Palo Pinto County commissioners

PALO PINTO — County commissioners on Monday amended their hotel/motel tax collection agreements across the county to allow the levy collected from overnight visitors to be spent in support of tourism.

Starting Oct. 1, those taxes may be spent by the county, and the chambers of commerce in Mineral Wells, Possum Kingdom Lake and Strawn on what Treasurer Tanya Fallin described as "a broader area" including events, restoration of historic sites and other tourism elements.

Strawn, 21 miles south of Palo Pinto, is poised for an injection of tourists in coming years, she said, when Palo Pinto Mountains State Park opens. Fallin also reported hotel/motel tax revenue at Possum Kingdom has risen greatly, at $174,000 collected in the past 12 months.

In other action Monday, the court agreed to keep a countywide burn ban in place, at the recommendation of Fire Chief Gary Lee.

"The weather's cooling off, but it's still dry," Lee told the court.

Commissioners also approved developers' requests to consolidate several lots throughout the county into larger parcels.

Those included several combinations of two or three lots into one lot at 7-R Ranch, The Cliffs subdivision and The Hills Above Possum Kingdom Lake.

Preliminary plans for two large developments also won the commissioners' nod.

Those are for subdivision on the south bank of the Brazos River, where Commissioners Court Assistant Stephanie Dunn said 103 lots of at least five acres each are targeted as homesites, and a dozen 1-acre lots planned off North Lakeview Drive.

The court tabled a decision on combining two tracts into one lot for Phase II of Petey's RV Resort, after area resident Kerri French said nearly all of the development sits in the 100-year flood plain at Possum Kingdom Lake. That's contrary to the county's RV Park Guidelines, she said.

French and other members of the Willows and Ponderosa condominium homeowners associations have opposed the development during at least two previous commissioners court sessions.

The residents, and others on Farm-to-Market 2353 and Park Road 36, have said the expansion will pollute the lake and cause both boat and automobile traffic congestion.

Commissioner Jeff Fryer told the court he supported tabling the decision.

"I would like more information," he said. "If they're not following the rules, they're not going to follow them now."

The court also authorized its annual payment to the Emergency Services District No. 1, which provides fire and ambulance services for much of the county outside Mineral Wells under a mutual aid agreement with the county.

County Judge Shane Long said the 2021-22 year payment is $200,000, which is down from $370,000 in the budget that closes out on Sept. 30.

"That's obviously a reduction there," he said. "But tax revenue for ESD 1 is increasing."

ESD 1 has a 3-cent property tax for fire service and a 2-cent sales tax to fund its ambulances.

Finally Monday, the court amended its policy on paid leave for military members who work for the county. Those service members now receive pay for 15 days for military duty but now will have seven more days if they are summoned to a disaster site, the court decided.

Commissioners also approved 13 employee holidays for the fiscal year. Those are Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, Labor Day, Oct. 10, Veterans Day, Nov. 24-25, and Christmas Eve and Day. (New Year's Day falls on a Saturday).

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