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Commissioners approve return to work policies

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WAXAHACHIE  - Ellis County Commissioners this morning approved revised personnel policies in keeping with a new push by County Judge Carol Bush to establish a return to work program that meets the needs of all elected officials and departments, which has already resulted in a significant reduction in the county’s 2010 Workers’ Compensation premiums.

“The goal of these policy changes is to reduce our workers’ compensation premiums by encouraging injured employees to come back to work as quickly as their physician will allow,” said Human Services Director Diana Buckley.

“Any time you can get an employee back to work, even if it is on light duty, it will result in real savings,” said Commissioner Bill Dodson.”

Buckley noted employees returning to work recover more quickly both physically and psychologically from their injuries and are more likely to make a full recovery.

When the Texas Association of Counties learned of Bush’s plan to establish a cooperative return to work program, with input and buy-in from all the elected officials, not just the Commissioners’ Court, they responded with a reduction in premiums of over $150,000 for the current year.

Coupled with the county’s health and safety initiative, which has earned honors in the last two years, the new policies are expected to have a significant positive impact.

An educational workshop was held before the morning’s regularly scheduled meeting to provide members of the Court with preliminary information on possible redistricting in 2011, based upon the results of the 2010 Census.  According to David Mendez of Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP, redistricting is likely in Ellis County due to more rapid growth on the north side of the county than on the south

The principal of “one man one vote” requires the Commissioner precincts to be divided equally in terms of population, within a margin of 10 percent.  The overall process requires attention to city council wards, such as those used in the City of Ennis, as well as school districts, justice of the peace and constable precincts, and voting precincts.

Maurice Osborn and Randy Kirk, Ellis County’s appointed members of the Board of Directors of the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District created by the 81st Texas Legislature provided an update on their work with the District.

“Randy was elected second vice president of the board, and I was elected secretary/treasurer of the board,” said Osborn.  “Our depositor is Comerica Bank in Waxahachie. We went through a bidding process over about a month and a half.”

Kirk is working on a subcommittee to establish bylaws and rules that will later be ratified by the entire board.

“Temporary rules will get the revenue stream started, and we want that started as soon as possible,” Kirk said.  “But we also do not want to let money interfere in the job we are doing and the protection of personal property rights.”

Both men said the board is working together well and includes individuals from a variety of different backgrounds.

“We will come together with something that the four counties can be very proud of,” Kirk concluded.  “Our first scope of business is conservation – we need to mitigate withdrawal from the Trinity Aquifer and its associated flows.”

The District includes Ellis, Hill, Johnson and Somervell Counties.

Having discussed the issue at length during its March 22 meeting, the Court approved an order today providing for the issuance and sale of Ellis County, Texas General Obligation Refunding Bonds, Series 2010, in the approximate principal amount of $1,635,000.

“We are here with an exciting opportunity today,” said County Auditor Mike Navarro.  “Most of the time items that come before you cost the county some money. This is a $50,482.31 savings.”

Jim Sabonis of First Southwest, who serves as the County’s financial advisor, said bonds issued in 1998 will be replaced at a significantly lower interest rate.  No new debt has been acquired, and the repayment of the debt has not been extended.

“We took most of the savings in the next fiscal year -- $47,000 in the next budget year to help in these difficult times,” Sabonis added.

In other business, Commissioners:

·         Approved the Information Technology Agreement with ACS/Government Records Services Inc. for Scanning and Image Control of Official Public Records for the County Clerk, pending review by the County and District Attorney;

·         Approved the Presiding and Alternate Election Judges and the number of clerks for each poll for the May 8 2010 Special Election;

·         Authorized the County Judge to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Indigent Healthcare Solutions extending the existing contract for software and support through Oct. 31, 2012, with no change in terms or pricing;

·         Accepted a donation of $1,959.07 from Ennis Care Center Patient Trust Troy Strickland, earmarked for the volunteer guardianship program;

·         Took no action on a proposal to set spending limits for three elected officials who will not serve again in the next term, as required by Local Government Code 130.908, including Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, County Treasurer, and County Court at Law Number One.

Under the Department of Development, Commissioners:

·         Approved a final plat for McGregor Estates, Phase 2;

·         Granted a variance relating to the ten foot side building set-back line in precinct 3;

·         Granted a temporary variance from subdivision rules and regulations relating to the maximum allowance of four houses per family-owned property;

·         Denied a request for variance relating to the road frontage requirement in precinct 2;

·         Took no action on a request for variance relating to the road frontage requirement in precinct 4.

Under Purchasing, Commissioners:

·         Rejected the single bid for the annual contract for Asphalt Emulsion, directing the Purchasing Agent to re-bid the commodity with a shorter contract duration to better allow for fluctuation in price;

·         Awarded the contract for convenience store fuel to Pearman Oil for the contract period 5/1/10 through 4/30/11 with two one-year renewal options;

·         Awarded the annual contract for washed pea gravel to Trinity Materials based on low bid, with a contract period of 4/1/10 through 3/31/11 with two one-year renewal options;

·         Authorized purchase of one Case Maxxum Series #115 Tractor from Waxahachie Equipment Company for precinct 1 at a cost of $59,942 based on HGAC;

·         Accepted the lowest and best bid for one Case M316C wheeled excavator for precinct 4 at a net cost of $142,000;

·         Deemed a 10 foot brush hog Batwing Mower as surplus to allow it to be used as trade-in;

·         Approved purchase of one 10-foot Rhino Batwing Mower from Landmark Equipment at a total cost of $11,235 for precinct 3;

·         Awarded a contract to Lindsey Contractors for installing a two-inch asphalt overlay on Falcon Way northeast of Midlothian;

Under Engineering, Commissioners:

·         Agreed to increase the not-to-exceed price on the Electra Link Contract for computer and communications cabling for the Ellis County Bond program from $335,000 to $390,000, with funding already available within the Bond program;

·         Approved D.M. Young to provide Professional Engineering Services at hourly rates for mechanical, electrical and plumbing design in conjunction with Architexas Architects for the County Farm Development.

No action was taken following a short executive session to deliberate with legal counsel regarding Cause No 71-181-00458-08, City of Midlothian and County of Ellis vs. Kehe Foods.


Diana Buckley

Ellis County Human Services


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