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.
"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.
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.
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.
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."
The Houston County Hospital District Board of Directors unanimously voted to appoint Dr. Perry Ramsey, MD, to Position 2 on the board. The action came during the regular meeting of the HCHD Tuesday, Sept. 16 in the ETMC Cafeteria. Position 2 previously was held for many years by Dr. George Beeler, DVM, who passed away recently. Ramsey was not present at the meeting, but Board President Dr. John Stovall, DDS, said afterwards that Ramsey has agreed to accept the position and will take the oath of office at the next board meeting. Ramsey currently is a physician at the Veterans Administration Clinic in Palestine, a position he has held for about one year. He previously worked at the ETMC First Physicians Clinic in Crockett, and before that, he had his own private practice and medical clinic in Crockett. He and his wife, Theresa, are active in the Crockett and Houston County communities. Also during the Tuesday meeting, the HCHD board unanimously voted to approve its 2014-2015 budget, which includes $250,000 for legal and professional expenses. It also includes adjustments for the loss of income from ETMC that is anticipated after June 30, 2015 when the ETMC-HCHD lease agreement ends, dependent upon current litigation results. ETMC filed suit against the HCHD about 10 months ago. Following the regular meeting, the HCHD board adjourned to convene an executive session to discuss that litigation with its attorney.