Upshur County Commissioners Court has accepted a Shreveport, La., firm’s bid to contract for one year for food for county jail prisoners.
At its Feb. 15 meeting, the court chose Reinhart Food Service, which submitted the lowest of four bids, to take over from the current vendor Feb. 1.
In other business, the court heard Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka report on his visit to the county’s “school land” in two West Texas counties, Baylor and Throckmorton.
Berka, who said he went at his own expense in December, before taking office, said the current lessee on the property, Calthon Cattle Co. of Throckmorton, “is doing a fantastic job” of improving the acreage and going “gangbusters.”
“We ought to be proud to have him,” the commissioner said, noting he had talked to the lessee. Storage tanks have been built, and preparations are being made to spray cactus, Berka said.
The commissioner said that although certain revenue from the land goes to benefit the nine school districts lying fully or partly in Upshur County, the county had to pay $1,800 for surveying the property. He said that if there are expenses involving the 17,000 acres, they “ought to be on the schools, not on us.”
He also suggested the county’s school superintendents consider how to possibly reduce taxes if they receive revenue “in abundance” from the lands.
The court annually divides “county available” funds—raised from the property—among the nine school districts, with each district’s share based on its number of students living in the county.
County Treasurer Myra Harris explained to the court that money raised from above-ground activity is considered “available” funding, while revenue from below-ground activity goes instead into a Permanent School Fund.
In other business, the court approved Berka’s proposal to establish a waiting period of three days or less for new County Road Administrator Andy Jordan to enter into any future special road-use agreement.
Berka said he called a logger to ask when he would start logging, and the logger replied he already had.
Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner said that in the past, by the time the court approved a permit for using a county road and sent it to the Road and Bridge Dept., the permitted work was done and the county couldn’t collect for any damages done to a road.
Jordan told commissioners he agreed with Berka’s proposal for the waiting period. Berka said he had talked to Jordan about inspecting a road before someone started work.
County Judge Dean Fowler told Hefner, “You said a lot of counties are collecting a lot of money” for road damage, and Fowler suggested the commissioner consult other counties’ commissioners to see how Upshur County could.
Jordan said several persons don’t obtain the required permits. Berka said citizens could contact the Road and Bridge Department to see if someone had one.
The court also Friday discussed, but took no action, on expanding the county library’s hours.
Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry said she’d received numerous calls from citizens who couldn’t get in to the library, which is closed Saturdays. She said she wanted to see if it could be open part of that day.
County Librarian Mark Warren replied, “We’ve not heard any complaints, but if you are, that’s what matters.”
However, he said he’d rather change the library’s Tuesday hours (now 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) to 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
But Fowler said “nobody’s ever complained to me” about library hours, and that since the library is now open 45 hours weekly (9 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays), “I don’t currently see a problem.”
He also said that at least two library staff members have other jobs.
Library employee Jo Sturm opposed opening Saturdays, saying those who came in when the library was open that day waited until nearly closing time, and were either adults viewing pornography on computers, or children playing computer games.
“One of them that complains (about library hours), it’s because her husband comes there and sleeps and reads the paper,” Ms. Sturm added.
She also expressed opposition to opening later at night, saying the building was not “secure,” and that only one person would be there, but added that if she received prior notice, she could stay past normal hours for someone.
Responded Mrs. Gentry, “There’s got to be some kind of way of working it (expanding hours) out.” She said she’d inform Fowler when she wanted the matter back on the court’s agenda.
Fowler said that Mrs. Gentry and Berka, who both took office only Jan. 1, “are doing a wonderful job.”
Also at the Feb. 15 meeting, the court took no action on the possible discontinuance of its membership in the National Association of Counties.
Berka said he had initially thought Upshur County should withdraw from the group, but that it has provided $89,000 in prescription drug discounts for the county’s citizens since 2008, while the county’s dues are less than $800 annually.
“I think we ought to continue it (membership) and take another look at it” later, Berka said.
• Accepted Jordan’s recommendations on accepting bids on numerous items for the Road and Bridge Department.
• Approved using Verizon for cell phone service for that department, and for the Building Maintance Dept. The departments currently use Etex Telephone, which is discontinuing its cellular phone business.
In addition, the county terminated its radio and repeater costs of $420 monthly for the Road and Bridge Dept. after Jordan said he saw no need for that, and that he could obtain a good CB radio for $100.
• Approved recording interlocal agreements with the City of Ore City and five school districts, New Diana, Big Sandy, Harmony, Union Grove and Union Hill.
• Approved the Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce’s request to hold its annual Easter Egg Hunt on the courthouse lawn March 30.
• Approved letting Etex Telephone install Internet service in the Adult Probation Offices at no cost to the county, and letting a private contractor reroute network cables and set up additional network hardware.
County Treasurer Myra Harris said state funds would be used for the work.