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Third amended emergency proclamation approved

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  • Third amended emergency proclamation approved
    Van Zandt County Judge Don Kirkpatrick announced the Third Amended Proclamation Declaring a Local State of Disaster in VZC. Photo by David Barber

A Third Amended Proclamation Declaring a Local State of Disaster regarding coronavirus in VZC was approved unanimously April 29 by the Van Zandt County Commissioners Court during its regular meeting.

The commissioners’ court modified their latest proclamation to basically follow the guidelines announced by Texas Governor Greg Abbott during his ‘Open Texas’ press conference April 27.

The April 29 meeting of the commissioners’ court was again held with no public access as the meeting was made available to the public through YouTube and ZOOM due to coronavirus concerns.

No more than 10 people were allowed in the meeting with everyone attending, including the members of the commissioners’ court, sitting six feet apart.

“Our current proclamation expires at midnight tonight (April 29),” pointed out Kirkpatrick. “I had a meeting yesterday (April 28) with our VZC District Judge Chris Martin, our VZC Court at Law Judge Joshua Wintters, VZC Pct. 2 Commissioner Virgil Melton Jr., our VZC Emergency Management Coordinator Vicki McAlister, our VZC Criminal District Attorney Tonda Curry as well as our VZC Sheriff’s Department. We went over our current proclamation. There are some things that need to be modified.”

Kirkpatrick said that Section 6 of the former proclamation was eliminated which dealt with large gatherings as well as Section 7 dealing with essential outdoor activities.

“Section 9 in our former proclamation now becomes the new Section 7 in our modified proclamation,” said Kirkpatrick.

The new Section 7 of the modified VZC proclamation addresses ‘Businesses and Places of Worship,’ and reads as follows:

‘In accordance with GA-18 and the Governor’s Report to Open Texas, in addition to essential businesses, the following categories of business may be open so long as they follow the limitations and protocols established by the governor in his report: Retail, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, libraries, outdoor sports involving less than four people, churches and places of worship, and single-person offices.’

Melton then spoke about the April 28 meeting that he attended. “I raised an objection at that meeting, and I think we need to have an open discussion here today (April 29) on the whole thing,” emphasized Melton. “My point is that the governor’s order does not fit all counties. It is not a fit for smaller counties. It takes control away from the elected county officials. It is amazing to me that you can go into a liquor store, which the governor has said is an essential business, and buy a bottle of whiskey but you can’t make an appointment to get your hair cut. I just don’t get it. Let’s trust our people to abide by the social distancing rules that are applied by the Center for Disease Control. I believe in social distancing. This whole thing does not make sense to me.”

Kirkpatrick responded, “It is difficult to follow the governor’s orders when it feels like they are being changed almost every day.”

Curry addressed the commissioners’ court. “A lot of this does not make sense to me either but the bottom line is that now, the governor has made it clear that cities and counties do not have the authority to open anything that he has not opened,” pointed out Curry. “I know of one county who tried to do that, and they got slapped down by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. You can have your license removed. There have been salons issued citations in the Dallas area.”

VZC Pct. 3 Commissioner Keith Pearson said, “The governor originally made it clear that the cities and the counties had the authority to make things stricter but he has also come back this week and made it clear that now his orders supersedes anyone else’s orders. The governor is now calling the shots and is taking control.”

Kirkpatrick and McAlister made it clear to the commissioners’ court that despite the governor’s recent guidelines set, there is still a need for an emergency proclamation order in VZC to be in place.

“If we don’t declare a local disaster in VZC, we would be forfeiting any funds that we may receive from the state,” pointed out Kirkpatrick.

Pearson responded, “The whole State of Texas is under a disaster order. He should declare a disaster for the whole state.”

McAlister said, “The governor can’t apply for grants for the county. If the county does not have an order in place, then we cannot apply for any funds.”

Kirkpatrick then addressed adding a section in the modified proclamation regarding public access to the courthouse and other VZC office buildings.

“I would like Section 11 of our modified proclamation to address this,” said Kirkpatrick to the commissioners’ court. “I want our offices to be open to the public with full staff, by appointment only, beginning Monday, May 4. We would bring back in all of our employees including those who have been working from home.”

The new Section 11 of the modified VZC proclamation addresses ‘Courthouse and County Offices,’ and reads as follows:

‘The VZC Courthouse and VZC offices will be open with full staff to the public, by appointment only, beginning Monday, May 4, 2020.’

Anyone entering the courthouse will have their temperature checked by courthouse security before proceeding to any of the offices, according to Kirkpatrick and the commissioners’ court.

Following unanimous approval by the commissioners’ court, Kirkpatrick announced that the modified proclamation for VZC will remain in effect through Wednesday, May 13, when the commissioners’ court will have their next regular meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. that day.

In other action during their April 29 regular meeting, the commissioners’ court approved the reading of the minutes from the April 15 meeting and approved the payment of the VZC bills as they were submitted.

Kirkpatrick reminded everyone to fill out their 2020 census form if they had not already done so.

“About half of VZC have turned in their census forms,” pointed out Kirkpatrick. “I know that there is a lot going on right now, but we need to get those census forms turned in. Those numbers help to determine how much federal and state funding we will receive in VZC. I would encourage everyone to please turn in your census form.”

Following a proclamation read by Kirkpatrick, the commissioners’ court approved the month of May as Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month in VZC.

Exemptions from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for certain key VZC employees were approved by the commissioners’ court following a recommendation by VZC Human Resource Director Dan Maucieri.

Employee schedules, working from home, and limits on administrative time during the coronavirus crisis were discussed by Maucieri and the commissioners’ court.

Maucieri agreed to have an updated policy on administrative time ready to present to the commissioners’ court at their May 13 meeting.

Implementing the last step in the Easy Clocking time tracking system to automate timecard calculations for payroll was approved after much discussion by the commissioners’ court following a recommendation by Maucieri.

The purchase of a 1997 International 4700 Distributor Truck for VZC Pct. 4 Road and Bridge for $25,000 was approved by the commissioners’ court following a recommendation by VZC Pct. 4 Commissioner Tim West.

Following a recommendation by Melton, the commissioners’ court approved the Cunningham Estates plat in VZC Pct. 2.

The Mallard Estates plat in VZC Pct. 3 was approved by the commissioners’ court following a recommendation by Pearson.

A bid from Wood County Asphalt for oil sand and ‘type D’ hot mix road and bridge materials were approved by the commissioners’ court following a presentation by VZC Auditor Sandy Hill.

A series of fiscal year 2020 budget amendments were approved by the commissioners’ court.

The March 2020 Financial & Investment Report of the VZC treasurer’s office was approved and entered into the minutes of the commissioners’ court.

Monthly reports submitted by various offices and departments of VZC government were approved and entered in the minutes of the commissioners’ court as a matter of record.