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Don Hunter (left) gives a quick thumbs up after the Commissioners take a look at the most recent photo roster of county officials Monday morning during the Commissioners meeting. The photo roster is expected to be hung in the courthouse first floor hallway. Also pictured (left to right) is County Treasurer and Don’s wife Judy Hunter, County Clerk Rebecca Lawson and Precinct 4 Commissioner Virgil Hess.

Addressing unforeseen disasters marked the discussion of Monday’s Commissioners Court meeting.

The Cooke County Commissioners Court met 10 a.m. Monday in the Commissioners Courtroom of the county courthouse.

In presentations, engineers Brenda Gasperich, practice group leader for Turner Collie and Braden (TCB) engineering, and project director Greg Hooten, spoke to the Commissioners about the use of university interns to help a community address its likelihood of being flooded.

Heavy rains on June 18 in Gainesville, Lindsay and other communities in Cooke County resulted in damage to about 600 structures and resulted in the death of three Gainesville residents along swollen Pecan Creek.

Kathy Seei, a hired consultant for the independent Cooke County Planning Group and a part-time employee with TCB engineering, arranged for the internships.

Gasperich explained the working relationship between Southern Methodist University interns and the engineering firm. She said the interns would work in teams of five to assess flood damage.

One project would focus on Montague Creek in Lindsay, which flooded many homes June 18. The other project for Cooke County has yet to be determined.

She said though college students would be doing the assessment, they will be supervised by engineers and their professors and instructors.

She said time is critical in both securing funding for grants and preventing future disaster.

“Our recommendation is to take care of your disaster first,” Gasperich said. “This is not the time to change the way the county does things, yet.”

Hooten said this is a chance for the engineering firm to “give back” to the area.

Gasperich said the study would involve a hydrological analysis of how much water can flow through Montague Creek and the water surface elevation — and which houses are particularly in danger.

The engineering students would make recommendations of which properties should be purchased for flood mitigation efforts, and would submit information to help the city of Lindsay apply for a “home buyout grant.”

“We want to find a solution that reduces the impact (of a flood),” Hooten said.

The Commissioners did not take any formal action on the project.

In business, the Commissioners approved an application for the Fiscal Year 2007 Homeland Security Grant Program Project and an accompanying resolution.

Ray Fletcher, emergency management coordinator and county fire marshal, said the amount of the grant increased from about $23,000 last year to $103,000.

“We won’t question it, but just say thank you,” Fletcher said.

He said the plans for the money include: Purchasing Ham radio equipment to communicate with Austin emergency offices; an airbag lifting system for removing trailers, fallen bridges and other heavy objects; an emergency dispatch repeater tower for the east side of the county; a public notification system (or “reverse 9-1-1”) to inform county residents via telephone of disasters or road closures; and a mobile command center truck.

“Can we purchase all that with $103,000?” asked Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Hollowell.

Fletcher said his department could with the grant money, but the details are still in the works.

In other business, the county accepted a donation from Sebco Books to the Cooke County Library.

Jennifer Johnson-Spence, county librarian, said the Flordia-based company heard of the June 18 flood, which damaged several books in the library located on Weaver Street in downtown Gainesville. The company made an estimated $10,100 donation in the form of classic fiction and non-fiction volumes.

The Commissioners then voted unanimously to accept a 2008 Lone Star Grant in the amount of $6,445 — which Johnson-Spence said was an increase of about $2,900 from last year.

In other business, the Commissioners unanimously approved the acceptance of an insurance settlement on damage from another unforeseen disaster — the April 28, 2006, hail storm.

The amount of the settlement $4,339.08, according to the county agenda, which Auditor Shelly Saunders explained was a hold-out from a previous dealing with the insurance company. She said all buildings are now fully insured, roofs and air conditioners are repaired, and insurance adjusters have approved of the repairs.

Another item of business concerned a much smaller unforeseen situation — a high electric bill in the Justice of the Peace court office in Valley View.

Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace John Roane — stating that even the best planned budgets can sometimes fail — requested about $600 from the county’s contingency fund to finish the rest of the year’s utility costs for his office.

He said an air conditioner malfunctioned over the summer, resulting in a couple of high bills in the neighborhood of $400, which wiped out the Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace utility budget for fiscal year 2007. Normally the monthly bill is around $200.

The Commissioners approved the expenditure unanimously.

In other business the Commissioners voted unanimously to:

• Award sealed bids for Precinct 2 surplus goods.

• Set the Commissioners meetings for 10 a.m. every second and fourth Monday, per legal requirement to reset the meeting times.

• Allow Freeman to select an interview committee for the employment of a Human Resources Director and to advertise the position.

• Approve engagement letters for outside audit.

• Renew the contract for the Cooke County Sheriff’s Office CAD System.

• Amend the county budget for the purchase of a new recording system for the Cooke County Sheriff’s Office.

• Transfer funds to pay for microfilm services for the District Clerk’s Office in the amount of $4,500 (future documents will be scanned into a computer system when the year is complete, eliminating the use of a microfilm machine for newer records).

• Enter a contract for the continuation of Precinct 1 Road and Bridge and IESI for waste removal services.

• Permit Woodbine Water Supply at their expense, to install a two-inch casing for a one-inch water line running north and south across County Road 146 about 1,000 feet west of the intersection of County Road 162 in Precinct 1.

• Accept a donation of $1,000 from RAYDA Properties to Precinct 1 Road and Bridge.

• Approve a contract with Master Files for research database services.

• Appoint election judges for the 2007 elections.

• Bury indigent county residents Gregory Keith King and Harless Stanley Hurt.

• Approve an employee honesty bond for the office of the District Clerk.

• Bond Jody W. Bridges as a deputy constable for Precinct 4.

In presentations, Don Hunter, a local photographer, unveiled a framed photo roster of all county officials. The composition featured a color photo of the Cooke County Courthouse in the background.

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