Commissioners Court considers easing burn ban
by LPR Staff
While grass fires continue to char rural areas of Caldwell County and drought conditions across the state show no signs of breaking, the Caldwell County Commissioners debated adding additional loopholes to the countywide burn ban on Monday.
In late December, County Judge H.T. Wright enacted an Emergency Order prohibiting
the use of any flammable materials outdoors. The Commissioners Court has continued the Order for the last several weeks, making slight changes to allow for burning under certain, controlled circumstances.
County Fire Marshal Jeff Wright approached the panel on Monday to request that the Order be continued, but stated that he has been researching a permitting process to allow some agricultural burns.
“There are some folks in the county that have brush out in the middle of empty fields that they need to burn out before they can plant,” Wright said.
He continued that, under certain circumstances, there would likely not be any danger in allowing such controlled burns, provided appropriate precautions were taken with regard to the weather.
“Last weekend, when it was raining and not too windy, it would have been the perfect time to burn,” said area rancher Bobby Brown. “It would have been the ideal time to burn out a root-plowed field. Of course, using good judgment is the key.”
Wright did express concern that some residents, upon seeing the smoke trails from exempted burns, might believe that the burn ban had been lifted, but admitted that some concessions needed to be made for agricultural businesspeople who are under planting deadlines.
The Court asked Wright to put together suggestions for exemptions and permits and return a proposal at a later meeting.
To date, at least five large grass fires have erupted in Caldwell County since the beginning of February. The fire marshal has issued four citations for burn ban violations, most, he said, for the illegal burning of household trash.
The county remains under a “red flag” weather warning, meaning that dry conditions and high winds increase the danger of wildfires. Until weather conditions change dramatically, the outdoor burning ban remains in effect.
In other county fire department news, the Court decided to reinstate funding to the Uhland Volunteer Fire Department.
Funding to the department was revoked recently when high-ranking members of the Uhland VFD came under investigation for misuse of department funds. Since the investigation and resulting arrests, the fire department has undergone a reorganization and is under new leadership.
The county allocates around $5,000 per year to most of the area”s volunteer fire departments.
Also, the Commissioners agreed to allow Wright to move forward with plans to begin using a gravel pit on County Road 205 for a training ground for the Caldwell County Firefighters Association.
Wright is working on plans to use the training ground to help the Caldwell County Unit Road System to burn debris. He also hopes to build a “burn house,” a concrete or metal mock-up of a residence to train firefighters in fighting structure fires.
In other Court business:
The Commissioners heard a report from Mary Vicky Gonzales regarding locations for early voting in the March 7, 2006 primary election. Early voting will be available at the Caldwell County Tax Office in Lockhart and at the Church of Annunciation in at 301 S. Walnut St. in Luling, beginning on Feb. 21. Early voting for the primary election will run through March 3.
The court continued a “Discontinuous Order,” which will notify cities of the county”s intention to cease maintenance of county roads within incorporated areas beginning on March 3.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Neto Madrigal asked the Court to table discussion of the order until he has had the opportunity to discuss maintenance changes with the cities in question – Niederwald, Uhland, Martindale and Mustang Ridge. The Court agreed, but intends to move forward with asking District Attorney Chris Schneider to draft an order in the near future.
The Court set public hearings to discuss setting speed limits on Burdette Wells Road (CR 207) and Polonia Road (CR 233). The hearings will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 27.
The Commissioners considered the sale of several properties seized for non-payment of property taxes. Although several sales throughout the county were approved, the Commissioners asked attorney Steve Byrd to reconsider bids on five properties that were slated for sale at prices well below market value.
In brief Court news:
The Commissioners adopted an “Excessive Force Resolution,” establishing the rules regarding the use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies against any individual engaged in a nonviolent civil rights demonstration. The resolution is required by the Federal government in any county that receives Federal grant money.
Another resolution enacted by the Commissioners declared February Black History Month in Caldwell County.
Judge Wright reported that the county spent $25,066 on indigent health care in the month of January. According to Wright, indigent health care spending is on target to be below budget for this fiscal year.
The county paid bills in the amount of $271,939, including $24,531 for indigent legal defense.
A public meeting was scheduled on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Commissioners Courtroom (Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse) to discuss the possible construction of a tire-recycling plant in Reedville.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.