Commissioners renew economic development study with A&M, learn about fire chief’s resignation at Tuesday meeting

Liberty County commissioners sign the final plat for Royal Oak Subdivision in Tarkington at the end of Tuesday's meeting. Looking on to their left is Will Carter with U.S. Rep. Brian Babin's office.

By Vanesa Brashier, editor@bluebonnetnews.com

Hull-Daisetta Volunteer Fire Department Chief Benny Carroll spoke before Liberty County Commissioners Court on Tuesday to announce he is stepping down as chief due to ongoing issues with the Liberty County ESD #2 Board, which contracts with the H-D fire department to provide fire service within the district. His resignation, effective Aug. 9, 2022, comes just a couple of months after the department “was saved from a total loss” in May, said Carroll.

“On May 12, the ESD decided to lay a letter on the Chief’s desk to get rid of firemen in our department because of feelings, not because of documentation stating that they were being punished or terminated because of some incident they had done,” Carroll told commissioners.

Carroll told commissioners that the ESD board is trying to run the department instead of letting the chief manage personnel.

“I can no longer work for this organization, how they spend the money and how they run it. They think they are the chiefs and they run it. You hire a chief. If you aren’t going to allow your chief to do his job, then why have a chief?” he said.

Carroll hinted that his departure may trigger an exodus of firefighters from the agency, where the firefighter roster was previously 40 members and is now 23, not including ESD commissioners.

“The ESD board is why I am leaving. There is no communication from them so I am stepping down Aug. 9. Right now they are already establishing another chief. I guess they are hoping the firefighters will stay,” Carroll told Bluebonnet News.

ESD #2 Board President Johnny Slack was contacted by Bluebonnet News for comment. Slack said the roster for the department was intentionally trimmed to be no greater than 24 members because of the cost of equipment.

“Outfitting and equipping one firefighter is $3,500,” Slack said.

Slack is hopeful that the volunteer firefighters who currently serve the department will be willing to work with a new chief. The field of candidates has been narrowed to three people.

Liberty County Fire Marshal Bill Hergemueller told Bluebonnet News that the Hull, Daisetta and Raywood areas will be covered by mutual aid should there be a walkout of firefighters from ESD #2.

“We have mutual aid agreements in place with other departments – Liberty, Hardin and Devers, but it may spread people out a lot and take away coverage from those areas,” Hergemueller said. “I am hoping they can all settle their differences and get things back to the way they ought to be. They need to find a path to move forward.”

In other business, commissioners approved a capstone agreement with Texas A&M University to update a strategic plan update for Liberty County as it relates to economic development.

“When I came into office in 2016, there was no strategic plan for economic development,” said County Judge Jay Knight, telling commissioners that it will take A&M University students about a year to develop an updated plan for the entire county.

Commissioners also approved the $6,750 purchase of security equipment for the Liberty County Clerk’s offices in Liberty and Cleveland. The plan will install panic buttons that county clerk employees can use to alert law enforcement. County Clerk Lee Chambers suggested the security equipment could be purchased by her office’s records management fund. Commissioners authorized the purchase with the funding to be determined by the county auditor’s office.

They also approved a request by the County’s engineering department to create a new permit fee for the installation of electric and communication infrastructure in the county right-of-way. The request was presented by David Douglas, who heads the engineering department.

“We have begun to have quite a few situations where electric companies are doing installation of underground cabling or communications are doing installation. We haven’t had a way to permit that,” Douglas explained.

While the County will benefit from the recommended permit fee of $250, the main advantage will be oversight of these lines, thereby avoiding issues before they arise.

“Commissioner [Bruce] Karbowski called me a couple of weeks ago. He had a water purveyor that was going to put a line in and run the water line on top of a culvert. That just doesn’t work out,” Douglas said.

The County’s contracted engineering firm, LJA, will help the County develop the guidelines for the new permit fee.

In other business, commissioners:

  • approved a contract with Tetra Tech, Inc., for debris removal in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster;
  • approved a payment of $1,672,713.56 to White Construction, the at-risk manager for the new sheriff’s office and JP #3 annex;
  • approved the solicitation of bids for a 72 X 32-foot extension cover for an equipment shed, a 32 X 24-foot cover for a storage yard and a 17 X 40-foot cover for fuel tanks for Pct. 3 Road and Bridge;
  • approved the purchase of three copiers from Platinum Plus – two for the 253rd District Court and one for the Liberty County Elections Administration Office;
  • approved a request for an additional school resource officer for Tarkington ISD – the additional officer will give Tarkington ISD three school resource officers, all members of the Pct. 5 Constable’s Office;
  • approved a request for an additional school resource officer for Hull-Daisetta ISD – the additional officer will give H-DISD two school resource officers, all members of the Pct. 2 Constable’s Office;
  • reappointed Patti Atkins to the Tri-County Behavioral Healthcare Board of Trustees for a two-year term;
  • approved bids for two delinquent tax properties;
  • approved the purchase of CopSync computers for the Pct. 4 Constable’s Office, to be paid from the JP technology fund;
  • approved a grant application from the District Attorney’s Office to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (if the $14,000 is awarded, it will be used for courthouse security);
  • approved a final plat for Royal Oak Subdivision, a development of 46 lots in the Tarkington area;
  • tabled a resolution to address improper culvert installations; and
  • approved renewal of an interlocal agreement with the City of Plum Grove for the maintenance of city streets. The City will continue to pay Liberty County $500 a month for minor maintenance, including patching potholes.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Txdot gets money from fema so txdot has to contract out debris txdot can fill in and pickup county’s trash from hurricanes

  2. Can someone please explain this? What exactly is it? approved a payment of $1,672,713.56 to White Construction, the at-risk manager for the new sheriff’s office and JP #3 annex

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