By CLINT FOSTER
PALO PINTO -- Texas weather is a fickle thing. As quickly as rain clouds rolled into North Texas a week ago, the rains have stopped and drought conditions are a worry once again.
Despite 2.25 inches of rainfall last week -- so far the wettest July Mineral Wells has seen since 2010 -- Palo Pinto County Commissioners Court, at the behest of Palo Pinto County Fire Marshal Buddy Harwell, ordered a new 90-day, county-wide burn ban on Monday morning.
Although Harwell said he has received few complaints lately and the much needed rains have produced a great deal of greenery, the week of scattered showers was not enough to create a drastic change in the drought index. He added that with temperatures projected to be in the 100’s soon and no rain in the immediate forecast, he is worried about the possibility of wildfires, particularly along Palo Pinto County’s many unmowed roadways.
Per usual, the new burn ban does not prohibit cooking or campfires, nor does it restrict activities related to public health and safety authorized by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It does, however, prohibit burning of brush and tree piles when clearing land and fireworks.
As discussed at last week’s special session of Commissioners Court, this burn ban will also prohibit the use of “aerial luminaries,” or Chinese lanterns.
Violation of the burn ban is a Class “C” misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.
In other business, the court:
•Opened bids for the new county health insurance plan for 2014. Two options will be reviewed by the benefits consultants who will return with their recommendation.
•Approved annually determined contribution rate for Texas County District Retirement System’s 2014 plan to increase retiree benefits and adopted 2014 cost of living adjustment.
•Approved a cell phone allowance of $40 per month for employees, including courthouse security.
•Approved disposition of mass gathering fees under Health and Safety Code 751.013.
•Approved June monthly reports from the sheriff’s office, emergency management, public works and information technology.
•Approved a permit request by Fiberlight LLC to bore Davidson Cemetery Road in Precinct 3.
•Accepted a bid for a new pickup truck for the sheriff’s department. The winning bid was from Stowe Ford in Gordon: a 2013-14 four-door pickup worth $30,043 less an $11,000 trade in, which brought the total cost for the county to $19,043. The Ford beat out an offer from another company: a Chevrolet Silverado worth $35,260 less a $10,500 trade in, resulting in a $24,760 potential bottom-line for the county.
•Approved contracts for tax assessment and collection.
•Approved 2014 optional county fees with no changes.
•Approved action for “No Thru Traffic” signs for various areas.
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