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Commissioners Approve Tax Abatement Application

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 By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – The Houston County Commissioners Court met in a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday morning, Oct. 13 highlighted by a discussion on a tax abatement application and the placement of a sign on the Houston County Courthouse lawn.

Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation (CEIDC) Executive Director James Gentry was on hand for the meeting and said the CEIDC had been “… approached by Lincoln Lumber Company to bring a high-tech sawmill to our community with significant funding and approximately 18 jobs. They already own property in Crockett – the old Edmiston warehouse facility on Austin Street – and they are looking at expanding with an investment of approximately $10 million.”

Lincoln Lumber US Operations Manager Gary Keeling – also present in the Zoom meeting – provided a brief background on the company’s history and current locations before saying the company had its eye on a facility in Crockett.

“We already own the property and we already own the building. There were some cost savings by doing it here. The wood basket around Crockett is very attractive for the logs we will be buying so, here we are,” Keeling said.

Precinct Two County Commissioner Willie Kitchen, who facilitated the meeting in the absence of Houston County Judge Jim Lovell, said he appreciated the company’s decision to invest in Crockett. With no further discussion, a motion was made to accept a tax abatement application from the company. The motion was passed unanimously.

The tax abatement matter will be further discussed during the Nov. 10 meeting of the Commissioners Court. 

Another issue brought before the court pertained to a request from St. Francis of the Tejas Catholic Church to place a sign on the Houston County Courthouse lawn which would provide information on adoption options and other information pertaining to the matter.

As the discussion began, Kitchen questioned if County Attorney Daphne Session was present in the Zoom meeting.

“I wonder if there is a conflict on any means, whatsoever, and if it is biased or anything of this nature. Has she seen this?” he asked.

The commissioner was informed the county attorney was presently in criminal court.

“I’m a little uncomfortable granting that, not knowing the repercussions. Are we endorsing … do y’all follow my logic?”     

The agenda item was pushed back until Session was able to join the meeting. Following deliberations on two other items, the county attorney was able to leave the criminal court proceedings and participate in the sign discussion.

Kitchen asked Session if the agenda item could be construed as an endorsement for any political purpose. 

“I was a little uncomfortable in going ahead with that until you had a chance to consider it. I’m ok with it but I want to make sure the county is not setting themselves up for a lawsuit,” he said.

County Auditor Melissa Jeter informed the court, “Under the premises policy – for signs – they are supposed to submit a copy of what the sign is supposed to look like and there is not one.”

The county attorney asked Kitchen if the church had submitted information about what would be on the sign.

After hearing this, Kitchen remarked the court would need a rendition of the sign so the commissioners could examine it.

The matter was eventually tabled for further consideration.

Prior to the signage discussion, Jeter indicated she had recently received an e-mail from the Texas Comptroller’s Office concerning the allocation of mineral funds.

“This year, the total distribution is right at $35,250. Last year, we received $53,700. So, it has dropped significantly and of course we split that $35,250 with the schools. It is not only a drop for the county, but it is also a drop for the schools,” she explained.

Also during the meeting, the court adopted a proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Precinct Two Commissioner Willie Kitchen commented, “Even though we are halfway through it, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. IT is something not to be taken lightly and it is something very present in our community.”

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 Environmental and Community Service Reports were received as information by the court.
  • The court approved salaries for new and/or transfer employees.
  • The Fiscal Year 2021 Commissioners Court meeting dates were approved as the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.
  • The court approved accepting a donation of 120 gallons of milk, 100 boxes of chicken and 100 boxes of produce from Good Shepherd Outreach Ministry for use by the Houston County Sheriff’s Office for inmate meals.
  • Donations from Bartee Construction in the amount of $7,500 for improvements to CR 2300 was accepted and from Vulcraft who donated 40 pieces of angle iron and 20 pieces of reject scrap deck for head wall replacement on CR 1745 were accepted by the commissioners. 

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

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