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Burnet, Texas
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January 7, 2015     The Burnet Bulletin
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January 7, 2015
 

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Page 2 Wednesday, January 7, 2015 Burnet Bulletin Burnet, Texas News i 1 - p This story originally was published in the Dec. 31 Bur- net Bulletin but part of it was not included. It is being print- ed in its entirety in today's edi- tion of the newspaper. BY JAMES WALKER BURNET BULLETIN As he prepared to take of- fice James Oakley was asked recently to describe his ap- proach to governing as Burner County's new county judge. "I look forward to serving and I've always said public service is not rocket science. It's customer service," said Oakley, who along with other newly-elected officials took the oath of office at a cere- mony Thursday at the Burnet County Courthouse. Oakley, who finished first in the March Republican pri- mary and defeated Marble Falls Mayor George Russell in a runoff in May, succeeds Donna Klaeger, who left of- fice after eight years as county judge. Oakley also promised to operate the county judge's office and the Commission- ers Court, which he will head, with a high degree of transparency. "I will demand it," he said. Oakley's list of priorities as a he takes office is a famil- iar one, with water, transporta- tion and the multiple tentacles of law enforcement, criminal justice and jail operations at the top. "About 68 percent of the JAMES WALKER I STAFF New Burnet County Judge James Oakley, being sworn into office by former 33rd State District Judge Gil Jones on Jan.l, pledged to emphasize a commitment to customer service as head of the county government, county budget is dedicated to criminal activity, be it the sheriff's office, the jail or the criminal justice system and that's really irritating to me," he said. "I really wish we could focus more on people who are playing by the rules." The most immediate con- corn for Oakley and the county is the county jail and how best to meet the county's needs for housing its prisoners• The county has been op- erating the jail since March 1 and recently reached an agree- ment with bondholders who are on the financial hook for the jail and its costs to con- tinue operating it until Oct. 1, 2015. Meanwhile, the county, which really does not want to be in the business of operat- ing a 588-bed facility, and the Public Facilities Corporation which oversees the operations of the jail, are seeking a work- able and affordable long-term solution to the problem. "we now have a facility that is not being used at its ca- pacity," Oakley said. "It is not performing for the bondhold- ers and we are in the midst of trying to figure out what the county needs." The bondholders have in- dicated they would like to di- vest themselves of the jail and its financial burdens, but there has been virtually no interest, Oakley said. "It's a fair thing to say that I don't think there are people standing in line to buy a jail," he said. "It equates to getting a really good deal on a two- ton diesel truck and you get six miles to a gallon." Burnet County might be willing to buy the jail at the right price if the bondholders are willing to sell at that price, but for now the county is in" process of attempting to figure out its best financial option to housing its own prisoners, Oakley said. "What would it cost us to renovate and retrofit the old jail, which holds 96 beds? what would it cost us to build a new 200-bed facility? Would those costs be less or more than what we would pay to buy and operate the present jail?" Oakley said. As she left office, Klaeger touted the fact that the county is on schedule to be debt-free in 2016, but Oakley already is warning that it won't stay that way. "I am a very financial con- servative but I also know that if you have long-term infra- structure needs you have costs and you have to spread that forward for the population growth that that is intended to serve," he said. "And frankly, the cost of borrowing money is the cheapest in history that I am aware of." There is a need for a public access building at the coun- ty's TX 29 annex complex to house the AgriLife Extension and Elections offices, among others, Oakley said. That would allow the annex, which contains two courtrooms, judges offices and the district attorney's of- rices, to become almost strict- ly a criminal justice facility with greater security. "Right now we have cit- izens coming into the an- nex that don't have business with the courts and they are subjected to medal detectors and purse searches. That's a conflict we woud like to eliminate." Oakley also has transpor- tation initiatives he plans to champion. "There are a lot of county roads that need infrastructure improvement that are beyond the normal annual budget that a road and bridge precinct re- ceive," he said. "If we were able to put together a bond package on some identified specific projects such as low water crossing replacements or some substantial improve- ments to some sections of heavily-traveled county roads to bring them up to more of a farm to market look without having to meet TxDOT (Tex- as Department of Transpor- tation) specs it would make sense." Oakley also still is com- mitted to pushing his plan he unveiled during the county judge political campaign ear- lier this year for a bridge to be built below WiVcz Dam that would connect heavily trav- eled FM 2347 and FM 1431. "I want to up the ante on that and prioritize that as a need because it is the next level of where we need to go," he said. "I'm not talking about putting in a turn lane or shoulders on an existing road; it would be a whole new spoke in the wheel as it were and it would alleviate traffic clogs in the southern part of the county." From Page 1 been here," he said. In November, the utility company pumped 7.5 million total gallons, and sold 3:7_m~lr lion gallonsc~O~ 19~,~o~L ~lL~i city $2,025. In December, 6.5 million gallons were pumped and 4.4 million gallons were sold, which cost the city $846, Lambert said. "It's not a huge cost to the city, but it is a cost we need to cut out," he added. "We're trying to pinpoint what part of our system needs to be im- proved so we can spend our money wisely." Although the causes have not been determined, the prob- lem is likely a perfect storm of geology and technology. "There are all kinds of fac- tors" that could contribute to the water loss, so "we chase one thing at a time," Lambert said. He said he does not think a major leak is the problem be- cause of the fluctuating nature of how much water is pumped. "Some days we pump 300,000 gallons, and 190,000 gallons the next day; I think if we had a leak it would just get worse and worse, but it's all over the could mean we're losing water somewhere." Another potential, but un- proven, cause is theft of water, Lambert said. "We cover a lot of rural property, so there's no telling how many people could have rigged something up over vibration that we believe is the beatings going out, causing the packing to have a small leak," he explained• "This will also help improve the water loss once we get the pumps rebuilt, because every drop counts." He added the pumps have place." ........ the last 10years.,' never had any major w~)rk '~ V " We fi~.i ~;,~ ~ B~e~., '~ ii~l~l/za~i:~R(t~ilm~ b~ Y~eL sil~c~i,,~the~w ~,effe,~,i." .g~s~ll~.~ • ' • l we sere one, but g.s difficut another cause.. "W~te~ meters around a decade ago. when they don't Surface to the could cause the W~i~ loss to Additionally, the city is ground," said. Blame regional •geology for that• "Our pipes were set into ditches dug seven to eight feet deep into solid rock, so often when there's a leak we have trouble finding it," said Ber- tram Mayor Dickie Allen in May, when he responded to a 28 percent water loss in April• Rather than rising to the sur- face, water can travel along the rocky trenches so "that it might not come out until it's clear outside the city limits." Lambert said the Bertram water system "isn't too old, but there are some old gal- vanized water lines, which be high, and that was the num- ber one selling point for peo- ple to start moving forward with the new technology, Ra- dio Read Digital meters," he said. The new meters allow the utility company to "monitor where the water went, and at what time, instead of the older mechanical type," which only gave a reading. The utility department is taking measures to reduce the water loss. At the Burner well site, two booster pumps and their motors will be inspected when the failed check valve is re- placed, Lambert said• "Both booster pumps had a considering using sonar leak detection equipment, but it is challenging to find a starting point, he said. "We would just have to trace one line at a time," Lambert said. Allen encourages custom- ers to help by letting the utility department know if they sus- pect a leak. "We depend on our cus- tomers to report things like a patch of green grass in the middle of the summer," Allen said. "It's just one of those common-sense things we do around here." Contact the utility depart- ment at City Hall if a leak is suspected: 512-355-2197• the tax and the county's re- sultant use of the funds it generates. Oakley voted against im- From Page 1 posing the tax when he was previously a member of com- "I have a degree in mar- missioners court as Precinct keting, I have lived in Burnet 4 commissioner and one of Co~ty most of my life and his political supporters¢ James know it well ~d I thlnk~i: Fletcher, recently stud at a • , [ know how to promote ~t,'~l~e commissioners' court meeting said. that he and others plan to work Oakley is a graduate of the former Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State University. • Oakley also said he will personally handle the public information officer duties. He has long indicated an interest in the Hotel Occupan- cy Tax (HOT) fund, the five percent levy that the coun- ty's hotel and motel opera- tors charge overnight visitors which produces funds for the county to use in the further promotion and generation of tourism to the area. Some accommodation business leaders have re- portedlybeen unhappy about to have the county's hotel oc- cupancy tax repealed. Oakley has not said he fa- vors eliminating the tax, but said his plans for the HOT funds will be different. His involvement will al- low "a more direct utilization of those funds for what they are intended, which is putting heads in beds," Oakley said. Oakley plans to call a special commissioners' court meeting with the county's hotel and motel operators on Tuesday, Feb. 10. "We'll be inviting all of them that are subject to this tax to an interactive round ta- ble discussion," he said. I Designer Purse Bingo scheduled in February ~.~ The Hill Country Children's Advocacy ~enter's Third Annual Designer Purse Bingo event, in which participants play for prizes 9f designer purses, is scheduled on Saturday, Feb. 7. The annual fundraiser will take place from 2-5 p.m. at the Lakeside Pavilion, 307 Buena Vista, in Marble Falls. Participants will be able to try their luck at 20 rounds of Bingo for a chance to win de- signer handbags such as Coach, Kate Spade and Michael Kors. There will also be door prizes, food, drinks and raffles during the three-hour session. Tickets for this event will be $35 and pro- ceeds will aid the Hill Country Children's Ad- vocacy Center. More information is available at www. hccac.org or by calling Ronda Hostetter at 512-756-2607 CONTRIBUTED Marsha Killam, Bev Cromer and Liz Figueroa were among the winners at this past year's designer purse bingo event. Killam walked away with a black Coach purse, Cromer with a tan and pink Coach and Figueroa with a blue Michael Kors purse. 4-H members busy in Burnet County BY LINDA WILLS, AGRILIFE EXTENSION The new 4-H year in Bur- net County is in full swing with an increase in member- ship over last year and a new club in the county. Members and leaders have formed the Burnet 4-H Club, which brings the total to nine different 4-H clubs in the county. Some of the highlights that have taken place since the New Year began include the following: On Nov. 4, 2014, the Briggs 4-H Foods and Nutri- tion Team - Chloe DeSplinter, Callie Herring, and Matthew Kepner - competed in the District 7 4-H Food/Nutrition Quiz Bowl in Coleman. They placed second and will be ad- vancing on to the state com- petition next June during the State 4-H Roundup, which will be held in College Station. Matthew Kepner and Tom- my Edmundson, both of the Briggs 4-H Club, competed at the District 7 4-H Food Show in Abilene on Nov. 17. Kepner placed third with a Spanish rice dish, while Edmundson also won a third place with his educational display. The annual Bumet County 4-H Awards Banquet was held Nov. 18 at the Bumet County Fairgrounds, with over 150 youth members, family mem- bers and guests in attendance. Awards presented included the Gold Star Award for outstand- ing achievement throughout a 4-H career. This year's Gold Star Award recipient was Lacey Naumann, a member of Spice- wood 4-. The Silver Clover Award was presented to Kelly Hay- don, manager of the Bumet 4-H Horse Club. The County High Point Individual Award was present- ed to Kayla Abels, also of the Spicewood 4-H Club. And, the High Point Club Award was given to the Spice- wood 4-H Club. The "I Dare You" leadership award was presented to Shelby Denton and David Frost, both of the Bertram 4-H Club. And, Friends of 4-H Awards for 2014 were pre- sented to Lela Goar and family and Hudson Glimp and family, who have been 4-H members and dedicated supporters of the Bumet County 4-H program for over six decades. Receiving the Individual Appreciation Award was Glen- na Bell Orman, while group appreciation awards went to Burner Extension Education Association Clubs of Beth- el, Lake Victor, Marble FallS, Oatmeal and Redbud Oakalla, the Highland Lakes Master Gardeners and Master Natu- ralists and the Bumet County Area Fair for all of their sup- port during the 4-H Club year. The Meritorious Service Award was presented to Wade Hibler for his many years of dedicated service to the Bur- net County 4-H Program as the Burnet County Ag/NR agent. Awards were also present- ed to individual 4-H members for their accomplishments in various projects and activities. On Nov. 25, two Bumet County Foods and Nutrition teams competed at the Dis- trict 7 4-H Food Challenge in Abilene. The intermediate team (11 - 13 yrs), the Cook- ing Cowgirls - Katie Bird, As- pen Nelson, Ashlyn Ward and Isabella Escamilla of the Ber- tram 4-H Club - finished with fourth-place ribbons in their very first year competing. The senior team (14-18 yrs) - Chloe DeSplinter, Callie Herring and Matthew Kepner - finished in second place in their first year competing as a team• Kepner and Herring will be competing as individuals at the San Antonio Stock Show Individual Food Challenge in February. At this time of year, the 4-H clubs are also very ac- tive with community service projects. Anyone interested in joining 4-H in Bumet County is asked to contact Wells, at 512-756-5463.