City seeks assistance from county on fires

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Madisonville Mayor Bill Parten asked for help from the Madison County Commissioners’ Court to defray costs of fighting fires in the county.

The mayor, along with City Manager Camilla Viator, offered a proposal for a straight swap of services.

The city provides the lion’s share of funding for the Madisonville Fire Department, as well as utilities for the county offices; the county provides the city with police and fire dispatch services and houses city prisoners.

Parten said that more than 50 percent of the fires in a given year occur in the county, to which the county reimburses only a small portion of the $311,000 budget.

“It’s getting to the point that we’re going to have to have some help, some support,” Parten said. “The budget keeps growing.”

While the MFD is staffed by volunteers, the city does provide insurance and retirement, and health care costs are a real problem, Parten said.

“The city pays to the county about $80,000 per year for jail service and dispatch service, and the county gives about $15,000 to the fire department,” he said. “What we’re requesting this year is that we not pay you, and you not pay us.”

Parten said that in the past year, of the 356 fires battled by the MFD, 188 were in the county.

Commissioner Carl Cannon asked if the city would continue to charge for water service to the jail, to which Parten replied the costs would be waived within reason.

Currently, the county pays about $18,000 for water.

Viator said this is a plea for help for the fire department because “we can’t continue to fight fires in the county with what we’re able to give them.”

In budget-related matters, the county approved a tax rate of 55 cents per $100 property valuation as the tax rate for the next fiscal year, which is the same as the current year.

As the county continued to work on the budget, County Judge Butch McDaniel said that it is his recommendation that county employees get a $1 per hour raise across the board, with only a few exceptions.

However, during budget hearings for the District Attorney’s Office, DA Brian Risinger sought to increase the rate for the assistant district attorney from $58,000 annually to $65,000 annually. The proposed $1 increase would only raise the pay to just over $60,000.

Risinger also asked to increase the pay for each of the clerks in the office to a level above the $1 per hour proposal.

In discussing the county judge’s portion of the budget, the county sought to raise the judge’s capital outlay budget to $3,200 for two computers, as well as looking into the large increase in budgeting for the Central Appraisal District.

No action was taken on budget matters.

In other business, the county:

•approved keeping the old school property;

•approved a request from Chase Manning for $5,400 in contingency funds to pay for outside restaurant inspection services;

•approved agreements with the Brazos Valley Council of Governments for E911 database maintenance and public safety answering point services;

•approved the disbursement of $5,248.54 to Fiberlight LLC for overpayment of property taxes for 2014, 2015 and 2016. County Tax Assessor Karen Lane said Fiberlight was double-assessed by the Appraisal District on 11 properties;

•approved a division of property into two lots for the property at 4346 FM 1452; and

•approved a new plat of property in the River Oaks subdivision.

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