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Jobs Available: No Experience Needed; Intrinsically Rewarding

By Lynda Jones
Editor-in-Chief

The Crockett Volunteer Fire Department is looking for a few good volunteers, Chief John Angerstein told the Crockett City Council during its regular meeting Monday, Nov. 10.
At the conclusion of his monthly report, Angerstein said the department lost two more volunteers in October, following the loss of two in September. The CVFD now has 16 active (paid/volunteer) members, according to Angerstein's report.

When asked by a councilmember if he had advertised for volunteers, Angerstein said some billboards just came down after being up for about a year with no response to them. The billboards were funded by a grant, he said.

To be a volunteer firefighter, an individual must be at least 18 years of age with no criminal history and have time he/she is willing to commit to the department, Angerstein said.

No experience is necessary. "We will train you," the chief said. "We have money for training."
He added that if someone has the time to give, the department can even provide the person with a full week at the Fire Academy.

Angerstein also said the department provides Workmen's Compensation Insurance separate from the city as well as life insurance.

Renovations to the upstairs living quarters at the Crockett firehouse are complete, he added. There are two firefighters who stay overnight, reducing response time when they are there, Angerstein said. The renovations were completed at no cost to the city, thanks to volunteer labor and donations of materials and furnishings.

In October, the department responded to four residential structure fires (11 so far in 2014) and nine vehicle accidents (55 so far this year) within the city. They also responded to five powerline emergencies and four fire/smoke investigations, in addition to seven EMS First Responder calls.

In other business, the council considered authorizing Interim City Administrator Mitzi Thompson to purchase a truck through BuyBoard for use by the new administrator.

The BuyBoard cost for a 2104 Ford truck with super cab upgrade is $20,058.05, according to the information provided during the meeting. The cost includes a $400 administrative fee to BuyBoard. The truck would come from a dealership in Silsbee.

Precinct 1 Councilmember Chris Gunnels asked if any local bids had been sought, and Precinct 2 Councilmember Ray Bruner said he did not feel comfortable purchasing a vehicle without at least another bid, and noted there is a nearby Chevrolet dealership in Houston County.

Meadows said it would take up to 90 days to go through a bid process and described BuyBoard as a government entity where cities can make purchases at approximately "cost".

When the issue came to a vote, Gunnels and Precinct 5 Councilmember Mike Marsh voted in favor of the purchase while Bruner and Precinct 3 Councilmember Larry Robbins voted against it. Precinct 4 Councilmember Muriel Williams was absent. Meadows broke the tie with a "yes" vote and the measure passed 3-2.

(According to the Texas Municipal League website, BuyBoard is a purchasing cooperative used by municipalities, counties and school districts in Texas.)

The council also voted to approve an employment contract for the new city administrator, Sean Hutchison of Wisconsin.

Without any discussion, the council unanimously voted in favor of the contract.
After the meeting, Meadows said the new administrator will fulfill the roles of both administrator and public works director.

When asked about the position of treasurer, Meadows said that has not been discussed. The previous city administrator functioned as both administrator and treasurer, a combination provided for by the city's Home Rule Charter.

No mention of salary was made during the meeting, but the Courier obtained unofficial information that indicates the gross annual salary for the new administrator will be $111,000.
Hutchison is expected to start in Crockett sometime in December or January.

Ramsey Takes Seat On HCHD Board; Christopher Voted VP

Newly elected HCHD Board Vice President Larry Christopher (left) and newly appointed HCHD Director Dr. Perry Ramsey, MD (right) are shown as Dick Murchison (not pictured), investment officer, presents the September  financial report. (Photo by Lynda Jones)Newly elected HCHD Board Vice President Larry Christopher (left) and newly appointed HCHD Director Dr. Perry Ramsey, MD (right) are shown as Dick Murchison (not pictured), investment officer, presents the September financial report. (Photo by Lynda Jones)

by Lynda Jones, Editor-in-Chief

The first order of business at the Tuesday, Oct. 28 meeting of the Houston County Hospital District Board of Directors, Deborah Blackwell administered the oath of office to Dr. Perry Ramsey, MD.

The board appointed Ramsey during its Sept. 16 meeting to fill the position previously held by the late Dr. George Beeler, DVM.

Next on the agenda was the election of officers. Larry Christopher was elected vice president, a position previously held by Beeler.

After approving the minutes of the last meeting the board received the September 2014 financial reports from Dick Murchison, investment officer.

The Profit and Loss Year To Date Comparison shows the district spent $9,463.35 in legal and professional fees.

From October 2013 through September 2014, the district spent $251,852.47 on legal and professional fees. According to the report presented Tuesday, the district budgeted $250,000 for legal and professional fees (October 2013 - September 2014).

The HCHD balance sheet, as of Sept. 30, shows a fund balance of $3,494,121.30. The amount of fund balance invested in capital assets is $4,979,835.40.

After reviewing the financial reports, the board went into executive session to confer with its attorney regarding the litigation between the HCHD and ETMC. No action was taken following the executive session.

Commissioners Spar Over CERTZ Funds

By Kelly McChesney, Reporter

"I'm not going to give up anything (from Precinct 3)," asserted Pct. 3 Commissioner Pat Perry during a Houston County Commissioners Court discussion of potential action amending the Prioritized Project list for the County Transportation Infrastructure Fund Grant Program (CERTZ) Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen requested $177,000 from the CERTZ fund to repair almost a mile of CR 3230.

"This estimate is probably high," Kitchen said.

". . . If you won't give me the $177,000, then make me a counter offer."

Designating $177,000 for the repair of CR 3230 in Pct. 2 would reduce the scale of repair on CR 3375 (in Pct.3) from 4-1/2 miles to 2-1/2 miles, according to County Judge Erin Ford.
"CR 3230 is greatly travelled by oilfield traffic and has been for years," Kitchen said. "There is a need there."

He explained that repairs would include adding some culverts, doing some type of subgrade stabilization and adding 6" of road base.

The amount of the CERTZ grant was $788,000.

"There is $546,000 left," according to Ford.

"This money was appropriated for the whole county," explained Kitchen. "The only stipulation was the money was to be used on roads traveled by or heavily damaged by oil field traffic."
Kitchen continued, "The initial prioritized list gave the misconception that all the repair would be to roads in Precinct 3."

Several solutions to the dilemma were proposed during the discussion.

County Auditor Melissa Mosley reminded Perry he said previously that 12 inches if rock was too much.

"If you (Perry) were to reduce your coverage you could go further," Ford suggested.
Perry said there are 120 wells in Precinct 3. "I have lots of traffic," he said. "I'm not going to give up any rock at all."

"The damage is not isolated to one precinct," Kitchen said. "I'm looking at this not only from the number of wells. This is not just a 'road to nowhere'."

Perry said, "You're asking me to give up 2-1/2 miles of road. I'm not going to do it. You are going to have to take it if you want it from me."
Mosley commented on the dispute.

"This is common. CERTZ and TxDOT did not realize what dissension would be caused by this. They are regretting it. Theyshould have been more specific," she said.

Kitchen said, "I am trying to help some people who are poor to get to their houses."

He moved to amend the Prioritized Project List for the CERTZ program to include CR 3230. The motioned died for lack of a second.

In other road-related business, commissioners voted to accept a donation of $6,000 from Cedar Branch Baptist Church for improvements on CR 2210.

The commissioners also voted to form a Houston County Economic Development Council.

"This isn't a new idea," said Ford. He explained there are several businesses who have moved into the unincorporated parts of the county.

"The EDC would help support smaller communities within Houston County," Ford explained.
The Commissioners voted to move their next scheduled meeting to Monday, Nov. 10 because the previous scheduled date, Nov. 11, is a holiday (Veterans Day).

In other business Commissioners voted to:
• Advertise and accept bids for the courthouse roof replacement.
• Approve a pay raise for Kody Woolley who is being promoted to Jail Sergeant.
• Accept sealed bids for properties previously "struck off" of the county tax roll.

‘Late’ Entry To Public Council Meeting Not Allowed By Crockett Receptionist

By Lynda Jones, Editor-in-Chief

A receptionist for the City of Crockett admitted to preventing the wife of a city department head entering council chambers for the Monday, Oct. 6, council meeting.

Lael Lewis described the incident as "a simple mistake".

Jacque Fleming, wife of Ray Fleming, director of the Crockett Solid Waste and Recycling Department, texted friends inside the council chambers at 4:58 p.m. that Lewis told her she could not enter because the meeting had started.

The public meeting was scheduled for 5 p.m. Normally, the council meets at 6 p.m. The time was different on this occasion due to a workshop presentation by a guest speaker that preceded the regular meeting.

Ray Fleming was in Houston for a 2-day Continuing Education course required for maintenance of his solid waste license.

Jacque Fleming said her intent was to sit in the back so she could hear discussion and a vote impacting the future of the solid waste department, which was on the posted agenda.

Jacque Fleming declined Lewis' offer to enter and ask Interim City Administrator Mitzi Thompson if Fleming could be allowed entrance.

Mayor Robert Meadows apologized for the incident, saying Lewis "had never been put in that position before."

Meadows said that when Police Chief David "Buddy" Cross was hired, Cross expressed concern about the safety of councilmembers when they held meetings with the chamber doors open.

When the doors remain open, Meadows explained, there is a straight line for someone to shoot at the council members from the street.

Since Cross' hiring, the doors are closed as the council begins to open the meetings. Usually there is at least one officer in the lobby for security purposes.

Lewis was the only city employee in the lobby area outside the council chambers.

CPD Lt. Clayton Smith was posted inside the doors when Jacque Fleming wanted to enter. He reportedly was not consulted during the incident.

Jacque Fleming said the mayor has called and apologized to her for the incident, but she still intends to file a written complaint with the city.

Crockett Council Says Go Forward With Trash Talks

By Lynda Jones, Editor-in-Chief

The Crockett City Council publicly began discussing the option of contracting with Progressive Waste Solutions of Palestine for solid waste collection in the City of Crockett during a budget workshop in August.

During its regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 5, after hearing from two citizens who urged the council to wait until it hires a city administrator to make a decision on the issue, and from Mayor Robert Meadows, who attempted to relieve employee fears of job loss, the council voted 3 - 0 to allow Meadows to "enter into negotiations for a contract to provide collection of solid waste by a private entity within the City of Crockett."

Precinct 1 Councilmember Chris Gunnels moved to allow the negotiations and Precinct 5 Councilmember Mike Marsh seconded the motion. Gunnels, Marsh and Precinct 2 Councilmember Ray Bruner voted in favor of allowing the negotiations. Precinct 3 Councilmember Larry Robbins and Precinct 4 Councilmember Muriel Williams were absent.

In other business, Meadows announced four applicants for the city administrator position will come to Crockett on Wednesday, Oct. 15.

During the day, Meadows and three councilmembers will show the applicants around town. At 6 p.m., there will be a called council meeting so the council can speak with the candidates in an executive session.

Residents, Oil Officials, Commissioners Talk Roads Address Commissioners Court

By Kelly McChesney, Reporter

During the Tuesday, Sept. 23 Houston County Commissioners Court meeting, commissioners, Houston County residents and two EOG Resources, Inc. representatives discussed work being done at Porter Springs in preparation for the well located on the old Potter farm.

Houston County Judge Erin Ford abstained from leading the discussion because he is a landowner on that road. He said participating in the discussion would be a conflict of interest.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen led the discussion. He cautioned Houston County residents addressing the court, "Let's maintain order. Let's be respectful. You represent Houston County. These people are guests."

"We are here to discuss one item and one issue," Kitchen said.

"Houston County is in dire need of economic development," said Kitchen.

"These people from EOG; from any of these oil companies, are coming into Houston County and they are spending money. These wells are taxed. They're helping to keep your taxes down by increasing our tax base," Kitchen explained.

"EOG has been a very good neighbor," Kitchen said. "Since July 2014, EOG has spent in the neighborhood of $13,000 on county roads in Precincts 2 and 3."

"Before you start your comments, I'd like you to keep these things in mind," he said. "They're bringing money into this county."

Kitchen said, "They are going to do exactly what they say they are going to do.

Resident Perry Corder said there is damage being done to the road. He said there is a crushed culvert and other drainage problems.

"Apparently, EOG pushed a load of rock into a bar ditch to allow their trucks to turn," he said. When it rains, the rock is going to block the drainage and force water across the road. He also said asphalt been damaged.

"They did roll the asphalt down, but the seal has been broken," he said. He is concerned about the dirt portion of the road.

"A half ton truck will put a 14 or 16 inch rut in the road," Corder continued. He wondered what kind of ruts the large EOG trucks will cause when there is a lot of rain.

The Houston County Sheriff's Office was called last week after there were complaints about several EOG trucks blocking the road in front of the Porter Springs Baptist Church. The road is not wide enough for two big trucks to pass.

Resident Steve Fiveash said one concern is speed.

"We've got some elderly people down there. Slow down, or we're going to be dealing with some wrecks," he said. The speed limit on CR 3070 is 35 mph.

Fiveash praised Kitchen for the work his crews have done on the road. "That oil top road makes my property more valuable," Fiveash said. He said he is confident EOG will repair any damage done to the road.

EOG has signed an agreement to repair any damage caused by their traffic on CR 3070.
"I will take all of these concerns back to our office," an EOG Resources, Inc. representative said. "EOG wants to be a good neighbor."