Tying up loose ends at the end of the year was the main focus of the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court on Monday afternoon, as commissioners quickly approved collection of taxes for a new Public Improvement District in the city of Ferris.

The matter was on the agenda for the court’s Dec. 17 meeting, but was tabled after it was pointed out that the wording on the agenda was incorrect. The wording was corrected for Monday’s meeting.

“All we’re doing is collecting,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Kyle Butler said. “All we’ll be doing with this Public Improvement District for the city of Ferris is collecting the tax dollar.”

County Judge Todd Little concurred, noting that this was the reason why, during the last meeting, the local government code chapter was cited which allows the court to collect taxes, in the interest of transparency.

A public improvement district, or PID, is a taxing authority that can help a city pay for improvements that could include roads, water distribution lines, wastewater collection lines, drainage improvements, landscaping, irrigation, trail parks, open space, monuments and entry features.

The Ferris City Council had approved a PID for a 65-acre property on FM 664 in September and was awaiting county action to clear the way for collection of taxes. According to information on the city of Ferris' website, the new taxing district is for water, sewer, electrical, and street improvements in the Shaw Creek Ranch Phase II housing development, which will consist of 330 single-family homes.

Future homeowners in that district will be assessed an amount of tax to help pay for the improvements over a 30-year period. The amount will be added to their annual tax statements.

Monday’s meeting was moved up a day from its normal Tuesday schedule because of the New Year’s Eve holiday. Precinct 1 Commissioner Randy Stinson was absent because of a death in his family.

In bringing the gavel down on the calendar year, Little recapped his first year as county judge and pledged to continue to move the county forward in 2020.

“As 2019 comes to a close, I’m reminded that nearly 12 months ago in this very courtroom, myself and many elected officials were sworn in to serve in public office,” Little said. “To have served as your county judge during 2019 has been the greatest privilege and honor of my entire career. It’s been exciting to say the least.

“I remain extremely grateful to the citizens of Ellis County for all the trust that you have placed in me and our administration and the continuing support that you have so graciously provided. I’m genuinely thankful to each member of this Commissioners’ Court for working hard together on numerous and diverse issues impacting the quality of life in our county and the safety of our citizens … I believe that our record will speak for itself.”

ESD boards

Twenty board members across nine districts were reappointed to two-year terms on the Emergency Services District Board.

The re-appointed members are:

ESD #1 — Andy Mulvany, Geneva Mullins, Norquist Wade;

ESD #2 — Timothy R. Raven, Danny Long, Tom Manning;

ESD #3 — Murrie Wainscott, John V. Allen, Clay Sparks;

ESD #4 — Ray Brindle, Anthony Modesto Jr.;

ESD #5 — Billy Thompson, Raymond Miner;

ESD #6 — James Malone;

ESD #7 — Gary Sportsman, James Pharr, Cecil Hammonds;

ESD #8 — Teaner Johnson;

ESD #9 — Kenny Caldwell, Rick Davis.

The resignations of Randy Johnston (ESD #6) and Joe Bond (ESD #4) were accepted, and Steven Wakeland was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Bond. An appointment to fill Johnston’s seat is still pending.

“These are people that serve at the discretion of the Court,” Little told commissioners. “Anytime that you have a name that you want to bring up with us on these renewals, feel free to do that … They do a valuable job for the county.”

Other items

• Among the approved consent agenda items were interlocal agreements with the cities of Oak Leaf and Ovilla, and the Red Oak and Waxahachie ISDs. The court also agreed on a pair of line item adjustments to purchase a computer for the auditor’s office in the amount of $1,188 and dispatch equipment for the sheriff’s office for $729.89.

• The court approved the final plat of two lots on 5.44 acres on Eason Road near Ennis to be known as Cisneros Simon Addition, and also released a performance bond and accepted a maintenance bond for a 39.6-acre property in Murray Estates, on the north side of FM 879 near Waxahachie.

• Among the purchasing decisions made by the court were: solicitation of bids for rental equipment on an as-needed basis for each road and bridge precinct; a uniform and supplies rental agreement with Cintas; a 3-year lease of a Ford F-150 pickup for the engineering department, subject to legal approval; and a lease renewal for a portion of a building at 330 North 8th Street in Midlothian for a local tax office at the amount of $3,500 per month.

• Authorizations for requests for statement of qualifications for professional land surveying services and real estate appraisal services were passed.

• The county OK’d an annually budgeted $25,000 payment to the Ellis County Child Protective Services Board, pending a completed contract to be approved by the board; and approved the use of unclaimed property code money to benefit the Children’s Advocacy Center.

• Theresa Taylor, county human resources director, told the court that the amount of compensatory time for county employees continues to grow steadily, with 7,858 total accrued hours and a cash liability of more than $188,000 at the end of November. The sheriff’s office saw the biggest increase, Taylor said. One solution would be to go to a two-week pay cycle where employees could go over in one week and work less than 40 hours in the other week.

• The board approved a new process regarding utility and communication lines installed in county right-of-way. County attorney Robert Schell recommended the new procedure following several recent instances where poles impeded county maintenance.

• At the end of the meeting, Waxahachie resident James Parks addressed the court, scolding Little and the court for spending and borrowing hikes budgeted in fiscal year 2020 and praising the Texas Legislature for passing laws that restricted government growth.