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County Finds Itself Mediating Fort Mason Issue
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 • Posted September 15, 2010

During the regular meeting of the Mason County Commissioners' Court on September 13, the group found itself having to "referee" a dispute involving construction at the Fort Mason site.

The Fort is owned by Mason County; but, its administration is handled by the Mason County Historical Society. The Court had granted permission for the Society to erect retaining walls in order to build a parade ground at the Fort site, which has been done. The point of contention is the erection of a "blacksmith shop" at the site. A quick examination of the minutes from the meeting when the parade ground was approved did not contain approval of the building of any structures on the site.

Numerous members of the Mason County Historical Society were in attendance at the meeting, and indicated that the construction of the blacksmith shop had not been part of their initial site plan. Rosemary Davis, speaking for the group, told the Court that the building does not meet historical accuracy, and that the Society wanted the County to halt construction until they can figure out how to more effectively incorporate the shop into the Fort Mason plan.

Commissioner Will Frey questioned why the Court was being brought into the discussion when it appeared to him that the different groups handling the Fort needed to communicate more effectively.

A protracted discussion followed over the Fort, who was responsible for it, and over what should be done. Since any building on County property must be preapproved by the Court, Commissioner Eldon Kothmann finally moved to suspend construction till an agreement was reached between the historical groups. Commissioner Frey amended the motion to require the groups to submit the minutes of their meeting to the court after they settled the issue, and the motions passed unanimously.

The Court had begun the day with a public hearing on the budget and tax rate increase, and they once again discussed those issues as part of their regular meeting. Several guests were in attendance to ask about some of the items in the budget, including a planned salary increase for county employees. The County will meet once more on September 20th to discuss the budget and tax rate.

The Court voted to move the scheduled October 11 meeting to October 12 due to the Columbus Day holiday.

Carolyn Nixon, county librarian, presented several proposals to the Court. The first had to do with unattended children at the library. She explained that many parents drop off their young children and expect the library to act as de facto babysitters, and she worried for the safety of the children and the experience of other patrons at the library.

Her second proposal concerned patrons with overdue fines. She asked the court to allow the library to prohibit those patrons from using the computers at the library. She also wanted to limit the amount of time that patrons can spend on the computers so that they don't interfere with others needing computer access.

Her final proposal concerned moving the book drop box from the driveway up on to the front porch of the library. She explained that this move was to protect the books, CDs and DVDs that would be deposited.

All three of her proposals were accepted by the Court, and the new policy concerning unattended children is spelled out more fully elsewhere in this edition of the News.

Sheriff Buster Nixon presented a proposal that would allow the deputies to receive on-call pay. Currently, the EMS volunteers receive $4 or $5 depending upon their qualifications; but, the deputies do not receive pay while on-call. Treasurer Polly McMillan explained to the Court how changing that policy would affect the overtime rate paid to the deputies. Judge Jerry Bearden suggested no change be made and the Court took no action.

Judge Bearden told the Court that the Mason County Historical Society had decided to change the focus of the courthouse's 100th birthday celebration. Originally, a street dance and party was planned; but, Jan Appleby had worked with the Society and the Judge and they had agreed that a more traditional birthday celebration would be appropriate. Currently, the party is planned for October 30th, and the courthouse will be open to the public for tours from 10:00 a.m. till 4:00 p.m.

The Court adjourned at 11:47 a.m. They will meet for a special budget/tax hearing on September 20, and will hold their next regular meeting on September 27.

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