Commissioners Courtroom Approves Equipment Funding, Grant Funding, ATCOG Settlement – KSST

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The Hopkins County Commissioners Court approved equipment funding, funding, and an agreement from the Ark-Texas Council of Governments called the County Clean Up Days for two days, and overturned an agreement with the hospital during their regular session on Monday On March 22, 2021, the court spoke about the planned Dike solar project during the public forum.

Grant funding

Andy Endsley, Hopkins County's Fire Marshal / Emergency Management Coordinator, reported that the county has received approval to purchase two mobile generators under the DR-4416 Hazard Reduction Grant Program. One generator is a mobile diesel generator with 220 kW and the other is a generator with 100 kW.

Andy Endsley, Hopkins County Fire Marshal / Emergency Management Coordinator

Endsley noted that GrantWorks wrote the grant for the Hopkins County Critical Facilities Generator Program. As part of the grant, the district agreed to provide plug-and-play stations for the generators. A budget change will be requested at a later date to cover part of the county’s costs.

“This includes all voluntary fire brigades in our district. All volunteer stations, that's 14 stations; Some departments have substations. Then we have Como water and sewage systems, and Brinker and Martin Springs were two other water cooperatives that didn't have standby generators. Standby generators only proved their gold weight a few weeks ago during the winter storm we had, ”explained Endsley.

“For the record, do the other rural water districts have stand-alone?” Asked Barker.

“Yes, they all had it at one time. Since then, former Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker has helped with this a few years ago. We split three of the water cooperatives into three people. That's why the ones I mentioned didn't have generators on their main pumps.

Barker noted that the Brashear Water Supply had no power for a period of time during the storm and was running on the generator for an extended period of time. The generator turned out to be very useful for these residents.

“They prove their weight in gold,” remarked Endsley. “The sheriff's office never missed a blow with its inmates. In fact, we moved inmates from other districts to ours because we had power and everything was up and running. So everything worked perfectly. “

Endsley noted that in the future there will be opportunities to apply for additional grants to better equip the various infrastructure departments and support the critical infrastructure.

Price made the motion, which was endorsed by Barker, and unanimously agreed to accept the grant funding. Then District 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin proposed that District Judge Robert Newsom be named as the authorized signature on the documents relating to the grant program.

Newsom noted that the county has the opportunity to help North Hopkins Water Corporation apply for a grant. However, an inter-local agreement between the county and the Ark-Tex Governing Council is required to initiate this process. He asked the commissioners to approve the inter-local agreement with ATCOG to set this process in motion. Price agreed to the motion, which was then unanimously approved by the court.

Dike solar

Michele Barnes informed the commissioners that they had reached out to the commissioners in what they believed was a lack of transparency on the part of the Commissioners Court regarding the proposed solar project in Dike. She said the little addendum posted in the newspaper ahead of a public hearing before tax authorities considered approving tax incentives for the project gave no indication that it was a planned solar farm in Dike. The notice listed Hopkins Energy LLC, it said, but didn't include the word solar.

Michele Barnes addressed the Commissioners Court during the regular session on March 22nd

Barnes admits she wouldn't have seen the message anyway since she didn't move to Hopkins County until 8 days later.

She said questions to the judge and commissioners did not lead to adequate answers. She claims the county was not effectively advocating the interests of the residents they were elected for because they did not ask adequate questions to provide the answers to their questions prior to the granting of the Dike solar project incentives.

She said a hand census of people at the Save Dike From Solar meeting on March 13 at the Dike Community Center showed that only a percentage of 385 Dike residents have internet access, and only about half of them know and have the ability to attend a Zoom Virtual town hall meeting that will be held this evening (March 22nd) from 6pm to 8pm with representatives from the county and the ENGIE project. Residents' inability to attend the meeting suggests a lack of transparency, Barnes told the court.

District Judge Robert Newsom noted that the Commissioners Court plans to be at the Civic Center by 6 p.m. to host the meeting, which will be held virtually with ENGIE officials but in person with district officials. All residents and interested parties of the district, especially the residents of the dike, are invited to attend the town hall meeting in the community center to express their concerns and questions to both the district and company officials.

Anyone who can and would like to take part in the meeting virtually can click on the following link to register to take part in the virtual meeting: Click here

Equipment financing

On March 8, 2021, Commissioners agreed to allow District 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker to purchase a 2019 Volvo Pneumatic Roller for District 1. The roller will be purchased from Romco Equipment Company through Buyboard. The cost to purchase is $ 64,860. Because the equipment is being purchased through Buyboard, the county does not need to submit bids for the project, the county's accountant Shannah Aulsbrook reported at the March 8 meeting.

On Monday, March 22nd, Aulsbrook reported that the county had received two offers from local banks to fund the purchase over a five-year period. Alliance Bank's offer was 2.75 percent interest, but also included a $ 2,000 document preparation fee and another $ 650 document preparation fee. Aulsbrook said she learned from Alliance Bank officials that smaller loans, which are covered by the $ 64,860 loan, are harder to do. Since there are no fees for a lawyer to draw up the contract, these fees are billed to the applicant for smaller loans. City National Bank offered to cover the loan starting July 15, 2021 at an interest rate of 3.25 percent with no additional fees. The district auditor recommended that the CNB's proposal be followed, as the total amount is lower than the Alliance Bank's offer.

Barker suggested accepting the CNB hire purchase finance agreement. The motion was supported by Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price and unanimously approved by the four members of the court who were present Monday morning. Wade Bartley was out for a medical procedure but planned to attend the Hopkins County Civic Center virtual town hall meeting with ENGIE to discuss Dike's proposed Hopkins Energy LLC solar project. Residents and affected citizens are invited to attend the 6:00 p.m. meeting and ask questions and address concerns directly to county and ENGIE officials.

Repealed contract

The Commissioners Court also voted to repeal an interlocal agreement between the county and CHRIST Mother Frances Hospital-Sulfur Springs.

Endsley reminded the court that the deal was approved by commissioners on November 9th. This was designed to allow possible reimbursement of all or part of the salary for the local health authority nurse who will be appointed in spring 2020 in support of Dr. IL Balkcom with contact tracing, answering questions from county officials and residents related to COVID-19, and receiving information only they can access under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It was believed that the LHA nurse is already employed in the CMFHSS payroll system and that the hospital has been paying her check for these services since March. The agreement was approved to allow some reimbursement of LHA nurse pay, Endsley noted at the November 9 meeting.

Two weeks later, the Commissioners approved the same type of interlocal agreement with the Hopkins County Hospital District from March 2020 that allowed the LHA to hire Registered Nurse Brynn Smith to assist Balkcom. HCHD would then pay Smith under the agreement as it was determined that she was in fact an employee of the hospital district that had paid her salary. The HCHD could then potentially apply for reimbursement through the CARES Act to fund their duties as an LHA nurse. According to Endsley, the agreement with HCHD remains in effect with a few adjustments

However, CMFH-SS is not a tax authority, so the county is forced to withdraw from the agreement with the hospital but found that the agreement with the hospital district continues as it is a tax authority.

Hopkins County's Commissioners Mickey Barker and Greg Anglin, Judges Robert Newsom, and Commissioner Joe Price

Other things

District Judge Robert Newsom asked the court to consider approving amended rules and regulations for unauthorized towing in the district. He noted that he and Deputy Chief of Hopkins County Sheriff's Office, Tanner Crump, are on a committee on such matters and made some changes during a recent meeting.

“We actually removed some of the rules and regulations and relaxed the rules and regulations for towing without consent,” Newsom said.

“This is the sheriff's opinion, too, in order to simplify the rules and regulations. Does that sound right?” Newsom asked Sheriff Lewis Tatum who confirmed this.

Newsom then moved, at the request of District 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin, to approve the rules and regulations presented for non-consent. The court unanimously approved the submitted rules and regulations for non-consent to towing.

The judge and all four commissioners were recognized for completion of training by the courts of the VG Young School of County Commissioners at College Station February 2-4, 2021.

The Farmers Electric Cooperative's motion to facilitate supplies to 1170 County Road east of 1171 County Road was also approved by the Commissioners Court during its March 22, 2021 session.

The Hopkins County Commissioners Court also set April 23rd and 24th as the County Clean Up Days.


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