2013-01-18 / Front Page

Burn ban lifted temporarily

By DAVID LOWE
Staff Writer

County residents still have about two more weeks to burn brush or other items.

The Lampasas County Commissioners Court voted to start a new 90-day burn ban period Monday, but County Judge Wayne Boultinghouse announced he has lifted the ban until Jan. 31 at 6 p.m.

When it approves a burn ban, the Commissioners Court typically authorizes the judge to suspend the order temporarily when he determines conditions are safe for outdoor burning.

Officials encourage residents to contact the Lampasas County Sheriff’s Office at 556-8255 to notify them where burns will take place. Advance notice, a county official said, allows the sheriff’s office to alert area fire departments about controlled burns, limiting confusion about emergency versus nonemergency fires.

In another matter at Monday’s meeting, Human Resources Director Dorothy Person presented a report about the countywide polling place -- or “vote centers” -- program that was in effect in Lampasas County during the recent presidential election.

Vote centers allowed county residents to cast a ballot at any of five designated sites, as voters were not restricted to a specific polling place based on home address.

The county has used electronic voting equipment exclusively since 2006, Ms. Person said, adding that security measures are in place to keep people from voting at more than one polling site.

Ms. Person, who was the county’s elections administrator during November voting, said the countywide polling place program helped voters and generated an overwhelmingly positive response from a survey of 508 people who cast ballots.

Although some voters reported long lines and a few other problems, Ms. Person and Marcia Wallace, election judge at the New Covenant Church vote center in Lampasas, said extended waiting times have occurred in previous elections and were not a result of the vote center program.

The countywide polling place program, Ms. Person said, allowed people to leave a crowded center to cast their ballot at a less-congested location.

“The wonderful thing about vote centers is a number of people went to Lometa or Adamsville when they saw long lines [elsewhere],” she said.

Mrs. Wallace said it was nice not to have to turn away voters, as she said poll workers have had to do in past elections when people reported to a voting site outside their precinct.

Ms. Person recommended the county seek state approval to use vote centers in all future elections. The countywide polling places application for this fall’s state constitutional amendment election will be prepared in April or May, she said.

In other business, commissioners took no action on an area resident’s request to obtain foundation stones believed to have been used in a 19thcentury church that once stood on what is now a county-owned lot.

Boultinghouse said a man talked to him about trying to find building stones that may be buried on East Fourth Street property between the Lampasas County Office Building and Hackberry Street. The county is leasing the lot to construction company Ledcor CMI Inc. for materials storage during road work on East Fourth Street.

County Auditor Chris Munn said he tried to locate the stones but was unable to find evidence of them.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Robert Vincent said he doubts the stones still are on the lot. The Precinct 1 road crew, he said, hauled off a large amount of material -- including concrete and foundation pieces -- when it cleaned the lot before Fourth Street construction began.

Munn and Vincent said they are opposed to letting people look for the old stones while the lot is being leased to Ledcor.

The county needs more information, Munn said, including details about whether historic building materials are on the lot and if they have any monetary value. Under certain circumstances, the Texas Local Government Code allows commissioners courts to donate surplus property to civic groups in the county, Munn said, although he said commissioners might need to offer materials for sale by competitive bid.

Kempner resident Paul Cook said he purchased former county courthouse stones in an auction for about $200.

Also at the recent meeting, the court discussed and then tabled suggested changes to the county’s personnel policy. Changes include language clarifying that full-time regular employees, appointed officials and elected officials are eligible for group medical insurance through the county.

Another section relates to cell phone stipends -- a taxable income benefit that may be given to designated employees, with the stipend amount determined by the Commissioners Court.

Other proposed policy additions concern county office closures during inclement weather and meal reimbursements for business-related travel.

The suggested weather provisions would allow each department head to decide whether an office closes. County employees would be required to use vacation time, personal leave or compensatory time when an office closes for bad weather.

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