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December 9th, 2008
Commissioners Court approves fireworks ban

The Hays County Commisioners court unanimously approved to prohibit the use or sale of skyrockets with sticks, and missiles with fins. Hays County Fire Marshal Mike Chambers said the fire hazard for the County was dangerously high.

“There is a severe fire hazard at this point,” County Judge Liz Sumter said.

As of Dec. 1, 2008, the Hays County Drought Index measures between 570 and 744 on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI).

The KBDI scale ranges between 0 and 800, and accurately measures the amount of soil moisture missing in a given area. Chambers said the scale for Hays County has been above 600 for the past two weeks and a 14-day projection puts the county above 700 on the drought days.

Chambers said he spoke with members of the fireworks industry and they agreed to comply with the ban and were willing to offer solutions to curb heavy use of fireworks.

“The fireworks industry has shown that we can work with them,” Chambers said. “What they had agreed to was to cut their day of sales down to six days. The usual number of days of sales is 10 days.”

According to the code for the ban on fireworks, the order for the ban must be adopted before Dec.15 for the December fireworks season.

The court agreed to make the ban county-wide as having a burn ban that is not county-wide tends to be confusing. After consulting the Fire Marshal, the court also agreed not to set aside safe zones anywhere in the county due to the severity of the drought.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Inglesbe was concerned that by ordering the burn ban small businesses that do outdoor welding would be affected as they would be required to comply with the ban.

The court also discussed the possibility to organize a work and research group to develop a water conservation incentives program for Hays County residents. Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton said the Court was prohibited from providing direct reimbursements to those residents who actively conserve water. Instead those residents would be eligible for a type of tax exemption or rebate program. Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford said she would be interested in being a member of the research group.

“We may not end up with just water conservation, but water conservation programs,” Ford said.

In another agenda item, the Hays County Health Department looked to the court for guidance in helping to fill a nursing staff position.

Hay County Interim Health Director Priscilla Hargraves said they were having difficulty filling a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner position in their clinic.

“This position has been posted twice this year since January and we have absolutely no applicants,” Hargrave said.

Hargrave appealed to the Court to raise the payscale from the 25th percentile ($56,911- $64,025) to the 53rd percentile range ($56,911 to $72,000).

The pay scale was approved, but some members of the court had reservations about the pay scale raise and the pay scale threshold of other professionals in the area.

“We need to better educate our community,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley said. “Where is that threshold and where do we draw the line? It could be difficult to budget issues in the future.”

by Rasmi Hunt

Photo by Blake Doelle

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