Monday, Cooke County commissioners shot down an agenda item that would supposedly save the county money by consolidating precinct polling locations for November’s general election.
During their meeting, commissioners said the practice has occurred for primary elections in the past, but expressed concerns that consolidation only causes confusion and will possibly deter voters from casting their ballots.
“(Residents) have their traditional places that they’ve always voted, and they go there to vote and they’re told they can’t and then consequently, and I think it’s a percentage of them, that don’t vote at all,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Leon Klement.
“And I don’t like that,” he said. “I don’t think that’s right.”
Klement added that citizens have approached him in the past, expressing that consolidation can’t save the county enough money to justify the extra miles voters would have to drive.
While consolidating polling locations would be a minor issue for those who live close to precinct borders, those who live on opposite ends of the county could endure a 25-30 minute drive to vote.
“…Because of the confusion and because of the travel, I can’t be for it,” County Judge John Roane said.
Commissioners took no action on the item, subsequently tabling another item that would approve the appointment of election judges to the next Commissioners’ Court meeting.
Cooke County Sheriff Mike Compton approached commissioners to set the rates of quarantining and treating animals suspected of having rabies.
Under state health code regulations, animals are quarantined at Refinery Road Animal clinic where it costs $200 to quarantine an animal suspected of having rabies for 10 days, in addition to $17 for a rabies booster shot.
If the dog is confirmed to have rabies it is then euthanized and cremated at the cost of $32 and its head is shipped to Austin for further analysis at the cost of $87.50.
Commissioners agreed that the county will reimburse Refinery Road Veterinary Clinic for its services out of the sheriff’s existing budget if the owner does not pay.
“We only pay these charges when the people who bring in the animal cannot pay...,” Compton said, adding that sometimes the county must also pay if the owner abandons the animal or if its stray.
“They’re the ones that got bit, so we try to avoid the costs at all times,” he said.
After the passing the rates, Compton briefed commissioners on the status of Wichita County prisoners being housed in Cooke County’s prison.
Compton told commissioners that as of Monday, 65 Wichita prisoners have been transported to the county while Wichita recoils from a prison break and makes repairs to its roof.
Compton said 24 more inmates than expected were transported to Cooke County.
“They’ll be coming and going on a regular basis,” Compton said. “As to why they decided to send us the additional 24, the only thing I said was ‘thank you.’”
Cooke County receives $37.50 per prisoner, per day for each Wichita inmate it houses.
Travelers of Reason Jones Road in Precinct 2 might be surprised to learn that the road will be shortened about 1/10 of a mile after three signs announcing the proposal were removed.
Commissioner Steve Key said a property owner concerned with illegal dumping addressed the issue.
“The big issue was he owns the property on both sides of the road and people were coming down there and dumping trash,” Key said.
Key said appliances like TVs and refrigerators are some of the items littering the area.
After determining that the area of the road to be closed was not an access point for the Corps of Engineers, notices were posted to alert travelers of the proposal to shorten the road. Key said the signs had been stolen twice, and when he returned to pick up another sign Sunday, it too had been removed.
However, notices were also sent to property owners who lived within 200 feet of the affected area. Key said the notices requested those in opposition show up to Monday’s meeting, but no one did.
Despite readings from an interactive map displaying drought conditions in Cooke County, Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Fletcher told commissioners instituting a county-wide burn ban is not necessary due to a dysfunctional radar.
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) map displays color-coded assessments of drought conditions across the state and is calculated with data from a local radar.
Fletcher said during the weekend of Aug. 6, the radar was down, which caused ratings to appear about 100-150 points higher than they actually are.
“If the radar doesn’t collect the data, it doesn’t get sent to the KBDI computer to be incorporated into the mosaic map,” Fletcher said.
During the weekend the radar was down, Fletcher said areas in the county received as much as four inches of rain which were not taken into account on the map.
“In general, we’re actually in pretty good shape,” Fletcher said.
Commissioners also updated the public on the progression of courthouse construction.
“Things are starting to take off,” Klement said. “There’s quite a bit going on.”
Klement said the chiller has arrived and that the electrician continues to work on the building’s wiring.
An issue with excavated bathroom floors is proving to be a complicated task.
“The real problem exists in trying to put in any type of tile or floor coverings in that area,” Klement said.
He explained that when the bathrooms’ former tiled floor was jackhammered up, construction workers found that bathroom drains were significantly higher than the rest of the surface.
“The drain in the floor is the highest point in the room in nearly every one of them,” Klement said.
In other areas, interior walls were removed so that the building would comply with standards and similar issues appeared.
Klement said someone had explained to him that, “If you put a marble in the center of the floor it would roll to all four corners.”
So things aren’t too level, and everything has sagged over the years,” he said.
Klement said workers will find a solution to the problems when the building is x-rayed in preparation for the installation of new chiller pipes and waterlines.
Library Director Jennifer Johnson-Spence told commissioners that courthouse chairs otherwise slated for the trash have found a new home at Butterfield Stage, where they’ll installed for the theater’s next opening performance.
In other business:
• Commissioners approved the award of a proposal for EMS collections to Credit Systems International of Fort Worth in which the county will pay 30 percent of what the company collects. A proposal was also awarded to Intermedics for EMS billing.
• Commissioners voted to reduce the speed limit from 55 to 35 on County Road 302 after residents deemed speeds excessive for the more than 20 young children living along the road.
• Commissioners did not approve the minutes from their previous meeting since the wrong date was on the agenda.
• Commissioners approved a voting machine rental agreement between the county and Valley View Independent School District for a Sept. 2010 election.
• Justice of the Peace Dorthy Lewis requested commissioners install a road sign identifying her building.