Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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July 17, 2013

County judge lifts burn ban, commissioners address upcoming fiscal year’s budget

Commissioners hear more on budget issues, health insurance in special session

By CLINT FOSTER

PALO PINTO – The Palo Pinto County Commissioners Court held a special session Tuesday afternoon, lifting the burn ban as a result of the much needed weekend rain.

Initially, the court planned to discuss including Chinese lanterns – also known as sky lanterns or Kong-Ming lanterns – to the prohibition. But, with the moratorium of burning lifted earlier Tuesday, the court agreed to table the discussion until the meeting on July 22.

Chinese lanterns essentially function like a toy hot-air balloon, with a small flame beneath a large, paper dome of sorts. These lanterns are supposed to be biodegradable.

Palo Pinto County Fire Marshal Buddy Harwell said the lanterns are classified as a novelty item and are frequently flown at the county’s lakes or at celebrations such as marriages or Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.

Although the lanterns have created no fires, that he knows of, Harwell said they potentially could start a blaze and he would like to include them in any future burn bans.

As part of the ongoing budget discussion, commissioners took a closer look into how a revised insurance policy could save the county and its employees money.

County Auditor Steve Watson said insurance is by far one of the county’s biggest expenses, accounting for roughly $1.274 million of the current year’s budget.

Watson said the county’s health insurance benefits consultants are planning to bring a series of coverage options on July 29.

One possible plan would offer two tiers of coverage: one with a high deductible and the other with a low deductible. Options like these could be beneficial to employees looking to find coverage to better match their needs to what they want to pay.

County Judge David Nicklas said the court wants to do everything possible to make insurance affordable and make decisions that are in the best interest of county employees.

In other business, the court unanimously approved right-of-way cleanup of Henley Road.

The court has also heard no negative feedback from Palo Pinto County Justices of the Peace regarding the current deposit policy. The court also discussed the possibility of including into next year’s budget the travel expenses that JPs incur making these deposits.

Follow Clint on Twitter @Clint_Foster55

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