County declares ‘state of disaster’
By LPR Staff
In response to the growing threat of wildfires across the county, the Caldwell County Commissioners agreed to extend a “state of disaster” declaration and emergency order on Monday.
The order, first issued by County Judge H.T. Wright on Dec. 30, enhances the outdoor burning ban that has been in place for several months,
adding restrictions and imposing stiffer consequences for ban violators.
“The purpose of this order is the mitigation of the public safety hazard posed by wildfires during the current drought and severe weather conditions,” the order reads.
In addition to prohibiting the sale of “restricted fireworks” (including skyrockets with sticks and missiles with fins), the order prohibits any use of “combustible materials” outdoors.
According to County Fire Marshal Jeff Wright, restricted activities include outdoor welding, ground fires and burning in barrels. Furthermore, throwing a lit cigarette out a vehicle window could be seen as a violation of the ban, Commissioners said.
“Barbecuing with either a gas grill or a pit that”s in good shape is going to be okay,” he said. “But any other kind of ground fires are not. If I catch people burning, I”m going to write a ticket.”
Violation of the ban is a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
While Wright said that people could not be kept from cooking outdoors, he suggested that anyone who chooses to barbecue use extreme caution when doing so.
“Burned out or rusted pits are dangerous,” he said. “If you”re cooking on a pit that”s in good shape and doesn”t have any holes, you”re less likely to have problems.”
Those who choose to barbecue should make sure to place pits and grills on a non-flammable surface, such as gravel or cement, if possible. Areas surrounding outdoor grills should be kept damp, and a running water hose should be kept on hand at all times. Barbecue pits should not be left unattended for any period of time. Rusted pits, or those in disrepair, should not be used, as they present an increased risk of dropping coals or sparks to the ground.
The order is intended to be in effect for seven days, and will be reviewed by the Commissioners” Court during their next regular meeting. However, the Court reserves the right, under a recent declaration by Governor Rick Perry, to continue renewing the order until the state of emergency has passed.
In other Court business:
Commissioner Joe Roland announced that construction of the turn lane on Highway 183 North just south of the Plum Creek Bridge is nearing completion. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) should be finished with the project in the next two or three weeks, Roland said.
The Commissioners briefly discussed a recently-drafted map of county roads that has been causing confusion among some area residents. The map, introduced by the Court”s legal firm, is intended primarily to document the roads the County is responsible for, Wright said. However, over time, as municipalities have annexed property, certain roads have been removed from the County Unit Road System and fallen to the responsibilities of the municipalities. Wright indicated that the map should be updated to reflect those changes.
The Court granted a variance for an individual to sell a two-acre tract of property out of a 44-acre tract on Borchert Loop.
The County paid bills in the amount of $142,193.36, including $8,243 for indigent legal defense, $330 for juvenile legal defense and $26,352 for workers compensation.
Caldwell County entered an agreement with the Texas Association of Counties to post tax rates and public meeting dates on the county”s free website.
The Caldwell County Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse. Meetings are open to the public.