County okays library fund distribution; addresses Rochelle water situation

Pinpointing an exact time when the county could issue the previously approved $10,000 to the expansion project for Richards Memorial Library as well as what fund the money would need to be withdrawn from was a hot topic Monday morning when the McCulloch County Commissioners met in open session. The commissioners, as well as the City Council, agreed to allocate $10,000 each to the project and through volunteer man hours and charitable contributions from the general public and private donations, the Library Association has raised close to $100,000 for the expansion project. Not knowing an exact time or year when the money would be needed, the commissioners did not add the line item in the current budget; however, the commissioners agreed that when the funds are needed, they will be deducted from the county’s permanent improvement fund. “We weren’t sure if it would take two or three years for private funds to be raised,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Jackie Behrens. McCulloch County Judge Randy Young questioned how the money would be issued since the county can’t give the money directly to the Library Association which is a non-profit organization but stated that the county and Library Association could work the details out as the project nears. In another item, the commissioners gave their stamp of approval for Verizon to proceed with its intent to replace lines in rural areas in McCulloch County that are currently being served by radiophone systems. Addressing the commissioners on behalf of Verizon, Joel Mulkey, designated project coordinator, explained what the project entails and ensured the commissioners that the “county will not be held liable for anything.” Planned to get underway the second week of March, new lines will be installed along five different county roads: CR 476, CR 418, CR 100, CR 104 and CR 106. Mandated by the Texas Public Utility Commission in 2000, all rural customers are now granted the same service and rates as people in the heavier populated urban areas. The conversion process required to move all Texas customers off of the radiophone system should be completed by Dec. 31. “Brady will not be a large project,” explained Mulkey. “We have about 30 customers in all of McCulloch County using the radiophone system.” With grant writer Kay Howard present for Monday’s meeting, the commissioners discussed the Rochelle water system’s application for the community development block grant and approved a resolution to enter into a contract with A&J Howco Services, Inc. of Lubbock. The application submitted by the Rochelle Water District was approved in 2000. Funding was awarded in two-year blocks, and the Rochelle Water District is now scheduled to receive their portion of the grant money. Because this is a federal grant, the Rochelle Water District can only apply for funding through the county. The request for grant funding is to help purchase additional pipeline in Rochelle. In other business, the commissioners authorized Judge Young to draft a resolution in support of more realistic water radionuclide standards for drinking water for consumers of the Hickory Aquifer water. Also, the installation of a new phone line was approved Monday morning for the law enforcement annex building, and the commissioners voted in favor of entering in an interlocal agreement with the City of Brady for the surfacing of specific county roads. The interlocal agreement will allow the county to obtain the surface material at $1.95 per square yard for a double pass (two coat) seal coat. Particular areas targeted include the POW Camp and Country Estates, both located in Precinct 4. “This will give us an opportunity to do the work at a very low cost to the county,” said Judge Randy Young. In a separate item, the commissioners approved a backup printer for the county treasurer’s office. Operating with only one printer (the primary printer responsible for printing paychecks) county treasurer Donna Robinett explained that the previously used backup printer has crashed and isn’t worth the money required to repair it. She estimates that a replacement will cost around $700. With the approval of a resolution, Judge Young reminded the commissioners that County Government Week will be observed April 7-13, and that even though the courthouse doesn’t actively celebrate the event, elected officials will still be available to represent the county in any forthcoming events. In the past and in support of County Government Week, Young and other elected officials have visited area schools explaining the importance of county government and how it affects the entire community. After circling the discussion item to place posts for 9-1-1 private road signs, the commissioners voted to table the item and bring it back to the agenda in the following meeting to allow for further consideration. A second item, the item to receive the 2000-2001 annual audit from Michael Schaffner, CPA, was also tabled until the next meeting due to Schaffner’s absence. At the recommendation of Judge Young, the commissioners voted to participate in State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander’s County Management System Pilot Program. The program will allow representatives from the Comptroller’s office to come in and assist the county with overall management skills (personnel, accounting, etc.) and suggest any productivity changes that can be implemented. “It sounds interesting to me,” said Young. “What they’ll do is come in and look at all our different offices and suggest if any changes can be made.” The program is free of charge to all counties approved, and at least three Texas counties will be accepted. The Comptroller’s office has the authority to accept no less than the minimum of three but can also choose to approve anywhere from 20 to 50 according to Young. After opening bids submitted to the county, the commissioners voted to accept the bid submitted by Yellow House Machinery Company in the amount of $63,500 ($103,000 purchase less a $39,500 trade-in) for a John Deere 544 H Series rubber tire loader. The loader will be paid for with Precinct 4 funds. The bids for Precinct 3 construction equipment were tabled until the next meeting for further consideration. In other business, the commissioners voted to appoint Jim Rooney, registered sanitarian, as local inspector for childcare facilities. A new title passed down by the Texas Department of Health and most recently the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, the county is now required to see that inspections are carried out by a local authority figure. Serving as the volunteer local health officer, Dr. Lonnie Vickers, has chosen not to assume the new inspector title. The commissioners discussed charging a fee for annual childcare inspections (ranging from $50 to $75), but no estimate has been pinpointed nor how the fee will be charged (either through the county or through Rooney). In closing, Young added that the tornado warning drill will be sounded Sunday, March 3 in recognition of the National Weather Service’s “Severe Weather Awareness Week,” March 3-9.

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