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Rollback foe admits attempt to mislead public

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - A spokesman for Citizens Against the Rollback in Ellis County said the end would justify the means.

At a gathering of the Ellis County Sheriff's Officers Association, CARE Co-Chairman Ralph Hewitt presented a flyer proclaiming, 'Cops YES, Rollback NO!'

Several of those present took issue with the flyer, saying the word 'cops' was not only offensive but also misleading. 'It makes me think of the men in blue, the city police,' said one citizen.

'It isn't so bad if people think it's the city cops that they're going to lose,' Hewitt argued. 'They might vote for it.'

Hewitt, who lost a recent bid for a spot on the commissioners' court, addressed the meeting to convince the organization to join forces with CARE in its effort to defeat the rollback election to be held on March 3.

'They'll always vote for education and law enforcement,' Hewitt said. 'I don't hear anything about school taxes going up, and they all increased this year.'

Hewitt said the rollback will have no effect on the county's building projects.

'The Judge admitted he made a lot of mistakes,' he said. 'If he could go back and re-do them, he would. The problem is that's behind us. The very simple issue is we're going to lose a lot of services.'

Citing statistics previously released by county officials, Hewitt reminded the group Ellis County is in the top 15 percent of Texas counties in terms of population, and in the bottom 25percent in terms of tax rates.

But he said county commissioners had to do a lot of 'juggling' to keep the tax rate down. 'They robbed Peter to pay Paul,' he said. 'They made you drive old vehicles. You folks have suffered long enough!'

Hewitt tried to hit all the points of the CARE platform. 'I see young people here,' he said. 'I want only the best for those kids.'

He voiced concern for elderly citizens who would need to drive to Waxahachie to get auto licenses and other county services. 'They don't want to drive from Ennis to do that,' he said.

Hewitt claimed commissioners are completely unable to conduct the county's business until after the election.

'There's a major corporation coming to town, Walgreen's,' he said. 'They need a tax abatement, that helps attract them. (Commissioners) said, ‘We can't make a decision.''

The tax abatement agreement with Walgreen Company was tabled at the last Commissioners' Court meeting, without discussion.

'We are still doing work on that,' said Judge Al Cornelius, who made no reference to the rollback at the time.

Hewitt also indicated commissioners denied interlocal agreements with the City of Palmer, Palmer ISD, the City of Ferris and the City of Pecan Hill.

'Parking lots, drainage ditches, believe me it's more,' he said. 'Well, they didn't allow it. They said, ‘We can't do anything because we don't know if we have the money.''

Commissioners in fact approved all four of the interlocal agreements Hewitt listed.

'Is it not so these are just standard contracts that then must be put into effect with work orders?' Cornelius asked during the Jan. 22 meeting. He said a successful rollback would have negative effects on road maintenance.

Commissioner Hallie Robinson, Pct. 1, agreed. 'Very few work orders,' he said.

A list of proposed budget cuts prepared by County Auditor Mike Navarro shows elimination of $150,000 from the road and bridge budget for each precinct. Hewitt said the commissioners would cut materials rather than employees.

'These people are not going to have the material to work with,' he said.

Additionally, Hewitt said, as a consequence of a successful rollback, the District Attorney would be unable to hire one additional prosecutor.

'Does any body relate to credit for days served?' he asked. 'Now it is three for one, this would take it to the state limit of six for one.'

Hewitt said the result would be a 'revolving door' effect in the jail. 'Those prisoners are going to be back on the streets with half the cops to chase them - that's a scary thought.'

But Hewitt repeatedly said rollback opponents are not using 'scare tactics' as some have said.

'It's gonna happen folks!' he exclaimed. 'We've gotta grow up, and it's going to cost you a Big Mac and a Coke and a small fry to do it.'

One member of the Sheriff's Officers Association said later the group decided to coordinate with CARE, if not actually join them.

'We're not becoming a part of CARE,' he said. 'They help us; we help them.'

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