Cooke County Commissioners had a busy day taking care of business Monday following a public hearing on a proposed zoning change. Among the items on the agenda, the commissioners voted to approve the monthly bills and reports as read.

Next, the commissioners considered moving $10,000 from the Cooke County Justice Center prisoner housing fund to the center’s overtime fund.

Jail Administrator Dave Province said the money would help pay for overtime for jail personnel.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Hollowell questioned $51,000 in inmate health care bills for the year.

Province explained that the sizable bill could be attributed, in large part, to an inmate who came to the county jail with some extensive health problems. He said the inmate was ultimately released from the jail on a personal recognizance bond and is now in a nursing home.

The inmate, a Denton County man, was arrested in Cooke County on a Denton County warrant, and was not eligible for indigent care at North Texas Medical Center.

Province said his main concern is having adequate staffing at the justice center.

“What we’re asking for is sufficient staff to operate the jail. We just want adequate staff on duty,” Province said.

Hollowell said he is uncomfortable with the idea of moving money from one jail fund to another until the court gets some additional information on the jail’s medical fund.

“If we exhaust those (prisoner health care) funds, where will the health care money come from?” he asked.

Finally the court compromised, deciding to move $5,000 from the prisoner housing and health care funds and placing it in the overtime fund.

Judge Bill Freeman promised the court will revisit the issue of overtime funding again next month.

Next, Joe O’Dell and Jack Schoppa spoke to the court about their opposition to wind farms in and around Cooke County.

O’Dell owns several Cooke County businesses and said he realizes the court cannot prevent wind farms from coming to our area. He said he just hopes the court will not grant abatements or other incentives to companies such as Florida Power and Light that buy land and erect the huge wind generators.

“These generators will stretch from one end of the county to the other and on to Wichita Falls,” he said.

He said the companies should also be forced to put a bond in place for their removal prior to the generators being erected.

O’Dell said his main concern is with real estate values and with environmental safety.

Jack Schoppa said he grew up in Cooke County. “I’ve lived here my whole life,” he said.

Schoppa now lives in Saint Jo near a scenic area where the proposed wind generators would be installed.

He said the wind generators effect everything around them, including property values and wildlife.

He said talk of the proposed generators is already lowering properties values. “I know of five hard cases where property values are being effected right now,” he said.

Freeman said he has not been approached by any representative of Florida Power and Light about abatements or any other types of incentives.

Precinct Four Commissioner Virgil Hess added that the court has not been approached to build any new roads or widen any existing ones.

Freeman said he can assure the public that “no deals have been cut between this county and Florida Power and Light.”

Next, Cooke County Librarian Jennifer Johnson Spence reported that some new computers are scheduled to arrive later this week.

She also said the library recently received a $1,000 literacy grant from Wal Mart and that 336 children signed up for the summer reading program. Seventy students completed the program — double last year’s numbers. One hundred children also earned free tickets to the Ringling Bros. Circus, she reported.

The court then discussed what to do with a Cooke County Emergency Management vehicle which was damaged in the hailstorm of April 28, 2006.

The 1999 Ford Explorer was not deemed at total loss by the insurance company. Commissioners said they had three options for dealing with the SUV.

The Explorer could be sold as-is by sealed bid. It could be donated to a local volunteer fire department that has expressed interest in using the vehicle or it could be repaired and given to Cooke County EMS to use as a supply vehicle between EMS stations.

Cooke County Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Fletcher said he obtained a $5,000 estimate from for repairs to the SUV. He said the estimate includes repairs to the right rear door and right rear quarter panel and replacing vehicle glass. The $5,000 estimate did not include removing hail dents for the vehicle.

Freeman said if the Explorer could be useful to the county, the county should repair it and keep it.

The court decided to table the issue and get some additional estimates for repairing the Explorer.

The court also decided to place the insurance money from other county vehicles that were also damaged April 28 into the general operating fund since most of the vehicles are older models and should remain perfectly serviceable until it is time to replace them.

The court voted to raise the county employee retirement contribution from six percent to seven percent and to raise the amount the county contributes to its employees retirement plans by five percent.

The court also approved new rates for county employee medical, dental and basic life insurance plans.

The court then considered approving the resignation of Jim King from the Lake Ray Roberts’ Planning and Zoning Commission.

Judge Freeman said King was one of his appointments to the board and anyone who is interested in replacing King should send him a letter detailing his or her background and qualifications for the position or just call his office.

The court also considered a Health Services Agreement between Robert R. McLeroy M.D. doing business as Lake Kiowa Clinic.

Freeman said the jail has a contract for once weekly medical care.

Dave Province said the nurse or nurse practitioner’s duties at the facility include triage, patient care follow-ups, TB testing and inventory of medications.

“To have a nurse or a nurse practitioner (visit the jail) is money saved,” Freeman commented.

The court also voted for non-renewal of a $1,615 yearly contract with Dustin’s Office Supply for typewriter maintenance.

The commissioners looked at the preliminary budget for fiscal year 2006-2007.

Judge Freeman said this morning the court hopes to vote on the proposed budget and to set the proposed salaries for Cooke County public officials when the court reconvenes today.

Finally, no action has been taken on the proposed county tax rate because the court does not yet have the effective rate from the Cooke County Tax Appraisal District. Freeman said the court also plans to set a date for a hearing on the tax rate today.

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