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86 dams to be upgraded through federal funding

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WAXAHACHIE – During the regularly scheduled meeting of the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court on Monday, Ellis County Engineer Joe White told the Court five of the county’s 86 flood control structures will be upgraded through federal funding.

"Texas will receive $21.5 million to repair or mitigate 24 flood prevention dams, primarily in north central Texas," White said, reading from a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release.

"The really good news is that we are getting 27 percent of that, or basically seven percent of all the money in the U.S. is going here in Ellis County."

The source of the funding is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

"As you are aware, we have 86 flood control structures here in the county," White said.

"We have a good system, and we also have some people watching over that who are doing a very good job – Monty Gearner and Tom Sulak. They’ve worked on this a

long time."

Gearner serves as the district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Waxahachie, while Sulak is employed by Ellis County as a watershed technician.

Four structures along Chambers Creek and one on Richland Creek will receive the upgrades, which will primarily consist of improvements to the embankments on both sides of the structures.

"(County and District Attorney) Joe Grubbs has agreed to help with the right-of-way review for this," White added. "The only thing that is required of us is they have to have an attorney to help them extensively in making sure our right-of-way is still adequate, and he is very knowledgeable."

White also received approval from the Court for a contract with General Datatech in an amount not to exceed $970,000 for comprehensive telephony, LAN and Wireless LAN Networking Systems and a payment to AT&T for relocation of a telephone pole, both associated with the bond program.

"It is shocking, but frankly, the computer and phone systems cost almost as much as installing the electricity in a building," said White.

"We have had this looked at extensively for the last six months, and I would ask for your approval."

Sheriff Johnny Brown came before the Court to obtain approval for a memorandum of understanding with the Sheriff’s Association of Texas, allowing the department to utilize a RANS S-6 fixed wing aircraft. The craft is housed at Mid-Way Airport.

"We were selected from three different counties to receive an aircraft," Brown told the Court.

"Every hour in the air is like having extra deputies on the ground, for any emergency – grass fires, floods, and searches – or just routine patrol."

Brown said his department would fly to Kaufman, Johnson or Hill Counties if those jurisdictions were in need of air support, but assured the Court that the aircraft would not be used for any purpose other than law enforcement.

"It will burn four gallons (of gasoline) per hour, which is minimal," he added.

"I’m not asking for any more money from the commissioners to operate this."

Commissioner Dennis Robinson, pct. 1, cast the only opposing vote.

"One of my concerns is just the safety – benefits versus risk," Robinson said. "I think this would be considered a general aviation type aircraft, and the largest percentage of accidents come from general aviation aircraft. Are we at a population that we need this type of resource?"

Robinson suggested taking no action on the request in order to allow time for further review.

The Sheriff’s department received unanimous approval from the Court to expand its Reserve Unit from 10 to 20 members.

"Reserve officers have the same training as regular officers, but they choose to stay with their civilian jobs on a full-time basis," said Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Brearley. "When they put on a uniform, they have the same power and authority, except at no cost."

In other business, Commissioners:

* Took no action on an insurance policy from Aviation West of California for the fixed wing aircraft because a less expensive policy had been located after the agenda was posted;

* Set the speed limit to 30 MPH on Skrivanek Road from Crisp Road to Chmelar Road in pct. 2;

* Set the speed limit at 30 MPH on Cummins Creek Road from Oak Grove Road to Ensign Road in pct. 2;

* Set the speed limit at 35 MPH on Crisp Road from the Ennis city limits at Sun Ridge Road to FM 660 in pct. 2;

* Accepted Amendment No. 2 for the Local Initiative Projects Grant to carry over 2009 funds to 2010, to enable the county to participate in the North Central Texas Council of Governments Regional Smoking Vehicle Program (RSVP);

* Authorized the Ellis County and District Attorney’s Office to file a civil lawsuit against Larry Smallwood seeking both injunctive relief and civil penalties to address an ongoing sanitation and environmental quality nuisance, as defined by Chapters 341 and 366 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, 30 TAC Chapter 285, and the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court Order No. 20162, which exists on property located at 1113 Westminster near Waxahachie;

* Adjourned into a public hearing at which no members of the public addressed the Court concerning restricted traffic zones;

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