Commissioner’s Court approves purchase of new patrol SUVs; improvement projects underway

by Chris Edwards

"Chief, take care of these cars."

With those words and a smile, Precinct Three commissioner Neal Smith made a motion to approve the purchase of two new interceptor-equipped SUVs for the Trinity County Sheriff's Department.

The commissioners approved the request, made by Chief Deputy Sherman Jones, after examining a bid from Silsbee Ford for the purchase of the SUVs to replace outdated, road-worn vehicles currently used by the Sheriff's Department.

The agenda for the Trinity County Commissioners Court, which held its first meeting for October on Tuesday, October 14 instead of the usual Monday meeting date due to the Columbus Day holiday, included that item as well as updates on some projects benefiting Trinity County.

During the presentation of the county's monthly expenses report, county auditor Sheila Johnson commended county officials for "tightening their belts" and "watching what they're spending." The county expense reports and report on September's claims and invoices were approved by the commissioners.

The commissioners reviewed several pauper funeral payment requests; however two of the deceased in question were not residents of Trinity County. Commissioner Smith asked why the county should be billed for funeral arrangements for non-county residents. Smith suggested amending the pauper burial criteria for the county to limit out-of-county funeral arrangements. The commissioners also agreed not to pay for the two funeral requests for non-county residents.

In other agenda items addressed at the meeting, the Commissioners discussed and acted on the approval for the appointment of election judges to fill vacancies. Precinct Two commissioner Rich Chamberlin abstained from voting on the issue, due to his wife's involvement as an election judge.
The commissioners set a public hearing date of November 11 to discuss and determine reasonable or safe speed limits for Westville Road. Commissioner Smith addressed the issue and said the "traffic is very fast" on the road. He expressed concern for the children who live down the road and recommended a speed limit of 25 or 30 MPH.

Judge Doug Page recognized October as both Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. He read proclamations pertaining to each issue and of how the issues affect a great many citizens.

The commissioners received an incident report from Chief Jones in regard to the auto collision that occurred in August when a prisoner was being transported a short distance to jail by Precinct Two constable Mark Cole. The prisoner jumped from Cole's vehicle while in transit, which caused a deputy following Cole to slam into the back of his vehicle after Cole came to a sudden stop.

Jones gave the report and said that due to the short distance, the prisoner was not restrained. Judge Page praised the work of the incident review committee. He called it a "great thing we have" and said that it helps to prevent complacency within the department.

Chief Jones also took time to commend Commissioner Smith for his hard work in cleaning up a piece of property that was seized by the Sheriff's Department and presented for a public auction.

Commissioner Chamberlin gave updates on the CETRZ grant-funded road improvement projects in progress as well as the progress made with projects funded by Hurricane Ike 2.2 money, which included the completion of the VFW parking lot and the construction of an elevated water-storage tank, which is underway.

The commissioners also accepted a donation to the county in the amount of $1,787 for material to improve Pegoda County Road.

The meeting was adjourned until its next stated meeting at 9 a.m. on Monday, October 27.

County receives approval for Ike 2.2 fund usage

Trinity County Judge Doug Page announced today that Trinity County received Authority to Use Government Funds (AUGF) and final environmental clearance from the Texas General Land Office on October 10 for the remaining road improvement projects that are part of the $3.8 Million Hurricane Ike 2.2 Community Development Block Grant (CBDG) funding that the county applied for and was granted in 2011. This includes funds for Lake "L" Drive road improvements and numerous other roads in all four of the Trinity County precincts.

"This is a great day and a long-awaited milestone for Trinity County residents in going forward with the planned road improvement projects in our county," Judge Page said. "We have worked long and hard together with the county commissioners, grant manager Ray Vann & Associates, Klotz Associates engineering firm, our environmental management coordinator, Carl Dyer, and grant fund project leader Commissioner Rich Chamberlin to get all of the necessary approvals. This release of funds and environmental clearance now allows us to select contractors for improving forty-five Trinity County-maintained roads that are a critical part of this grant and to get this work underway," Page continued.
Bids for the road improvement were received and opened on October 3. Three contractors bid on the Lake "L" Road improvements but the bids were some $180,000 higher than the $367,000 budget. Engineers are now revising the specifications for re-bid. No bids were received for the balance of the road improvement work which are mainly rock hauling specifications for roadwork to be done by county road crews and six roads that are alternate chip and seal asphalt road improvement processes.

Engineers are presently revising the bid specifications for those projects for re-bid, as well.

"Although this is truly an exciting milestone for Trinity County it will be even more exciting for Trinity County residents, emergency responders, school bus and mail delivery drivers, homecare providers and others who will travel on the much-improved county roads that this Hurricane Ike 2.2 grant funding provides for," Judge Page concluded.