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Burn ban issued

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WAXAHACHIE - Ellis County Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of a 90-day burn ban at the recommendation of Fire Marshal’s Investigator Jim Pharr on Thursday, Dec. 23.

"The KBDI is currently 391, which is below the benchmark normally used to consider adopting a burn ban, but the potential for grass fires has increased as fuels have become cured and are coupled with strong winds," said Pharr. 

"Ellis County has seen an increase in grass fires from burn barrels and other careless discharge of burning material."

Historically, the commissioners’ court has issued a ban when the Keetch-Byrum Drought Index stood at 600 or higher.

Pharr reminded the court Governor Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration on Tuesday, Dec. 21, naming Ellis County as one of the 244 Texas counties "currently threatened by extreme fire hazard."

Additionally, Pharr said several neighboring counties have already issued bans, including Navarro, Hill, Tarrant and Johnson counties.

"This will not prevent the sale of fireworks, but it will affect the discharge of fireworks because they do emit a spark," Pharr added. 

"It will not affect welding and industrial work as long as they follow the guidelines."

The ban will remain in effect for 90 days – until approximately March 23, 2011 – unless rescinded by action of the commissioners’ court if conditions improve.

  Two well-qualified men stepped forward as volunteers for a single available seat on the Board of Directors for Emergency Service District #2:  Gary Ratliff and Ray Williams. 

"I would like to thank both candidates for being willing to serve the public," said County Judge Carol Bush. 

"It is commendable of people to take that initiative and offer their talents and their services."

Both men gave short presentations to the court, as did several members of the public in support of one candidate or the other.  Commissioners noted they had also received input from other constituents during the days leading up to today’s meeting.

"I feel both of them would do a good job," said Commissioner Ron Brown, pct. 4, noting he had been contacted by a number of people that favored Ratliff.

Ratliff was appointed to the post, for a two-year term effective Jan. 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2012, with Commissioner Heath Sims, pct. 3, casting the only dissenting vote.

"I have had several constituents that have called supporting Mr. Williams and I feel obliged to do that," Sims said, adding that he respected the decision of the court.

The court made several other appointments during the meeting as well, naming Jeff Pressler to the Board of ESD #7, Robert Trojacek to the Board of the Rural Rail Transportation District, and both Tommie Worthy and Jane Ann Shipp to the Board of the Ellis County Women’s Building.

In other business, commissioners:

• Took no action on a request for variance relating to the requirement for 150 feet of road frontage;

• Declared as surplus the scrap metal at all Ellis County precincts, to be disposed of at the discretion of the Purchasing Agent;

• Approved an interlocal agreement with the Waxahachie Police Department that allows the Sheriff’s Office to use that department’s gun range and allows the Waxahachie PD to use the Sheriff’s training facilities;

• Accepted a grant from the Texas Department of Public Safety which will allow the county to continue to utilize the CodeRed emergency notification warning system with no county matching funds required;

• Approved an agreement with Oncor Electric Delivery LLC for cost above allowable expenditure for design and construction of electrical delivery facilities for the county farm development, at a cost of $1879, and authorized the County Judge to sign a right-of-way easement with Oncor, pending approval of the District Attorney’s Office;

• Discussed a fraud prevention and detection policy proposed by County Auditor Mike Navarro, with no action taken;

• Approved interlocal agreements with Palmer ISD, the City of Palmer, and the City of Ferris.

The court unanimously approved Brown’s final motion to "adjourn and have a Merry Christmas!"

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