By Tracy Martin
The News Correspondent
ATHENS-Hot and dry conditions across Henderson County were high priority for commissioners Tuesday. A unanimous vote to implement a countywide ban on outdoor burning went into affect, after hearing from area volunteer fire departments, seeing the increase in brush and grass fires and a recommendation from the fire marshal.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Scotty Thomas witnessed one recent grass fire in the Seven Points area and said he’s been monitoring the daily reports of fire dangers. “Based on conditions it’s what’s needed,” he said. “We looked at both the state maps showing drought conditions and the index for Henderson County and it is dryer in the western section, we’re going county-wide to keep everyone safe from fires that can get out of control.”
In the past, burn bans were only put in place for parts of the county, but to avoid confusion, the ban will be county-wide through July 23, when commissioners will either extend it or lift it, due to sufficient rainfall. In May, the National Weather Service recorded four inches of rainfall in the county. June and July have reported little or no rainfall amounts. Violations are a C-misdemeanor, punishable up to $500 per incident. Authorities and fire departments will enforce the ban.
Commissioners also held two public hearings; the first took input on the proposed guidelines for right-of-way- use by utility companies. A 19-page document prepared by Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Geesling standardizes requirements for all utility companies to install lines or pipes in the county. The second hearing invited public input on proposed changes to the Emergency Services District 7 boundaries. These changes were accepted and will appear on the November ballot for voters of ESD 7.
In other business, commissioners:
• approved funds for an employee luncheon in connection with the Healthy Rewards program. Fifty county employees successfully completed an eight-week fitness program. Funds totaling $400 from the “Sonicboom” program to promote healthy diets and exercise for the county’s 400 employees. The program motivates healthier lifestyles among employes in an effort to lower insurance rates.
• approved a contract with Gray and Company, a commercial insurance consultant, to manage negotiations for premiums paid by the county for liability insurance and worker’s compensation.
•approved contracts between Henderson County and 29 taxing entities for collection of property taxes for the 2013-14 cycle.
• accepted a tax resale deed for lot 25, in Lake Shadows, Precinct 2, the bid of $500 for the property was considered fair for the distressed property.
• agreed to hold the next Commissioners’ Court at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, instead of July 16.
• paid bills totaling $169,451.75.