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Hawkins City Council

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Hawkins City Council was forced to again face the issue of open burning within the city limits as a long-time resident complained in behalf of his family and neighbors about oppressive smoke from the policy. The council also heard the unwelcome news that health insurance costs for city employees are going up 15 percent.
Mark Elkins, who has lived for several years with his family on Humble Street, asked the council for relief from smoke from open burn fires in his neighborhood. Elkins said no other city in Wood County permits open burning, citing Hawkins as a "red-neck hick-town" for adopting this policy. Elkins said his daughter suffers from asthma, a health condition that is seriously aggravated by smoke. He said several neighbors take advantage of Hawkins' open burning law. But they are doing so illegally, Elkins claims by not attending to the fire after it is started, not putting the fire out as the law requires and burning after dark and in control conditions-such as wind and humidity, as cited in the law. Elkins said he has called the police on several occasions to report the violations to the law. But, even after visits to the scene by officers, the violations continue.
The open burn issue is not new to the community. Hawkins passed a no-burn ordinance in the early 2000's, but that law was rescinded by the council after Sam Bradley was elected as Mayor, campaigning primarily on the burn issue, defeating incumbent Wayne Kirkpatrick, who had championed and secured passage of a ban during his several terms.
The council heard a report that health and life insurance costs for the city's employees will be increasing by 15-percent. The insurance coverage for public employees is provided by private carriers through the Texas Municipal League. The increased cost is just one of several such issues facing the council as they struggle to develop a budget and tax rate for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Kris Karlson appeared before the council to seek some rate relief on water/sewer/trash fees for a newly-developed recreational vehicle park just outside the city limits north east of Brookshires. By city utilities policy, fees for water and sewer service outside the city are doubled with special assessments for large commercial water meters, such as the one installed to service the 31-space RV park (currently, 14 of the 31 RV lots are occupied). Karlson reported the RV park's utility bills have been running in excess of $600 per month which includes $256 monthly for a 4-inch commercial water meter. After reviewing the policy, council members advised Karlson and partner Cody Thompson that they could find no means to provide relief from the fee structure in place.
Preliminary work related to the development of a Hawkins city budget for the upcoming fiscal year suggest the necessity to raise the tax rate to 0.5650 cents per hundred valuation. Last year's rate stood at 0.5176 cents. That prospective rate would be an increase of 4.74 cents per hundred, or 9.15 percent.
In other actions, the council:
- approved the 2011 budget of $70,100 for the Hawkins Community Development Corporation;
- approved an amendment to the budget of the Hawkins Volunteer Fire Department moving $2,100 to radio communications from the fuel budget account;
- heard a report that the old nursing home site on South Beaulah Street will be converted to apartments by the developer/owner;
- approved interlocal agreements with Wood County on an Emergency Management Plan, animal control and the Library Service contract;
- heard from citizen Earlene Maricle citing the need for property clean up on several parcels along South Beaulah (Maricle and others cleaned up the nursing home site at city suggestion);
- set a budget workshop for Thursday, August 23, and
- set Monday, September 13 and Monday, September 20 as public hearing dates for the 2010-2011 budget.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Hawkins City Council is scheduled for Monday, September 20 at 4 p.m. A special meeting of the council can be called with 72 hours public notice.