By Greg Peak
LIVINGSTON – From thanking volunteers and county workers to approving steps for debris removal, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was on the minds of Polk County commissioners during their meeting last Tuesday in Livingston.
"We had an extraordinary county-wide response to this," County Judge Sydney Murphy said. "We had county employees come forward and say, 'Where do you need me?' We also had retirees and folks in the labor pool come forward to donate their time. And you can't say enough about the volunteer fire departments."
The judge also had words of praise for the work of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's game wardens, Polk County Sheriff's Department deputies and staff and the local constables' offices for the time they spent assisting people uprooted by the flood waters generated when the hurricane pushed waves of heavy rainfall through the region.
"We had elected officials and their staff turning out to open and manage the shelter and help with the evacuees while at the same time they were able to keep their offices open and functioning," Murphy added.
The judge added there are just too many people who stepped forward to volunteer their assistance to name, but singled out the work of the Center of Hope in Livingston which is serving as a central location to receive and distribute donated clothes, food, water and other supplies to those in need.
Murphy also expressed her thanks to the four commissioners for their efforts to keep roads open during the crisis. She noted they shared equipment and employees to work on critical areas when the high flood waters damaged roads and bridges throughout the county.
The commissioners indicated much work is needed to repair the damage to the road network and indicated the public has been patient thus far.
"I just want to thank the county crews for their hard work and TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) for the needed materials," Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet said.
"I'd like to echo that...from all of us," added Pct. 3 Commissioner Milt Purvis.
In other Hurricane Harvey related action, the commissioners approved a list of overtime hours generated by county employees during the disaster and authorized the Office of Emergency Management to proceed with debris removal and to contract with a monitor to oversee the removal process. Commissioners indicated they hope that the cost of both items could be reimbursed to the county under FEMA grant funds that will be awarded to counties like Polk that are included in the Presidential Disaster Declaration.
Budget, tax rate
In other business, the commissioners unanimously approved the new $30.1 million budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins on Oct. 1. They also formally adopted the tax rate of $0.6561 per $100 in assessed value.
While this is the same rate adopted one year ago, it is considered by law to be a tax increase because it will generate more income due to the rise in property values.
Prior to the meeting, commissioners held a public hearing on the budget that last about one minute when no local residents appeared to comment either for or against the spending plan.
At the request of County Clerk Schelana Hock, commissioners approved the consolidation of the voting boxes for the Nov. 7 constitutional amendment election. During that election, Texas voters will be asked to decide on seven proposed changes to the state constitution.
Due to the expected low voter turnout that has occurred during such elections in the past, the county normally consolidates its 21 voting locations into five.
The voting location for the Nov. 7 ballot in Corrigan is: Sechrest Webster Community Center, 100 W. Front Street in Corrigan: Voting precincts 8, 9, 10 and 11.