Commissioners hear complaints at work session

Residents voice opinions on tax rate increase, law enforcement center

BY PATTI SELLS, News-Telegram Feature Writer

Sept. 23, 2008 - Commissioners Court met with criticism from several residents on hand during Monday's regular work session to voice their opinions regarding the proposed 2008 tax rate increase and other issues. The court also was praised by the Chamber of Commerce.

Discussion started Monday with disapproval for the closing of the State Highway 19 north rest area, and continued with resident Jerry Lamb stating how upset he was with the federal government's decision to "bail out Wall Street without ever considering those at the local level." He went on to scrutinize the Hopkins County Law Enforcement Center's overcrowding dilemma blaming it on "poor management."

"I hold ya'll accountable as to how our tax dollars are spent," he said in regard to the tax increase.

Since 2003, the tax rate has held at 54.25-cents, but due to several reasons, will increase to a rate of $0.56 per $100 of property value.

"The tax is being adjusted to 56 cents per $100 evaluation due to the Highway 11 extension, the rising cost of economy; oil went to $140 a barrel, therefore, county operations has increased," said Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap.

"Nobody hates to raise taxes more than I do," said Precinct 3 Commissioner Don Patterson, explaining how the rising cost of fuel has left the county no choice except to raise taxes. "People call for police, call for ambulances, they want services when they need them and this is the only way we can have them."

Precinct 2 Commissioner Burke Bullock said commissioners themselves are feeling the effects of tax increases and budget cuts.

"We have 225 miles of road to maintain and we need about 15 employees working, but we only have seven or less," Bullock said. "I myself have been criticized for my poor management of roads, but it's do to lack of man power and the lack of money."

"I pay taxes just live everybody else," said Precinct 1 Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker. "There are some out there having to decide between medicine, food on the table or gas. It's difficult for all of us."

According to Wisenbaker, commissioners are recycling culverts, cashing in scrap metal and doing whatever they can for funds.

Evelyn Hershey felt that the county's beautification project was wasteful spending of tax-payers' money, nor does the downtown area doesn't need flowers, trees and alcohol to bring people to the area.

Hershey was also not happy about the decision to halt repairs and improvements on State Highway 154 south in order to fund the State Highway 11 extension project.

"I know of six deaths since funds have went to the Highway 11 extension rather than shoulders for 154," Hershey said.

According to Millsap, there is a lot more to budgets, including cost increases and financial decisions made by the commissioners than people realize.

"I'm proud of how we operate and there is nothing for us to hide," Millsap said. "They fuss amongst themselves, they tell me 'No you can't have that.' They are always thinking of what's best for the county," the judged said of the four commissioners for the county precincts.

The court session ended with notes of praise for Hopkins County Commissioners. They were recognized by the Chamber of Commerce as the Business of the Week.

"We are very proud. Our county government has a professional staff of dedicated individuals who are working daily on behalf of all citizens to provide the best for the tax payers," Millsap stated. "As county judge and CEO for the commissioners court, we are committed to making Hopkins County an organization that works for the people, agribusiness and industry. I am confident that as new folks move into our community, just as well as those that have resided here, they will know what I mean when I say that our neighborhood is a great place to work, play and raise a family."

In other business, Hopkins County entered into fire protection agreements with the county's 12 volunteer fire departments.

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