The Rusk County Commissioners gathered in a special called session Thursday morning to discuss audit results, approve typical agenda items such as Justice of the Peace and Constable reports and pipeline/utility requests, and to hear an update on NetRMA and the Rusk County Rural Railroad District.
Morgan Lagrone, local CPA, presented the Commissioners with the Rusk County Independent Audit report. She proudly reported no findings in any section, calling each a clean report. Upon discussion, the audit was approved unanimously with no questions from commissioners.
John Cloutier, Rusk County transportation planner for more than 14 years, for Rusk County, participation North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority (NetRMA)which is a compilation 14 counties, from Texarkana to Tyler, down to the southernmost border of Cherokee county. The initiative encompasses not only the Toll road in Tyler, Toll 49, but they also have a stake in advancing local projects that happen from county to county.
Taking monies received from projects such as Toll 49 those funds are moved out to priority projects within different counties. Every year one of the subcommittees of NetRMA takes priority project submissions from other counties and evaluates and scores them and tries to find ways to invest in and advance worthwhile projects.
“We’ve requested this year that the NetRMA consider the Rail District in Rusk County to help us advance our rail,” said Cloutier. “Continuing to modernize our rail service to support the even bigger business. Looking downstream at what it takes to replace the economic value of a coal mine that won’t last forever.”
With this purpose in mind, $240,000 was requested from NetRMA and the outline was the highest chosen project. Compliments were received on the masses of political support as well as the support of area businesses for this project. The grant was awarded and Cloutier presented the commissioners with a large check made out for the requested total.
Judge Hale and the commissioners expressed gratitude to Cloutier for the hard work and dedication he shows for the people of Rusk County.
Rusk County Office of Emergency Management officer, Patrick Dooley spoke about the ever-increasing potential to instate a burn ban. While conditions are still favorable Texas heat and long summer days can deplete water levels quickly. No ban has been enacted but the situation is being closely monitored.
James Pike, Rusk County’s Emergency Management Coordinator spoke before the commissioners about the COVID-19 crisis and its continued hold on the area. While reported cases have dropped to 20 and recoveries have increased to 67 now is not the time to relax and lower our guard. He did acknowledge that signs of a second wave but clarified that within Rusk County hospitals there appears to be sufficient PPE and ICU bed space available to handle the slow climb. He also took a moment to address the huge spike in numbers reported from area correctional facilities. He did clarify that TDCJ had recently completed testing of all offenders and staff withing Bradshaw State Jail and East Texas Treatment Facility so the numbers spike was contained. ETTF showed no offender cases but two positive staff members who had since recovered. The news for Bradshaw State Jail wasn’t so pleasant. COVID-19 test results showed 169 offender cases, a number that’s been verified by the Department of State Health Services.
Pike did announce new mobile testing sites, some of which are walk-in and not the drive-ins as previous testing sites have been. Carlisle ISD will be hosting a walk-in site on Tuesday while a two-day site will be opened at Henderson’s Civic Center on Thursday and Friday.
Reports for Rusk County Justice of the Peace Pct. 3 and 4 and Constable Pct. 2 and 3 were viewed and approved.
Pipeline requests made by Next Level Energy Services for Ebenezer Water Supply Company were approved. That proposal was to place a 2” water line under/across and along/within the right-of-way of CR 375 E and 317, in Pct. 3 of Rusk County.
Commissioners also approved the TxDOT Aviation request for the FY2020 Cares Act Funding for Rusk County Airport Runway Project and approved a 5-year contract with Avenu Government Records Services, LLC to become the software provider for Government Services.