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Chickens, Booze, Lawsuits and Trash

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Commissioners Court Runs the Gamut

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – During the Jan. 22 meeting of the Houston County Commissioners Court, the commissioners were asked to consider a wide array of matters including chickens, booze, lawsuits and trash.

Once the meeting had been called to order, Houston County resident Patricia Lucas addressed the court about the odors emitting from chicken houses located near her residence.

“We live out on Hwy. 21 East, about six miles, and half a mile south of us there is a large chicken operation consisting of 16 houses. A mile past us to the north there is another set of 16 houses. They are quite odorous, I can assure you,” Lucas said.

The houses accommodate approximately 28,300 chickens per house “… and at any given time, that would mean there are 452,800 birds.”

Lucas explained she had voiced her concerns to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) numerous times, but had received no relieve from TCEQ or the smell.

“The inspectors, when they are here, they tell us the odor is subjective. That means that while we can smell it, they can’t. Maybe they have smelled too much oil and gas or chicken houses,” she added.

After approximately 15 minutes, County Judge Jim Lovell said while he would like to be able to help “… we absolutely have no power of jurisdiction. We appreciate you coming to put this on the record at commissioners’ court.”

As the meeting continued, the court was asked to consider approving a budget amendment in the amount of $20,000 for election expenses to be incurred for the Local Option Liquor Election to be held in Justice of the Peace Precinct One.

The matter came about because of a petition to place the measure on the May 4 ballot and was unanimously approved by the court. The county’s contingency fund will cover the expense.

Next, the commissioners heard a report from attorney Tab Beall with the legal firm of Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins and Mott concerning compressor lawsuits.

A 2018 decision by the Texas Supreme Court has opened the door for refunds from several counties because of the way gas compressors are taxed.  The court ruling stemmed from a 2011 decision by the Texas Legislature to reclassify compressors as heavy equipment under the tax code, Beall explained.

The reclassification now requires heavy equipment will be taxed at the location of its leasing company rather than the actual location of the equipment. In other words, if the leasing company has its headquarters in Dallas and compressors in Houston County, the compressors will be taxed in Dallas and not in Houston County.

Because of this, Houston County could very well have to issue tax refunds including interest in amount well over $100,000.

Before the meeting concluded, a report on trash collection was provided by Denny Wheeler with Pineywoods Sanitation.

Wheeler reported while the transition to Pineywoods had a few glitches, it went fairly smooth considering the Christmas season and the amount of rain in the area.

“We actually have 1,674 residential customers signed up and 70 commercial customers signed up. Of the 1,674 customers, 120 have double carts. So, right now we have put out 1,794 carts and as of today, we have 53 left to put out,” Wheeler said.

During the first month of service, Wheeler reported there had only been seven missed pickups with four of those the customer representative’s fault.

In other matters brought before the court:

  • The commissioners approved the minutes from previous meetings.
  • The payment of bills and expenses incurred by the county were approved.
  • The Houston County Treasurer’s report and Compensatory report were received as information by the commissioners.
  • Salaries for new and/or transfer employees were approved.
  • The renewal of a lease agreement between Brenda Stubblefield and the Houston County Road and Bridge Precinct Four was approved.
  • The matter of a tax abatement for Midland Estate, LLC died for lack of a motion.

 

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.