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Commissioners Hear Some Good News Amid Stresses

Edgewood Enterprise of Edgewood, Texas

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In the June 14 County Commissioners Meeting, Judge Rhita Koches and the four commissioners were delighted to approve a resolution to apply for grant funds to continue an extremely successful program already in place in the Juvenile Probation Department. That was some good news among the stresses of trying to manage a budget that must stretch enough to cover expenses of the county.

Robert Colacino, director of the Juvenile Probation Department, reported that the request to apply for the competitive grant from the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Fund (ETOG) comes at the end of the first six-year grant that has made a huge difference in dealing with juveniles in the county. Colacino characterized the program as the only one for addressing vocational and behavioral issues at the same time. He reported that in the past six years, 352 children have been in the program, and only 36 children (or 9 percent) have gone back into the detention system.

This vocational delinquency prevention program costs only $2.92 per child per day, compared to a much higher cost of having to institutionalize the juvenile. During the grant period 96 juveniles have found jobs in the community, they have performed 15,000 hours of community service in the county, and have taken courses in horticulture and other areas to prepare them for jobs. The Van Zandt County Program has received recognition from the state, competing against such large counties as Dallas and Tarrant.

The commissioners were also pleased to approve money coming into the county coffers. They approved an Easement Agreement between Van Zandt County and Peoples Telephone Coop, Inc., for easement on County Road 3417 for installation of fiber optic cables for the purpose of networking hospitals, municipal-ities and other communications. Located in Precinct 3, the company paid $4,000 for the county for the use of a concrete building in an area where no other work is done.

Another good business move was approving the contract with Verizon to renew three PRI line contracts for a three-year term, thereby saving $5,000 a year. The improved contract had been ne-gotiated by County Information Technologies employee Scott Slayton.

Commissioner Virgil Melton Jr., added to the black side of the balance sheet by selling old equipment at the recent Vaughan Auction which added $3,634 to Road and Bridge material Pct. 2.

Pct. 3 received $250 in payment for damages to a culvert on VZ CR 3910 by J&L Utilities Services.

Commissioners also received a commendable report from the 2010 Audit done by Pattillo, Brown and Hill, LLP of Waco. The representative said the report they reviewed was "an accurate reflection of expenditures" and they had no issues to report. The two minor changes in reporting that had been requested last year had been accomplished. He did caution the group to pay special attention to the General Fund Balance because it is quite low.

Once legal issues are resolved, commissioners agreed to deed property to the Starr Cemetery Association that is located across the road from the cemetery. The Starr School/Church on that property was destroyed by the January 20, 2010 tornado. The association plans to finish cleaning the debris and brush from the property and eventually build a community building.

Pct. 4 Constable Pat Jordan addressed the commissioners, requesting nine additional unpaid Deputy positions. Pct. 4 Commissioner Ron Carroll made a motion to add two, and Judge Koches seconded the motion. The motion failed 3-2 with the other three commissioners voting against it.

Commissioners voted to add $15,000 to the budget for Indigent Legal Aid for County Court at Law and County Court. County Clerk Charlotte Bledsoe added the information that payment of fines, court costs, and probation fees has decreased significantly the last two months.

In other business, commissioners acted in the following ways:

Approved the 2012 renewal process for Victim Information & Notification Everyday Program (VINE) at a cost of $17,000.

Awarded the bid for Road & Bridge Fuel for 2011-2012 to the only company that sent a bid.

Ratified payment to Banc of America Leasing for interest on 2011 borrowed money.

Agreed to re-assemble the county committee on policy and procedures to address clarification of the county's "Overtime and Compensatory Time."

Restricted certain fireworks such as "stick rockets" during the designated fireworks season because of the extreme fire conditions.

Designated old county equipment as surplus/salvage and authorized disposal by sealed bid or by donation to a local non-profit organization. This is part of the ongoing cleanup of parts of the Courthouse.

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Original Publication Date: June 23, 2011

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