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Burn ban in effect

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WAXAHACHIE - Ellis County is now under an outdoor burn ban, effective for 90 days folowing action in commissioners court.

'Record rainfall this past summer brought welcomed relief from last year's drought,' said Jim Pharr, an investigator with the County Fire Marshal's office.

'The green vegetation that worked to our advantage over the summer represents an increased fire load this winter - there is a direct correlation between fuel loading and fire intensity.'

According to Pharr, the latest Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) rating was 570, well above the 500 mark, which is the Texas Forestry Service cut off point for drought conditions.

'Adopting a burn ban today would also put the county in a position to ban certain fireworks during the Christmas and New Year's seasons,' Pharr added.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the requested ban.

As preliminary work progresses on the county's bond projects, approved by voters on May 12, commissioners were asked to authorize the county judge to sign a letter of intent to Balfour Beatty for estimating services as construction manager at risk, with the court setting a cap of $10,000.

'They have come out as our top firm to do construction manager at risk, but we have not negotiated a contract with them at this time,' said County Engineer Joe White. 'We would like them to attend some meetings and this is to allow them (to do that).'

White said the firm will provide expertise and estimating services during the design phase of the project.

'Instead of having just a team of architects design the building, you would prefer to have a contractor there to estimate prices of steel or concrete - current trends in the industry,' White said. 'We need them to attend some of these early phase meetings so they can guide us on some of the issues.'

Jon Vidaurri of the Staubach Company supported the request.

'You hit the nail on the head - it is critical having this team right now, available, as we look at the different site options,' Vidaurri told commissioners. 'They have a 21-man pre-construction team that's going to be working on this project over the course of 12 months.'

Although commissioners were somewhat divided on the issue, an internal reorganization plan was approved which dissolved the positions of Human Resources Director and Indigent Health Care Administrator and consolidated the management of the Human Resources department, the Indigent Health Care department, and the Communications department under one Human Services Director.

'Over the last four, almost five, years as your County Judge, I've observed some ways to better this, and hoped for a consolidation,' said County Judge Chad Adams.

'I am putting forth a bold move to you and asking for your support. I'm putting this in the form of a motion to appoint Diana Buckley as the Human Services Director.'

Buckley has worked for the County since January of 2003 and took over the Indigent Health Care Department approximately two years ago, while continuing her Communications responsibilities.

'In her tenure at the County, there is about $3 million of taxpayer money that she has been able to save,' Adams said. 'I need someone that I have been able to rely upon historically to give accurate and good information.'

Buckley's experience prior to accepting employment at the County included owning and operating a small business, as well as news writing and office administration.

'I am confident that Diana can do this job,' said Commissioner Ron Brown, pct. 4. 'I feel like this situation is going to work - I have enough confidence in her.'

In other business, Commissioners:
*Approved interlocal agreements with the City of Italy, the City of Maypearl, the City of Midlothian, the City of Milford, the City of Waxahachie, Italy ISD, Maypearl ISD, Milford ISD, and Waxahachie ISD.

*Authorized the County Attorney's office to draw up paperwork delineating an agreement with Sidney Osteen to reinstate portions of vacation time and sick time and authorized the County Judge to sign the agreement after Mr. Osteen has signed it;

*Approved an amendment to the contract with Correctional Healthcare Management for an agreed-upon price increase of 2.7 percent;

*Appointed Mrs. Susie Toal of Ferris as the Ellis County Representative to the Ellis County Women's Building Board for a four year term starting January 1, 2008;

*Cast 400 votes for Linda Alvarez and 343 votes for Johnny Johnson as candidates for the Ellis Central Appraisal District Board for the 2008-2009 term;

*Authorized the County Judge to sign any and all documents relating to the purchase of real property on Sonoma Trail in Ennis and any and all documents relating to the acceptance of a donation of real property at the same location;

*Discussed a potential ordinance to enact regulations pertaining to the sale of alcoholic
beverages in the unincorporated area of Ellis County pursuant to Section 109.33 of
the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code;

*Granted two variances and approved two replats and took no action on a preliminary plat under the Department of Development.

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