Coldspring City Council Reflects & Sets Budget for 2016

The City Council of Coldspring met to close out the year 2015 and set the budget in preparation for the 2016 year. The annual audit report was presented by Tom Sellars with a perfect scorecard for the city. The city approved the 2016 budget that will begin on January 1. “Financially the city is sound and in very good shape”, according to City Secretary, Suzanne Boudreaux.

Plans for the upcoming year include continued supporting contributions to the Coldspring Senior Center and the Coldspring Dixie Youth League Ballpark as they have in the past. The city has been able to make steps in supporting organizations that have deemed to be a good partnership.
The City of Coldspring approved the support to the Coldspring Area Business and Merchants Association in the partnership of a billboard on Highway 59. The partnership includes the Coldspring San Jacinto County Chamber of Commerce as well.

The Kingwood Fillies annual Bike Through The Forest will take place on January 23 with the support of both the City of Coldspring and the Coldspring -San Jacinto County Chamber of Commerce.

A request for West Slade Street to be changed to Commercial Avenue was denied The request coming from the 911 Office of San Jacinto County. The name of the street was changed years ago by the City of Coldspring and should have already been acknowledged by the county’s 911 addressing system. The street sign indicates proper signage of West Slade.

Resolutions were passed by the council in regards to federal mandates applying to eligibility of grants and the like, including Resolution #12715 – Civil Rights, Code of Conduct Policy, and a Proclamation designating April as Fair Housing Month.

The City of Coldspring is closing the 2015 year in great shape. “ Looking forward to 2016 and what it brings “, said Boudreaux.

Tax collections by law firm report reflects success – mistakes or technology

By: Gayle Erwin
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Attorney Stephen Lee was present in Commissioners Court to present and reflect on the performance of his law firm that is in charge of collecting delinquent taxes for San Jacinto County. Mr. Lee proudly reflected the past three years of collections at 63 percent for 2012, 52 percent for 2013 and 89 percent for 2014. Lee expressed that the focus is on the taxes that become delinquent in July of each year. According to Lee the county is more likely to have the highest percentage of collection with the first year of delinquency as reflected in the 89 percent performance. The goal is always to collect 100 percent, but on average 10 percent will not be collected in most cases. The firm works diligently to get properties that go to public sale, back on the tax rolls as soon as the law allows. Most of the properties going to public sale are in the Cape Royale, Lake Run A Muck, and Waterwood areas, with of course others as well throughout the county.

The timely manner in which Mr. Lee was present proved not very timely for Mr. James Burke of Cape Royal on this particular day. Mr. Burke a new resident of San Jacinto county of less than a year was making a second Commissioners Court appearance in less than a month. Purchasing a property and closing on September 22 of 2014, Mr. Burke – 82 years of age - went to the tax office to pay past taxes on the purchased property with proceeds that he received at closing. According to Mr. Burke, “they could not tell me how much the taxes were owed on the property”. Tax statements are sent out in October of each year, which was just days after the September 22, 2014 closing. Time passed and Burke never received a tax notice, until……July of 2015 when Lee’s firm sent him a delinquent tax notice of suit in access of $2,000 with legal, penalty and interest fees. The amount all based on an $888 annual tax invoice. Mr. Burke came to Commissioners Court expressing his dissatisfaction in the actions of the timely manner in which the county transfers deeds, which then go to the appraisal district office and on to the tax collections office for invoicing. The lack of compatibility to promptly handle the transitions with promptness and accuracy seem to be a real problem. Mrs. Shirley Baker a resident of Evergreen appeared in Commissioners Court just a couple of months ago with similar issues in accuracy and promptness of offices working in a compatible efficient manner.

Mr. Burke was requesting a $114.21 refund due to the inability to timely invoice the correct property owner. Commissioner McCoppin came to the aide of Mr. Burke even though he is not in Precinct One. The court chose to handle the issue in executive session later in the morning. Mr. Lee – Tax Attorney for San Jacinto County attended the meeting – we are not privy to discussion of executive session meetings. Upon reconvening the approval for the refund was denied. Mr. Burke told the San Jacinto News-Times that he just wanted to pay his taxes that was owed at the time of closing on the property and get this settled.

Recently the commissioners passed on the purchasing of new software that would enable the appraisal office and tax office to be more compatible and efficient. Commissioner Mark Nettuno commented that “the timing is not good for the purchase with tax statements about to go out and employees having to learn new software in the mix”, indicating that the suggestion would be revisited possibly after the first of the year.

Tyler Technologies was on hand to give the performance presentation of technology that San Jacinto County presently possesses. The technology is being retired although his report indicated that employees have not used all the training hours that are provided. Change is already needed in software that has not been completely learned and satisfying the needs of the county. Timing appears to not be in favor for anyone at court including the county.

Somerset Shores is facing the time clock too with Commissioner Court to approve the final plat for the subdivision in Point Blank, Hwy 190 area of San Jacinto County. There have been undetermined details regarding the flow of drainage water in the flat grade of the property. Engineer Lynn Fairbanks was brought in to explain the new drawings reflecting a more current opinion of the property. Again time was not in Earline McLeod’s favor for a complete and final approval to be able to “rest at ease”. San Jacinto County Engineer Bass was not given the plat prior to the agenda item being presented. Mr. Bass told the court that he would need a couple of days to review for him to make a recommendation. Commissioners approved the plat, upon Mr. Bass’ approval. McLeod explained to the court that sales were pending and a delay of two weeks would not work in the developers favor. Commissioner Nettuno made sure that the court reflected that the approval was based on Mr. Bass’ recommendation.

The San Jacinto County Sheriff Department may be housing Indians and prisoners from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe in the near future. Deputy Chief Joe Schultea presented a recommendation for the county to engage in the same styled contract that is presently in place with Montgomery County. San Jacinto County would house prisoners if and when the need arises.
The San Jacinto County Community Shelter continues to be a topic of priority, from legal action on the past contractor to the action of obtaining a contractor in which to take on and complete the project. Commissioners set September 2, at 9 a.m., for the consideration, discussion and possible vote to approve a contract for legal services to represent the interests of the county in litigation regarding construction of the shelter project, Ike Round 1 Grant.

Shepherd city council meets

Shepherd - The city council meeting for Shepherd was under the direction of Mayor Pro-Tem Sherry Roberts.
One of the top items on the agenda was a rate increase request from Entergy. Taking the recommendation of City Attorney Larry Foerster, the request was denied by the council. Later in the week Entergy withdrew their request.

The city received an invoice from TX.DOT in the amount of $770,000 for the work done moving utilities while constructing the overpass and highway on 59. The city attorney is negotiating a payment plan with them and a discussion regarding the agreement years back, that the state would be paying for this type of charge if this section became an interstate.
At present it is said that this is not going to be a part of US 69 although further south some parts are designated to be Corridor 69. “This seems to be the beginning of this story”, said Councilman Yvonne Ryba.

The city election plans for November 3 were set into place in accordance with standard guidelines.

Council Position terms that are ending include the current seats held by Michelle Minton, Kyle Somers, and Yvonne Ryba. Applications for placement on the ballot are being taken from July 25 through August 24 at Shepherd City Hall. Deadline to register is October 5 with the election scheduled for November 3.

Other business included normal operational approval for the city.

Handicap accessibility prompts more discussion

The Coldspring City Council will be meeting Monday August 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the City Hall on Hwy 150 West in Coldspring. It is anticipated that the continued exploration of handicapped accessibility to the shops on the courthouse square and to find out about the results of an organized meeting of interested parties by the Coldspring Business and Merchants Association will most likely be the main topic of discussion.

The city welcomes attendance to the meeting. You may have the the opportunity to speak to the council by either placing your name on the comment list or call the City Hall by Thursday, July 30. By putting your name on the agenda you can become part of the official discussion for action to take part at the meeting.

A meeting held July 22 by shop and property owners who have businesses that front FM 1514 in the downtown area because they were concerned about losing parking in front of their buildings caused by providing handicap accessibility to the sidewalks. The project came about through the inquiry of a single individual to see if there was any help available through city, state, or federal funding. She contacted her senator, thus the topic of interest was addressed by TXDOT and then submitted to the City of Coldspring. The approval of the project was tabled at the last city council meeting for further research. At the recent July 22 meeting some twenty-five or so expressed various ideas and views on the “handicap accessibility” project plans. There was a letter in which spokesperson from the group Margaret Lynn shared. “In 1980 a ruling was approved by the City Council of Coldspring declaring the courthouse square as a Historical District”. The city backs the historical significance of the shops as evidence with the letter in which Mrs. Lynn shared.

The San Jacinto County Historical Commission Chairman, Rebecca Hammond was present at the meeting along with members of the Historical Commission, Coldspring Area Business and Merchants Association, property owners, shop keepers and even a few individuals that learned of the meeting and wanted to see the controversy handled is the best way possible.

The city nor the property owners are completely opposed to the shops being “handicap accessible” but that the proposed design from TXDOT is not visually desirable – risking the loss of the charm and historic integrity that the town currently possesses. Another main concern is the loss of about 20 parking spaces on the shop side of Hwy 1514.

On behalf of the City of Coldspring, this issue was placed on the Commissioners Court agenda by Mayor Pat Eversole. The city has offered to contribute $4,000 to the county for an employee parking lot as reported in last weeks San Jacinto New-Times. The county was receptive to this joint venture and is exploring the budget for the additional funds needed for an “employee parking lot”.

The plan of action is being determined as to how to proceed with coming to a desirable “handicap” plan for all involved. TXDOT has agreed to send a group of three representatives to explain and talk about the proposed project.

The shop owners and property owners have several alternative suggestions that were brought to the group at the meeting – according to TXDOT the meeting will most likely not take place until September at the earliest.

Questions were entertained as “what do we do from here”? Douglas Milstead of Shepherd, a non shop owner, insisted that “this is a delicate situation and you can’t go pushing and shoving or TXDOT and ADA will push right on through”.

Suggestions were made for all parties to give it some time to process through meeting with the TXDOT representatives, the city council and owners and proprietors to discuss alternative plans. It was suggested that if everyone will be receptive and open minded – working together can be the best solution.

The next City of Coldspring Council meeting is Monday, August 3 at 7:00 pm.

Coldspring Community Center Officers Elected

By: Gayle Erwin
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The annual meeting of the Coldspring Community Center was held on Friday, June 12 at the center. The opening of the meeting and confirmation of a quorum was conducted by Gayle Erwin. The annual meeting is held each year in relation to the fiscal year of the center that runs from June 1 through May 31st of each year. Year end business was conducted including a review of the financial reports,projections and recommendations, prepared by manager/treasurer Darchele Vucinovich.

New officers were elected to serve the 2015-16 year for the center. Newly elected officers are Karla Fratt – President, Debra Goodale – Vice President and Sunny Garbarino – Secretary. Last month new manager Darchele Vucinovich and husband Richard were approved as managers of the center. Much work has been accomplished on affordable tasks to improve the center.

The next meeting for the center will be July 13 at 11:00 a.m.. Each sponsoring organization is represented by two members who vote and help govern to actions and operations of the center. Attendance of representatives is needed at the meetings which are scheduled on a quarterly basis.

For information on renting the center or becoming a sponsoring organization, please call 936-628-6739.

Commissioner Court Approves Donation of $50K

By: Gayle Erwin
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A large donation of $50,000 was given by the City of Coldspring was approved as an agenda item at Commissioners Court, Tuesday, May 26. Sheriff Capers presented the proposal for the donation seeking approval from Commissioners Court to accept the $50,000 donation for the purchase of a patrol car adding to the sheriff’s office’s fleet. The Commissioners unanimously approved the donation. Capers expressed gratitude to the City of Coldspring and the Commissioners for the approval. The Commissioners also expressed thanks to the Sheriff for his office seeking funds for the addition.

Robert Trapp, District Attorney office representative, was on hand to seek approval for the use of seizure funds in the criminal district attorney’s office to upgrade the restroom, breakroom, and all offices and hallways in the district attorney’s office area. Items such as paint, carpet and restroom was approved by the Commissioners to proceed with the project.

The Bank Depository Contract was presented for approval by Amanda Washburn, San Jacinto Country Treasurer. The only contract received was from Peoples State Bank. San Jacinto County Auditor, Carole Martin requested that the item be tabled for review until the next Commissioners Court meeting. Peoples’s Bank is currently the bank serving the county accounts.

Officers of the court were selected to represent San Jacinto County on the DETCOG Board. Motion was made and approved to appoint the continuation of Judge John Lovett and Commissioner Mark Nettuno to stay on as the representatives on the board.

The Commissioners approved the proposal to amend the passed March 10, 2015 agreement with Harris County for a 700Hz Radio Service to an interlocal agreement with Montgomery County using the Harris County Radio System. Chief Joe Schultea presented the proposal representing the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Department.

The Budget Calendar was submitted by County Auditor Carole Martin for the 2015-16 Budget Workshops for approval by Commissioners Court. Workshops will be June 30 and July 29. Martin explained that there are certain guidelines and timelines that must be met in regards to the State of Texas and the San Jacinto County Appraisal Office to supply taxation information for consideration when conducting the Budget Workshops. Certain dates regarding salaries and budget adoption, etc., must be posted for public hearing in local newspapers. Martin advised the court that there are some dates that cannot be deviated in order to stay in compliance. The dates will be made public as they are determined and set for continued compliancy.