During their first regularly scheduled February meeting, the Mason County Commissioners' Court began making plans for their newly purchased courthouse annex.
The annex, formerly the old post office building on the southwest corner of the square, was purchased by the county last month in anticipation of the need for office space if the county gets a courthouse restoration grant. The county has also indicated that, after that project is completed, the space can be used for additional office and storage space for some of the offices that currently need more room.
Prior to purchase, the county had been informed that some roof repairs would be necessary to the structure. They also knew that some remodeling and updating would be necessary to the interior of the structure. The Court voted to appoint Commissioner Eldon Kothmann as the "point" man for the annex, and he will seek out roofing bids, as well as working to map out other work that will be done.
Michelle Chapman, wife of County Attorney Shain Chapman, has volunteered to donate her assistance with planning the decorating and remodeling of the interior of the structure.
The County also voted to approve a contract with Hill Country Telephone Cooperative for lease of space on the radio tower on the west side of town. HCTC has been temporarily using space on the tower to test out their high speed, wireless internet, and wanted to secure a longer term agreement.
Don Durflinger requested permission from the Court to hold an apple festival on the courthouse lawn on September 5. Mr. Durflinger recounted the history of apple growing in Mason County, and talked about the economic impact to other communities around the state and nation that had held similar events. The proceeds from the event, according to Mr. Durflinger, would benefit Grace Christian School. The Court approved his request.
Kent Rabon appeared before the court on behalf of the Texas Tech University Hill Country Network to ask for the court's support for a resolution endorsing their request for funding in the current legislative cycle. Mr. Rabon had appeared before the City of Mason at their January meeting with a similar request; and, as with the city, he received the support of the county.
The court discussed the salary questions of dispatcher David Wilson. Mr. Wilson had gone from part time to full time status just prior to end of year raises being awarded, and he wondered if he should also qualify for the raise. The court, during discussion, decided that Mr. Wilson had changed his actual employment status after raises were allotted, so he did not qualify.
During discussion about county roads, the concept of a long range road plan was discussed. Several of the commissioners suggested that all of the roads in each precinct need to be driven and assessed as to their specific conditions and needs.
County Road Supervisor Glen (Squeaky) Farmer told the court that it is difficult to follow a long range plan for the roads, as conditions change day to day. He explained that a heavy rain one day could change their focus for the next month.
County Treasurer Polly McMillan also told the court that many of the expenses of the Road and Bridge Department were being paid for out of the County general fund. She explained that, while this was not a problem, it would be best to budget that department the funds it needs rather than covering their expenses out of the general fund.
During departmental reports, it was noted that many of the inmates the County had been keeping at the facility in Cherokee were finally either released or moved to state facilities. However, both County Attorney Shain Chapman and Justice of the Peace Tammy Bowman explained that there are many situations where they have no choice but to incarcerate individuals, so the respite may only be temporary.
During the Judge's comment portion, the possibility of holding a county-wide election to add a half cent to the current sales tax was discussed. Mason currently has a 7.75% rate, while all the surrounding counties have the maximum 8.25%. Judge Bearden explained that the additional half cent would be dedicated for the EMS, which could raise the necessary funds to keep the service in the black.
The election, if it is held, would either be in early May or early November. The court would have to vote to hold an election at their Febuary 23 meeting if they want to hold it on May 9.
The meeting adjourned at 11:11. The next regular meeting will be at 9:00 a.m. on February 23.