Commissioners enact burn ban
Johnson County commissioners addressed one hot item Monday, but the resolution on two other timely topics will have to wait a little longer.
Commissioners enacted a burn ban for the unincorporated areas of the county. The ban is in effect until Sept. 9, unless rescinded by the court or by order of County Judge Roger Harmon.
“Half of New Mexico and Colorado are on fire,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Kenny Howell said. “The wind is relentless and everything is fuel.”
Harmon agreed. “We’re in drought conditions,” he said.
According to the language of the prohibition of outdoor burning, “circumstances present in all of the unincorporated areas create a public safety hazard and would be exacerbated by outdoor burning.”
Prohibited actions include burning or otherwise delivering a spark or fire to any combustible material.
The decision to enact the burn ban was unanimous.
In the new business portion of the agenda, commissioners supported a presentation by Venus resident Sylvia Allen to approve a resolution requesting the 86th Texas Legislature to pass legislation regarding limitations on registered sex offenders in counties.
“We’re a suburban county next to an urban county, and sex offenders move into unincorporated areas,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Larry Woolley said. “The case load of the (Johnson County) Sheriff’s Office detectives handling sex offenders has doubled from 300 to 525. It’s growing by 20-30 per week.”
Cities have the authority to implement child safety zones that restrict sex offenders from being within a specified distance of child-friendly areas such as schools, swimming pools, day care centers and so on, Woolley said.
“Sex offenders are now residing in group homes and there is nothing to prevent them from living in the proximity of areas where there are children,” Allen said.
The resolution requests the 86th Texas Legislature to pass legislation authorizing Texas counties the authority to enact an ordinance or order regarding the limitations on registered sex offenders in counties.
District 58 Rep. DeWayne Burns supports the resolution and will introduce it to the Legislature, Harmon said.
In another item under new business, commissioners convened a lengthy workshop session to consider the fees to be charged to cities for dispatch services provided by the Sheriff’s Office.
Police chiefs or their spokespersons from all Johnson County cities except Burleson and Cleburne were in attendance for the discussion.
The issue concerns the city of Keene closing its dispatch center and requesting to be added to the dispatch of the Sheriff’s Office. Commissioners are trying to determine a fair and equitable formula for charging Keene for the county’s dispatch service. Keene Police Lt. Chip Krieger said Keene will close its dispatch by mid June.
“We need a solution,” Harmon said. “We’re (the county) growing rapidly and our population is about 163,000. We dispatch for all cities except Burleson, Cleburne and Keene, and now Keene is asking us to dispatch for them.”
Sheriff Adam King said the county dispatch has room for one more console, but taking on Keene would require an additional three dispatchers.
Keene’s dispatchers would have the first opportunity to apply for the new positions at the county dispatch, if that is the solution, King said.
Keene is willing to pay for three dispatchers, Krieger said.
The police chiefs will form a committee consisting of themselves and other interested parties to determine a solution within about six weeks or before commissioners begin budget hearing the first of August.
In the unfinished business portion of the agenda, Jeremy Smith, of SEDLACO, the contractor for the new jail and renovation of the old jail, said all construction costs are in and the county will receive a credit of $646,590.
“You did a great job,” Harmon said. “We have a good new jail and a good renovation of the old jail.”
Harmon’s court colleagues agreed.
“I appreciate SEDALCO’s professionalism,” Woolley said.
“Everything worked out,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Jerry Stringer said. “We have not always had kind words for contractors, but you have my recommendation anytime.”
“Every time I visited the site, I was treated like I was the only person there,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Kenny Howell said.
“You did an excellent job,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Rick Bailey said.
The next regular meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners Court will be 9 a.m. Monday, June 25 in Room 201 at the Johnson County Courthouse in Cleburne.