By Tracy Martin
The News Correspondent
ATHENS-Henderson County fire marshal Shane Renberg asked commissioners Aug. 27 to consider taking the burn ban a step further, banning both fire works and outdoor welding. “People are following the burn ban, we’ve had fewer grass fires and issued fewer citations, but fires are starting from people setting off fireworks, and one grass fire started from just a few welding sparks,” he reported. “We’re getting complaints all over the county about fireworks, but can’t do anything more than ask them to stop.”
Halting the use of fireworks can happen if an emergency declaration is issued. The current burn ban continues through Tuesday, Sept. 3, but commissioners do not meet until the following week, which could allow the ban to expire.
County Judge Richard Sanders plans to stay in contact with updates from Renberg and has the authority to either extend the ban or declare an emergency to further limit what can and cannot be burned.
Fireworks are not included in the parameters of the current burn ban and can only be banned under an emergency declaration.
According to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, a model measuring moisture in the ground and plants and used to predict the likelihood of wildfire, Henderson County’s western portion rates a 724 out of 800, signifying a complete absence of moisture. The eastern portion scales at 624.
On Sept. 4, 2011, over the Labor day weekend under similar conditions, a fire started in Bastrop County which burned 35,000 acres, destroying 1,645 homes and killing two people. With drought conditions close to the extreme, officials are urging caution.
In other business, commissioners:
• acknowledged the appointment of Carolyn Tyler as the new 4-H County Extension Agent. Tyler holds a B.S. from Texas A&M and will develop and implement education programs.
• agreed to contract revisions and renewals with United Healthcare for group healthcare and choice silver benefit plan.
• approved the hiring of a part-time medical technician, to fulfill insurance requirements preparing medications for inmates, now required because the inmate population exceeds 350. Current inmate population is 373, of which 104 are from Smith County, housed while a new jail construction project is underway.
• revised the county personnel policy manual.
• renewed a contract with U.N.T. to allow historic data to be collected, scanned and made available to the public. Some records date back to the 1800s.
• accepted the price of $5,000 for a lot in Willowwood in Gun Barrel City, Precinct 2, as a resale deed.
• set a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 17, to consider a speed limit of 35mph on a section of CR 4530 in Precinct 3, as requested by local residents.