound system planned for the new courts building. The decision was made to set it up in the district courtroom of Hopkins County Courthouse for use during a trial being held this week. The system in the district courtroom hasn’t been updated since 2003, and it’s had limitations and issues over that time, Hopkins County Judge Newsom said.
The new system is works wirelessly. The county court-at-law judge gave feedback on it after hearing it from her offices.
To put the new sound system in the new court building will cost $6,000. The county will have to purchase hearing aides to go with the system, to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, which is estimated to cost $1,500-$2,000.
Glossup said painting in the courts building should begin soon. He also plans to confer with Hopkins County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tanner Crump and Sheriff Lewis Tatum regarding locks for certain doors in the building. They noted certain doors should have key locks, instead of magnetic badge scanners with certain doors still having the capacity to be opened from the inside as “crash doors” in the event a quick exit is needed.
He said he had also received information regarding cost for Kevlar or similar material to be strategically placed in the courtroom, much like the interior wall going into the sheriff’s office lobby.
Damage to a wall in the justice of the peace offices is being evaluated to determine how and when best to make the repairs.
Garage doors at the county fire station identified as needing improvements are still on the list to be repaired.
ARBALA VFD SUBSTATION
Arbala VFD Chief Brian Fairchild in a previous meeting talked to commissioners regarding the department’s desire to expand their service area into Reilly Springs in order to better cover areas of the county not within a fire department’s close response district.
Fairchild presented a written proposal at the Oct. 29 commissioners’ work session, asking the court to allow Arbala VFD’s district to be expanded past FM 2560, to put a substation in the Reilly Springs area to provide better fire and emergency response for the citizens in that area.
Fairchild pointed out that AVFD already has members who respond when calls are dispatched in that area, but they have to drive to AVFD’s station to collect the proper apparatus and drive it to Reilly Springs. Having a substation in that area would cut down on response times, which in critical situations could save lives and property. It also should help lower ISO ratings in those areas, which would translate to insurance savings for those residents within a certain distance from the substation.
When asked by Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker, Fairchild assured the court having AVFD members respond out of the substation, closer to their homes, would not split up the station.
Newsom asked about the age of the new members, noting recent efforts toward recruiting a new generation to serve as volunteer firefighters. He said the department currently has 27 members, some who are still being trained, but that those responding would already be in that area.
Hopkins County Fire Chief Andy Endsley during Monday’s commissioners’ works session told the court Fairchild told him Arbala VFD planned to purchase a used engine from another department. He reported he’d also learned that for ISO ratings consideration to lower numbers, a department with a station and substation is only required to have an engine at one of the two stations.
The county would pay more in insurance and fuel costs, if the new substation and truck were put into service, it was noted at one of the meetings.
The new AVFD substation would likely be located near the Reilly Springs Community Center, Endsley said,
County Auditor Shannah Walker and Court Administrator Kelly Kaslon at the Nov. 5 work session offered a program that would provide additional health services on site, on one day, for county employees, provided at least 25 county employees participate in the program.
Endsley said the employees of the fire department and sheriff’s office, who will be encouraged to participate, should account for that 25 participant requirement alone.
Certain health screenings and services and other local health entities, such as the hospital or pharmacies that offer flu shots, could set up a booth on that day.
Greg Anglin, Precinct 2 commissioner, said that in his experience, those types of opportunities were very advantageous. Anglin, who has served as a trustee at Como-Pickton CISD, said the school district has offered this type of thing for employees. He knows of at least one instance in which a serious previously undetected health issue for was discovered for a participant.
She said if the court were to approve the program in a future court session, they could schedule it in the next couple of months, potentially January.
Wayne Defebaugh with Blacklands Railroad on Oct. 29, talked to commissioners during a work session about Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District, his role working for NETEX and identified areas of concern and ideas explored or posed for possible improvements for the short line railroad. Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley, one of two Hopkins County Representatives on the NETEX Board of Directors, shared some of the things he knew about those matters.
On Monday, Nov. 5, NETEX Board of Directors Vice President Nathan Bailey and NETEX Executive Director Phil Davila gave an update about NETEX in general, including explaining different entities’ roles in regard to NETX. The pair also discussed some options for potential improvements to the track, avenues that have been pursued and are being considered as well as some financial benefits and stumbling blocks to each.