Fannin County Commissioners Court approves Lake Ralph Hall zoning maps and regulations
By Allen Rich
Feb 9, 2023
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Fannin County, Texas -- All five members of Fannin County Commissioners Court were present for a regular meeting Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

The began at 10:16 a.m. following a public hearing to hear comments regarding the proposed Lake Ralph Hall Zoning Map and Regulations.

The regular meeting opened with an invocation by Nathan Peebles, part-time children's pastor at First Congregational Methodist Church in Bonham, and pledges were led by Col. Walter Goodwater (Ret.).

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved minutes from a regular meeting January 24, 2023.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved all Lake Ralph Hall zoning maps and regulations with the one change of not authorizing a Lake Operations Zone at this time to allow for further consideration.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted to accept a bid regarding ITB #23-016 for a used semi tractor trailer for Precinct 4.

Four bids were received. The lowest bid didn't meet requirements; the court accepted the next lowest bid of approximately $55,000 by Texas Truck & Equipment.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved a one-time severance of one acre from a seven-acre tract in Leonard; Property ID# 80470.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved a one-time severance of two (2) acres from a 28.09-acre tract on FM 100 in Honey Grove; Property ID# 73118.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court held a discussion regarding a possible update of the Fannin County Junkyard Ordinance.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Jerry Magness said that junkyards are showing up around the county, creating a need for an enforceable ordinance -- and appropriate fine -- that is approved by the county attorney.

"We need some legal recourse there," Commissioner Magness stated, adding that he has received numerous complaints regarding junkyards.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted to purchase the Tyler Technologies maintenance eDispatches Interface licensing for the Fannin County Volunteer Fire Departments after the current demo expires this week for a $5,500.00 one-time cost and $1,375.00 annual maintenance fee.

Local fire departments had expressed a desire to retain the interface; however, the volunteer fire departments didn't have the necessary funds to purchase the Interface licensing.

Fannin County Auditor Alicia Whipple recommended retaining the interface.

"Our fire departments are important," Judge Cunningham remarked.

Jason Walker touted the importance of this interface, especially with limited cell phone reception in northern Fannin County, but Mr. Walker pointed out that Bonham Fire Department recently switched to a different system and suggested a comparison.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted to change the salary of the County Court at Law bailiff from $32,570.21 to $40,000.00 plus a $2,500.00 salary increase once the bailiff is TCOLE certified.

County Court at Law Judge, Charles Butler, explained that his recently hired bailiff, Joe McIntyre, comes in with 27 years of experience in law enforcement and can assist with security throughout the courthouse.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court discussed a 19-year-old contract with Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP for Court Fees and Fines Collection Services. The contract calls for the firm to keep 20% of collections.

Alicia Whipple noted there appears to have been no evaluation or comparison of the contract since it went into effect in 2004.

The discussion centered on what the county feels is a lack of detailed reporting, no readily available list of mailings to delinquent taxpayers, the number of cases taken to court, and the percentage of those cases settled in arbitration.

"We need the metrics and a collection ratio," Judge Cunningham stated.

The county has been approached by other law firms regarding Court Fees and Fines Collection Services.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved payment of the bills.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted to meet bi-weekly beginning in March.

Judge Cunningham remarked that he was torn between his desire to allow public access to local government on a weekly basis, versus the most efficient use of the courtroom. A bi-weekly schedule, at least until the justice center has been completed, would allow for more trial courts in the spacious courtroom and free up a substantial amount of staff time.

Cunningham noted that some issues will warrant a special meeting at a convenient time for the public to attend.

Fannin County Commissioners Court voted 4-0, with the county judge abstaining, to go to bi-weekly meeting beginning in March.

Col. Goodwater said redundancies will have to be reduced and the process streamlined in order to make bi-weekly meetings more efficient. He also questioned why the public isn't shown a list of the bills that commissioners court approves at the end of every regular meeting.

Jason Walker agreed with Judge Cunningham's statement that having more special meetings in the evenings would encourage more participation. Mr. Walker added that the judge's statement would be particularly true in the case of young, working couples who can't attend regular meetings on Tuesday mornings.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted to cancel the February 21, 2023 Commissioners Court because four members will be at a training conference.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court discussed the need for an ordinance to regulate the location of landfills in Fannin County.

Judge Cunningham has held discussions with representatives of Kaufman and Van Zandt counties, two counties that have developed ordinances to regulate where landfills can be located.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court held a brief discussion regarding water issues affecting Fannin County.

Judge Cunningham explained that Harold Latham, a member of Red River Water Authority, is helping to formulate a 20-year plan for water for the county.

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Commissioners court also held a discussion regarding road issues.

Jason Walker suggested that the four county precincts study the possibility of pooling equipment and maintenance expertise.

Mr. Walker said he recently drove by three precinct barns to see for himself just how much equipment was being used on any given day.

"There's a ton of equipment sitting idle," Walker stated. "I think we have to put all things on the table because what we're doing isn't working."

Walker asked if the formula for funding precincts road and bridge could be modified from simply using the number of miles of road in each precinct, to a system that takes into account which roads have heavier traffic.

Walker also questioned why the percentage of the county budget that goes to the Road & Bridge Fund has decreased significantly during a period of time when the cost of materials has skyrocketed.

For example, in 1989, 29% of the county budget went to the Road & Bridge Fund. Currently, 22% of the county budget goes to the Road & Bridge Fund.

"I'm looking for input on roads and looking for input on water," Judge Cunningham remarked. "Is there a better way of doing it? There's always a better way of doing it."

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Fannin County Commissioners Court entered into executive session at 11:45 a.m. to deliberate personnel matters regarding the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of a public officer or employee; or (2) to hear a complaint or charge against an officer or employee regarding Development Services Position.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court reconvened in regular session to vote 4-1 to set the annual salary of the Development Services Position at $45,000.

County Judge Newt Cunningham and Commissioners Edwina Lane, A.J. Self and Jerry Magness voted in favor of the motion, with Commissioner Doug Kopf casting the opposing vote.