The Cooke County Commissioners Court met Tuesday in lieu of Monday, due to the observance of Veterans Day.

Prior to business, Tom Schalk of the auditing firm Schalk and Smith gave the county a “clean and unqualified opinion” in its recent audit.

Schalk said the audit comes later in the year due to “a series of circumstances” — not the least of which was a flood on June 18 which landed the auditing company’s office under five feet of water, causing them to relocated for two-and-a-half months.

Schalk said the county was in good shape with assets up, liabilities down and with $2 million in revenue. He said this is over the budgeted amount for revenue.

“That’s a pretty conservative form of government, and I’m pretty conservative myself,” Schalk said. “And you should be commended.”

In business, the Commissioners tabled awarding a bid for the paving of the Cooke County Justice Center Road. One bid was received, from BJ Company Contractors of Gainesville in the amount of $362,927.

County Judge Bill Freeman said he and Commissioners would like time to study the bid proposal and make sure all the details are covered.

In other business, the Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a records management plan for the Cooke County Clerk’s Office which would make paper records electronic.

Rebecca Lawson, county clerk, said her office is planning to begin scanning documents such as marriage licenses and birth certificates into electronic formats. She said a paper book will still be kept in the office, but the electronic format will allow clerk’s office employees and visitors to search for records via a computer terminal in the office.

“We’re not talking about online — we’re not ready for that, yet,” Lawson said.

She said the changes would streamline work in the office, and she hopes to have it up by Feb. 1.

In related business, the Commissioners unanimously approved a contract with ACS Government Records for updating the cashiering system in the County Clerk’s Office.

In other business, the Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of a new belly dump trailer for Precinct 2 in the amount of $28,500. One bid was received, from Bruckner’s Transportation of Fort Worth.

In other business, the Commissioners unanimously approved designating a 1999 Ford F150 and a 2001 F150 ambulances as surplus to use them as trade-ins on the purchase of a new ambulance. The trade-in value is about $11,000.

In ambulance-releated business, the Commissioners approved a donation for $100 from out-of-county residents Virgil and Jan Miller to the Cooke County EMS. Bob Harbin, EMS director, said the couple was grateful for emergency ambulance service, and since they are not taxpayers they wanted to make a donation.

In other business, the Commissioners unanimously approved the fiscal year 2008 Indigent Defense Grant application and a related resolution.

County Auditor Shelly Saunders the grant is for about $26,000 though the county spends about $350,000 on defending those who cannot pay for legal representation.

She said the grant comes no where near paying for the county’s indigent defense, “but every little bit helps.”

The Cooke County Library benefited from six other items of business. The Commissioners unanimously approved: a donation from the Cooke County Master Gardeners for $150 to help landscape; a $500 donation from the Gainesville High School Class of 1967 for books; a $400 donation from the Friends of the Cooke County Library to the Cooke County Library; a grant application to the Texas Commission on the Arts to secure Jerry Young for a Dec. 11 special holiday story time for children; a grant application for the Cooke County Library to the Staples Foundation for Learning to receive the Live Homework Help service for 2008 and possibly 2009 requesting $5,000-$13,000; and out-of-state travel permission for Jennifer Johnson–Spence, director of the Cooke County Library, to attend the Public Libraries Association Conference in Minneapolis on March 25-29, 2008.

In other business, the Commissioners voted unanimously to:

• Seek legal counsel to assist the Commissioners in establishing tax abatement guidelines.

• Allow the Cooke County Sheriff to seek legal counsel to defend itself in a civil law suit.

• Revise the Flood Damage Prevention Court Order for Cooke County from an ordinance to an order (a technical change).

• Approve routine Denton County Pre- and Post-Facility Contracts for Juvenile Services.

• Approve the Cooke County Sheriff’s fiscal year 2007-2008 asset forfeiture budget.

• Approve of the conversion of the performance escrow account to a maintenance escrow for the St-Onge housing subdivision for a period of 12 months, to allow for road construction.

• Accept a series of sealed bid proposals for the inmate telephone system at the Cooke County Justice Center (no bid was awarded, and four proposals were received).

• Bond two Juvenile Probation Office and two Sheriff’s Office employees.

• Enter annual fire prevention contract with the Era Volunteer Fire Department.

• A list of consent agenda items, including a maintenance agreement for a District Clerk’s office photocopier, the indigent burial of Ray Taylor, permitting Mountain Springs Water Supply to install a 10-inch casing for a six-inch fresh water line, located at the intersection of Morrow Road and Union Grove Road in Precinct 2, and another at 701 Bloomfield Road.

In other business, the Commissioners opened and closed a public hearing regarding a zoning change from Agricultural to Light Industrial and an application for a Specific Use Permit for 110.6 acres of land for Pumpco Energy Services, to be located off of Interstate 35 in Precinct 2.

The Commissioners approved the zoning change and specific use permit 4-1 with Precinct 2 Commissioner Steve Key in opposition. See Wednesday’s Register for comments from those for and against.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net

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