Commissioners institute burn ban

Glynis Crawford Smith/Highland Lakes Newspapers

The retirement of Vickie Kay Kanewske as County Court at Law court reporter is recognized at at the Burnet County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday, June 27. Pictured, following a proclamation recognizing her work here since 2007, are, from left, Kanewske's husband Jim; her daughter, Jolene Bock, with grandchildren, Kaitlyn and Ivy Bock; Kanewske; County Judge James Oakley and Court-at-Law Judge Linda Bayless.

By Glynis Crawford Smith

Highland Lakes Newspapers

A ban on outdoor burning was instituted by the Burnet County Commissioners Court Tuesday morning, June 27.

Members seriously debated whether to take the action before making their decision to institute the ban.

Most of the county has just seen a quarter to a half inch of rain,” said said Herb Darling, director of Burnet County Environmental Services. “I am aware of two projects that may need to burn. Once we put a ban in effect, I'd expect it to be in until the fall.”

“I think it is time,” said Commissioner Joe Don Dockery, whose Precinct 4, has has had some of the lightest rainfall. “The next two weeks are predicted to be hotter than normal and drier than normal. It is not the time of year to be burning anyway.”

Sheriff Calvin Boyd agreed. And, as commissioners recounted a handful of recent grass and brush fires, Jim Barho, Burnet County emergency management coordinator, said, “I think there are more small fires of five-10 acres you are not aware of.”

Dockery noted that at least one of the fires had resulted from fireworks. The county has no control over the sale or use of fireworks at this stage.

“We would have to be on a certain level Keach-Byram Drought Index by June 15 to implement a fireworks ban,” said Darling. “We did not qualify for that.”

Cities are in a different position and every city in the county, as well as Sunrise Beach Village and the City of Llano in Llano County, have bans on their sale and use.

Burnet County will join the class action suit against the Volkswagen Group of America and will add its name to action against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Patricia E. Garza Burruss of Patricia E. Garza Law firm, PLLC, made a presentation on the suit, which all the commissioners had studied in advance. With the court's approval and a resolution to that effect, it will be one of the counties that could receive punitive reparations from the auto manufacturer for violating state environmental laws. County Attorney Eddie Arredondo likely will be included formally in representation of the county, but Garza's firm will serve as special counsel in the matter.

“This is suit is along the lines of tobacco litigation,” explained County Attorney Eddie Arredondo. “The county received money in that litigation.”

“Money coming back (from this suit to the state and counties found to have standing) would be from a fine of $50-$25,000 per day for seven years, or 2,500 days,” said Garza. “The state has filed only against Volkswagen so far and not Fiat Chrysler.”

She said a case might be made, not only for cars registered in the county, but for vehicles passing through the county with the emission violations.

Darling presented preliminary plat diagrams for the hearing that preceded approval for the proposed Meadows at Bluebonnet Hill subdivision east of Burnet. It was requested by developers

“It consists of 42 lots on 237.62 acres of land north of Texas 29 on County Road 250,” said Darling.

The court delayed action on another preliminary plat for Spicewood Trails, a development Darling said would rely on groundwater from the Spicewood Estates Subdivision, which has applied to the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality for an amendment to their Certificate of Convenience and Necessity to serve more users.

“They are going to expand water storage to 60,000 gallons and they have drilled back-up wells in the Ellenburger Aquifer,” Darling said.

“These will be 245 small, one-acre lots on 317.483 acres bounded by Texas 71 and County Road 404 (about six lots),” Darling said. “We asked them to use 71 for construction, but they have continued to use CR 404.”

That brought into question whether developers had, in fact, received Texas 71 access permission from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The court will wait to approve the plat until that access is confirmed.

The commissioners took time for recognitions at the opening of their meeting.

The Burnet County Historical Commission (BCHC) again this year has received the Texas Historical Commission Distinguished Service Award for accomplishments during 2016 and JoAnn Myers, commission chairwoman, was called forward first by County Judge James Oakley.

“History is not something that should be overlooked,” said Oakley, recounting work by the commission, including a new oral history project of audio recordings.

“Fort Croghan used to be a very quiet place,” said Pct. 2 Commissioner Russell Graeter. “Now it is different. More people are taking advantage of it. It has awoken through your hard work.”

“This is the seventh time they have received this award, and out of the states 254 counties, only 89 of them have been recognized for it.”

Many of the 30 commission members were present and also came forward to be honored for their 2,815 volunteer hours in 2016. The work equals an in-kind donation to county of $67,954.

Buoyed by the success of a fundraiser for the county's historic bridges, the BCHS will hold a fish fry at Fort Croghan from 5-7 p.m. on Sept. 16, commission members reported.

Oakley also read a proclamation honoring Vickie Kay Kanewske, retiring court reporter for County Court at Law Judge Linda Bayless. She was recognized for her work serving the court since July 2007.

“I have been a court reporter for 35 years, with the last 10 as a Burnet County employee,” said Kanewske. “I plan to work part time as a freelance reporter, and for the most part continue to work in Burnet County.”

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