Commissioners approved creating a “County Energy Transportation Reinvestment Zone,” and appointed a 5-member advisory board to the court regarding such zones. Appointed for 2-year terms were three members of the oil and gas industry—Bobby Jenkins, Mark Carpenter and Brian Seymore—and two “public members,” Tim Barnett and Brian Ballard.
County Judge Dean Fowler noted that Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry had recruited the board members.
Melinda Smith of Big Sandy-based Amazing Grants, which is working on securing the potential grant, praised Upshur County officials for their work in pursuing it. Rebutting what she said was a complaint in a newspaper that the grant would be a new tax, she said it would come from tax money that is already allocated.
In other business, the court on Friday approved having Komatsu Architecture of Ft. Worth seek an emergency $110,000 grant from the Texas Historical Commission to help repair leakage in the 77-year-old county courthouse’s upper roof and seepage in its basement through the foundation.
The court must provide another $110,000 as matching funds if the grant is approved, but is not obligated to do the work even if the grant is okayed. Fowler said after Friday’s meeting the grant would let the state pay half the cost of the repairs.
In the court’s only split vote Friday, it approved 3-2, with Fowler casting a rare tiebreaking vote, a budget amendment that will let Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Laura Lee Norred attend a state-required school for JPs in Lubbock.
Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka, who opposed the move to transfer money from Judge Norred’s office supply budget for the schooling, told The Mirror he did so mainly because she could perhaps obtain the schooling in small increments closer to home, and thus at less cost to the county.
Mrs. Gentry told the newspaper she agreed with Berka, and that she also voted no in order to preserve funds for an office clerk who will need to attend school. (Judge Norred is not seeking reelection and leaves office at year’s end.)
Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer and Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner voted to approve the amendment.
In other action Friday, the court:
• Opened bids on road and bridge materials, which will be turned over to Jordan for review before the court acts on them.
• Approved a request from the Sheriff’s Office to seek 2-year-long proposals from potential vendors for food for jail prisoners. “With inflation like it is, a 2-year lock-in (on prices) would be good,” Spencer said.
• Approved different time sheets for the Sheriff’s Office than for other offices.
• Approved what Berka said looked like an “exhaustive” annual report by County Road Administrator Andy Jordan, who said “we drove 700 miles and looked at the (county-maintained) roads” in order to grade them. Should the Texas Dept.of Transportation (TxDOT) award grants, Jordan said, the county might be able to “double up on our (road and bridge) work this year.”
• Nullified a budget amendment approved Dec. 31 which put unanticipated revenue into the Road and Bridge fund. In doing so, the court approved County Auditor Brandy Lee’s suggestion to adopt a special budget for revenue received from selling assets after the fiscal year’s start.
• Changed the county’s purchase policy so that the County Judge does not have to sign all requisitions.
• Approved a public services contract with Meals on Wheels.
• Authorized the $2,811 purchase of three computers for Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Lyle Potter’s office.
• Approved an interlocal contract with the East Texas Council of Governments regarding a Solid Waste Management Planning Grant sought by Pct. 1 Constable Gene Dolle.
• Accepted David Smith’s offer of $1,716, the full struck-off amount, for a lot in the Gilmer city limits which had been foreclosed for delinquent taxes. The lot has no structure on it.
• Approved paying D’s Locksmith $40 for additional keys for the Justice Center lobby door.
• Approved the Upshur County Community Fund’s request to place a “tally board” on the courthouse lawn during its annual fund drive, which runs from Feb. 25 through March.