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Fannin County Commissioners Court debates first change order at justice center
By Allen Rich
Feb 22, 2024
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Fannin County, Texas -- Fannin County Judge Newt Cunningham presided over a regular meeting of Fannin County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, February 20, 2024, with Pct. 1 Commissioner Dale McQueen, Pct. 2 Commissioner A.J. Self and Pct. 4 Commissioner Doug Kopf present; Pct. 3 Commissioner Jerry Magness was absent.

The meeting opened with an invocation by Ronnie Ball, pastor of Sandy Creek Baptist Church, and pledges were led by Major James Manis (Ret.).

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Routine items

Fannin County Commissioners Court approved payment of bills totaling $$1,293,661.90; payroll was $385,293.85.

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Commissioners court approved the Treasurerís Financial Report for January 2024, as well as the Treasurerís Investment Report for January 2024.

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Report of monies received by the Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 office for January 2024; $8,465.20.

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Discussion items

Commissioners court received a presentation regarding the valuable service provided by Fannin County Community Ministries Food Pantry.

Members of Fannin County Commissioners Court and Fannin County Community Ministries Food Pantry gather for a photo. photo by Lisa Loiselle

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In an informational agenda item, commissioners court discussed the general precepts of an internal audit of payroll.

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Fannin County Auditor Alicia Whipple expressed "kudos" to Judge Kenny Karl for assisting with the internal audit of the Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 office and Whipple complimented Judge Karl for making daily deposits, but noted that deposits must be brought it to the treasurer's office to be in compliance.

"He's willing to do everything that needs to be done to be compliant," Whipple stated.

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As a result of the two inmates who managed to escape from the Fannin County Jail in November 2023, an inspection by Texas Commission on Jail Standards found that the county's South Annex needs to be "hardened" to be in compliance.

"We need to be in compliance in the most economical way possible," Judge Cunningham said.

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Discussion, consideration and action items

Fannin County Commissioners Court passed on an agenda item regarding the adoption of the Fannin County Fraud, Waste and Abuse Policy.

The AG's office wants counties to adopt an official policy regarding the disposition of grant money from the state.

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Commissioners court approved a one-time severance of one acre from a 7.923-acre tract on South FM 898 in Whitewright.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved an Interlocal Contracts with the Town of Windom and Dodd City for Road Maintenance.

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Commissioners court approved placing Fannin County restaurant and food service scores by the Registered Sanitarian on the county website.

County residents have requested this public information to be readily available.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court debated potential Change Order #001 for $42,234.00 from Crossland for abatement of concealed mastic at the Fannin County Justice Center.

"Obviously, this is our first change order and it's disturbing," Judge Cunningham remarked, adding that the amount was double what he expected.

The county judge went on to suggest that savings would be minimal if the county delays the project in order to go out for bids to remove asbestos from tile flooring in the area previously occupied by the local Nautilus franchise.

This abatement wasn't included in the original scope of work because a business was operating in this section of the building when the initial inspection was made.

Cunningham said he preferred to stick with Crossland's subcontractor to make certain the construction manager at risk will be responsible.

Pct. 2 Commissioner A.J. Self asked the county judge to review the contract that called for all asbestos to be removed before the $1.5 million payment for the building came out of escrow.

"We knew there was asbestos there and we agreed to accept the building as is," Cunningham stated.

Self reiterated that he felt like the seller was contractually obligated to remove all asbestos.

"I want it [justice center] to be in budget and I want everyone to meet their obligations," Self remarked.

"I think you are trying to blow up the deal," Cunningham countered. "What if it [justice center] comes in at $14 million instead of $9 million? You don't want it to be over $9 million."

"Absolutely," replied Self.

Fannin County Commissioners Court passed on action regarding the change order and this debate will likely resume at the court's next regular meeting. 

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Commissioners court accepted a bid of $26.07 per hour from North Texas Landmark Security for District Court Security Services.

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Open discussion items

(Open discussion items will be passed on unless discussion requested by a member of the court or a citizen)

In a brief discussion regarding courthouse repairs, Judge Cunningham noted that one contractor under scrutiny has agreed to sign a 90-day tolling agreement.

A tolling agreement is a legal tool which suspends the statute of limitations for an agreed amount of time while attempts are made to resolve disputes and avoid litigation.

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In a discussion of the county budget and possible revenue sources, Cunningham said he is working on agreement with the City of Bonham to operate the Multipurpose Complex. The county has expressed a desire to retain the services of a realtor if budget constraints make it necessary to liquidate county-owned property surrounding the Multipurpose Complex.

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In preparation for the expected influx of visitors coming to Fannin County to witness the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, Judge Cunningham asked the court to consider shutting down non-essential offices for a day.

"It's going to be a big event," Cunningham predicted. "We want to be ready to respond if there is an emergency, but we don't want our employees and residents to be hindered by the large inflow of visitors."

Heightened security will be another issue to carefully consider in the days leading up to the eclipse.

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In a discussion regarding wind farms in Fannin County, Cunningham repeated his staunch opposition.

"There is an initiative to place 800-foot-tall windmills in our county," explained Cunningham. "They've come to us looking for abatements and we've told them, 'No abatements.'"

The county judge is concerned about plummeting land values for neighboring property owners if some residents sign up.

"That's a pretty scary thing," Cunningham remarked. "Again, they want 800-foot-tall windmills....that's the height of a 42-story building. Wind farms don't generate jobs for the county. We want proper development, not neighbors suing neighbors because giant wind turbines are interfering with neighbor's property rights."

Cunningham urged county residents to get a firm answer from candidates about their position on wind farms.

"I don't want windmills in our county," Cunningham stated.

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Executive sessions were not deemed necessary and the meeting adjourned.