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Commissioners Approve Creation Of HR Committee

By Robert Neel, Reporter

Houston County Commissioners Court approved County Judge Erin Ford's nominees to the County Human Resource Committee at a regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 26.

The first priority of this committee will be to review pay scales, Ford announced.

According to information provided by Ford, other duties will include reviewing and making recommendations on:
• Job descriptions,
• Benefits including health insurance, retiree benefits, longevity, etc.,
• Supplemental policies and
• Personnel Manual.

Ford recommended the following individuals to serve on the committee: County Attorney Daphne Session, County Tax Assessor/Collector Danette Millican, County Auditor Melissa Mosley, Road and Bridge Employee Frank Womack and Houston County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Gary Shearer.

The court unanimously voted to approve all nominated individuals.

County Treasurer Dina Herrera and District Clerk Carolyn Rains also will serve on the committee. Jan Pigford, human resources representative, will be a non-voting member of the board.
The action came because, at the Aug. 12 commissioners court meeting, District Judge Pam Fletcher requested a salary increase and title change for the district court administrator. The new job title would be district court coordinator.

At that time, the commissioners requested a job description and for the county's Salary Review Board to determine the salary for the coordinator position.

The Aug. 12 discussion of the matter revealed the membership of the board had not changed since it was created in July 2001. Only two of the original members still are county employees.

In other business, County Auditor Melissa Mosley shared a five-year overview of road and bridge funds prepared for the Texas Association of Counties (TAC).

"TAC is preparing for the next legislative session," Mosley reported. She said she hopes TAC will be able to get additional funds for the county.

Her information showed that revenues for roads and bridges are down almost a million dollars from 2009 to 2013, due mostly to the loss of allocation of timber funds from the federal government.

Road and bridge expenses have been reduced but the commissioner's road and bridge precinct fund balance is down from $505,284 at the beginning of 2009, to $43,418 at the close of 2013, according to Mosley.

She said the county was spending what it had, hoping the federal timber funds would come and trying to avoid raising taxes last year, but the funds didn't come.

"Three cents of last year's 4.9 cent tax increase went to roads and bridges," Ford added.

Next on the agenda, Ford presented the Houston County Historical Commission (HCHC) with the Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Historical Commission (THC). The THC issues Distinguished Service Awards each year to county historical commissions that demonstrate concerted efforts to preserve the history and character of Texas. In a press release, THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe said, "We commend these hardworking individuals for their efforts to save Texas history and look forward to promoting their accomplishments throughout the year."
Paul Stringer and Tom Streetman accepted the award on behalf of the HCHC.

In related business, the commissioners court approved Elizabeth McCoy and Vaden Caldwell as new appointees to the HCHC.

Kudos also went to Terri Meadows, court coordinator manager for the County Court at Law. Meadows recently graduated from the Texas Court Management Program.

"Terri Meadows is an outstanding court coordinator manager who has been recognized for her expertise by the State of Texas. I am so pleased that she has dedicated herself to continue to advance her training and knowledge and to serve with professionalism in Houston County," County Court at Law Judge Sarah Clark said.

A consulting agreement with Sturgis Web Services for the tax office website was presented by County Tax Assessor/Collector Danette Millican.

"Sturgis Web Services offers a much better website than our current consultant, Pritchard & Abbott, for the same amount of money," Millican told the court. The agreement was approved.
Also approved was the collection of a $60 permit fee for licensed beer and wine retailers. There are currently 31 active permits in the county, according to Millican, which must be renewed every two years.

Millican also presented the following high bids on four properties that have been "struck off" the tax rolls:
• $4,200 for 12.45 acres off of FM 2180 near Lovelady,
• $601 for 2.00 acres off of CR 4195 near Lovelady,
• $400 for 0.47 acres between Oak and Hackett streets in Crockett and
• $200 for 0.12 acres between Oak and Hackett streets in Crockett.

These properties have judgments against them for unpaid taxes and are currently not generating taxes, Millican reported. All four bids were approved unanimously.

Additional comments were held on safety issues at the Lock and Dam, which had been tabled at the last commissioners court meeting.

Game Warden Zak Benge again asked the court to consider restricting access to the middle wall, west wall and chute area of the Lock and Dam.

"We are all for safety," stated Leon County Judge Byron Ryder, "But there is a strong sentiment from the Leon County Commissioners Court to not eliminate access to the Lock and Dam."

"We are working with Texas Park and Wildlife Attorneys to determine who actually owns the structure," added County Attorney Daphne Session. The issue was tabled again.

Other actions taken were:
• Approved the acceptance of a grant from the Office of the Attorney General for the Victim Assistance Coordinator position within the County Attorney's office and
• Approved an application with the Texas Department of Agriculture for the "Texans Feeding Texans" Home Delivered Meal Program Grant.

Immediately prior to the regular meeting, a public hearing was held on the proposed 2014 ad valorem tax rate of 46.5 cents proposed at the Aug. 12 commissioners court meeting. This rate remains unchanged from last year according to Ford. No public comments were made.