Benny Boyd

County eyes initial redistricting plans

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

The Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court viewed two initial plans for the redistricting of Caldwell County during an extensive meeting on Monday.

According to Syd Falk, an attorney with Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado and Acosta, the firm contracted to help the Court navigate the redistricting process, Caldwell County Precinct Three ha

s grown more than the other single-member precincts in the county, and therefore has to “shed” a portion of its population to equalize the other districts.

The two plans, which will be the subject of a public hearing to be scheduled at a later date, rearrange the district lines, moving portions of the population in Precinct Three into Precincts One and Four.

In general, those changes are likely to impact residents of the Uhland area, or those near the Tri-Community area of Fentress, Prairie Lea and Stairtown.

Although the proposed maps were presented to the Court during the meeting, copies of the proposals were not available to the press, and requests to both Falk and the Caldwell County Judge’s Office for copies of the maps had not been answered at press time. The maps will be made available online at www.post-register.com when responses to those requests are received.

In other news, Assistant District Attorney Ron Heggemeier announced to the Court that Governor Rick Perry had received and approved Caldwell County’s request to extend an emergency declaration of disaster and fireworks ban.

Under the order issued by County Judge Tom Bonn last week, the sale, possession or use of fireworks within Caldwell County will be a Class B Misdemeanor until 7 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5.

The order, which was opposed by fireworks vendors during the Court’s last meeting, prevents the sale of fireworks for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, and also prohibits any professional display of fireworks that is not sanctioned by a governmental body.

The City of Lockhart, which normally co-sponsors a Fourth of July fireworks show with the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce, announced last Wednesday afternoon that it would withdraw its support of this year’s event, and that the fireworks would be rescheduled for Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5, provided weather conditions improve.

In a related item, Heggemeier also presented for the Court’s approval a new “Order Prohibiting Outdoor Burning,” (Page 1, Page 2, Page 3) commonly referred to as the burn ban. Heggemeier’s revised order, which he said was modeled after the orders used by surrounding counties, makes several notable changes to the order historically used by Caldwell County.

Most important to note, prior burn ban orders did not provide a specific time frame for which the order would be in place. As of Monday, the revised burn ban order sets out a time frame of 90 days, unless the order is rescinded by the Court.

The order allows for outdoor burning activities related to firefighting training, public utility, natural gas pipeline or mining construction, planting or harvesting agricultural crops and prescribed burns, as well as for the burning of trash in an approved enclosure with a metal mesh cover.

Where the “old” ban merely suggested that anyone engaging in a legal burn contact either the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department non-emergency dispatch telephone number or the Caldwell County Emergency Management office prior to burning, the “new” order requires such contact, except in the case of the burning of residential trash.

Still, the Court urges extreme caution when engaging in any outdoor burning activity, from welding to burning household trash to outdoor cooking, because the danger of wildfire in the county is so high and the consequences can be so dire.

In brief news:

The Court heard reports from each county department regarding their activities for the month of May. Those reports included updates from the Caldwell County Sanitation Department, the AgriLife Extension Office, and the Caldwell County Indigent Health Care and Indigent Burial Departments.

Under a request from Bonn, each of the county’s department heads is asked to provide a report on the third Monday of the month.

They heard information from benefits counselor Bob Treacy, who has worked with the county in insurance acquisition for several years. Treacy is one of three vendors who were invited to make presentations to the Court this month as budget talks begin and the Commissioners start eyeing employee insurance options for the coming fiscal year.

The Court briefly discussed a report from Commissioner Fred Buchholtz, who has spent several months reviewing the Caldwell County Development Ordinance in an effort to propose changes to that controversial set of rules. Buchholtz said that he intended to offer his proposal “one section at a time,” in an effort to help the other Commissioners and the public understand what changes he hopes to make, and why.

The Commissioners agreed to hold a workshop to discuss the ordinance and the proposed changes, and will announce the date and time of that workshop in the near future.

Wayne Beyer, the county’s independent auditor, spoke to the Court regarding the Financial Report for the year ending Sept. 30, 2010. Beyer was able to deliver an unqualified (“clean”) opinion of the audit, but said there were some points of concern the County should address, including record keeping at the Caldwell County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office, and excess funds being held by the Caldwell County Clerk’s Office and the Caldwell County District Clerk’s Office.

The Commissioners heard information from two of Caldwell County’s volunteer fire departments regarding their financial statements and tax returns for the last fiscal year, as well as hearing a request from the Caldwell County Fire Chief’s Association that funding for those volunteer departments be increased during the next budget cycle.

At the request of Commissioner John Cyrier, the Court signed a resolution in support of the Circuit of the Americas F-1 racetrack being built in Travis County. The track, he said, is within five miles of the Caldwell County borders and stands to bring a degree of growth and economic prosperity to Caldwell County.

They approved a speed limit of 30 miles per hour on County Road 253 (Whizzerville Road) in the McMahan area.

The County paid bills in the amount of $129,066.80, which includes $9,225.47 in indigent legal defense costs and $20,469 in indigent health care fees.

The Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference Room at the Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St. (FM 20 East) in Lockhart. The meetings are open to the public and concerned citizens are encouraged to attend.

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