By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – A tax abatement for a possible new car dealership in Houston County received the green light from the Commissioners Court of Houston County during a meeting of the commissioners court held on Tuesday, Oct. 25.
The meeting was opened by County Judge Erin Ford at 10:00 a.m. and while Commissioners Kennon Kellum and Gary Lovell were absent, a quorum was present.
After the commissioners had given their approval to several routine agenda items, the matter of the tax abatement was addressed. James Gentry, the interim director for the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation, was present in the courtroom and spoke about the matter.
“I wanted to come before you for the final sign off on the abatement. Prior to this, you had approved the (tax abatement) guidelines for us. This was brought before the city (Crockett) and received their approval. It is coming back now to get the final sign off by the county for the abatement for the dealership. We were anticipating to close on the sale (of land) earlier this week. There was a bit of delay. We thought it would be this Monday (Oct. 24), but because of some ongoing environmental studies, there was a delay, but this is still in line with getting everything else approved,” Gentry said.
With no further discussion, the tax abatement was unanimously approved.
Chris von Doenhoff, Board Chairman of the CEIDC, was also present at the meeting and expressed his thanks to the court for approving the abatement. He added, “I think this is the last shoe to drop and they should be able to go ahead with the closing. It was actually scheduled earlier – yesterday – but hopefully by the end of the week they’ll be able to close. I’ll find out and let you know.”
Before the meeting adjourned, a matter pertaining to the Houston County Jail was discussed. In a previous meeting, the judge had informed the court the Texas Jail Commission had found the Houston County Jail to be in violation of the standards of operation.
A representative from the Jail Commission had been scheduled to speak at the Tuesday morning meeting but was unable to attend.
As a result, Judge Ford informed the court, “Essentially, we were over our maximum limit of inmates for the guards we had. The Texas Jail Commission mandates the number of guards to one per every 48 prisoners. We had two guards on duty and we had 105 prisoners at that time. This has been a consistent issue with a shortage of the jailers. There are two ways we can approach this. We can either increase the amount of jailers or we can decrease the amount of inmates. If we stay with 96 inmates we can stay with two jailers. If we exceed that number, then we will have to go with three. That’s where we’re at.”
The agenda item was for discussion purposes only and no action was taken by the court.
After the meeting concluded, Gentry further discussed the abatement matter. “We were tentatively supposed to close on it Monday. There was a delay due to the final paperwork on the Phase One environmental study of the property. The intent is to have this completed by the end of the week, so hopefully by Friday we will be able to complete the sale. Right now, all indications are the lights are green. It’s just a matter of getting the paperwork processed. I’m just thankful we have received both approvals (for the abatement by the city and the county). We will get the paperwork to the appraisers and then we’ll be able to get things moving.”
Specifically asked what type of auto dealership is potentially moving into Crockett, Gentry smiled and said, “Ask me in another week. I was hoping to be able to tell you today.”
Gentry was further asked where the CEIDC stood on finding a permanent director for the organization. “Right now, the board has decided to maintain the interim position. We will review this in another month or two and see where we are going to go from there,” he said.
In other matters brought before the court:
- The commissioners approved the minutes from their most recently held meetings.
- The payment of bills and expenses incurred by the county were approved.
- The County Treasurer’s report and compensatory time report were approved.
- The court gave its approval to a FY 2017 contract amendment and extension with DETCOG for the home delivered meal program and Houston County Senior Center operations from Oct. 1 until Dec. 31, 2016.
- The acceptance on bids for trust properties submitted by the Houston County Appraisal District was tabled for further consideration.
- A motion was made and approved to expend a previously budgeted $500 to participate as a host in the upcoming Deep East Texas Legislative Reception.
The Houston County Commissioners Court normally meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 10:00 a.m. in the County Courthouse Annex. The public is welcome and invited to attend.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at [email protected].