Commissioners hear annual Extension Service update

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

October 6, 2022

The Hill County Commissioners Court heard its annual presentation from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and reviewed other county business in a meeting held Tuesday, September 27.

District 8 Extension Administrator Dr. Donald Kelm of Stephenville presented information to the court about efforts across the 21-county district and detailed specific activities and accomplishments in Hill County.

Dr. Kelm highlighted the 4-H program, which is active in Hill County with 12 clubs, 214 youth participants and 177 volunteers. A total of 2,151 Hill County young people have been reached through either 4-H membership or various curriculum enrichment programs.

During the 2021-22 cycle, a few of those programs included Hatching in the Classroom, which provided hands-on experience for elementary students to learn about incubating and hatching chicks over a three-week period; water education for fifth graders regarding conservation, erosion, runoff, pollution and the water cycle; the Multi-County Youth Ag Tour, which allowed young people to travel and learn about agriculture; and Agriculture Awareness Day, which was conducted with the Hill County Farm Bureau and allowed fourth graders to learn about agriculture.

Hill County Extension Agent Angie Nors is over 4-H and youth development activities in the county.

The work of Extension agents Zach Davis, who heads up agriculture and natural resources work, and Tyler Mays, who specializes in integrated pest management, was also discussed.
Dr. Kelm said that between Davis and Mays, 23 research projects or demonstrations were completed in the 2021-22 year, which was the most of any county in District 8.

Applied research trials were initiated to answer questions faced by area producers and agribusiness personnel. These included on-farm research trials in the areas of wheat, corn, grain sorghum, cotton, pastures and carbon sequestration/greenhouse gas emission.
Forty growers attended the Hill County wheat tour in April, and 80 producers participated in the Hill County row crops tour in June.

The county’s feral hog bounty program administered by Davis included hunter education programs for 185 individuals. A total of 93 registered participants collected bounties on 1,673 hogs during fiscal year 2021-22. Since October 2014, a total of 10,592 hogs have been harvested.

Pest management efforts included newsletter and audio updates provided to producers, a cotton scout school in Hillsboro that provided education about diseases, insects and weeds impacting cotton production, and a scouting program that involved six wheat producers, eight cotton producers and four corn producers.

In Extension Agent Rachel Esquivel’s area of family and community sciences, efforts have included a financial literacy simulator for high school youth that reached 268 Hillsboro High School students; Hill County Youth Day, in which 94 youth participated in a butter-making demonstration; and food protection management certification efforts for restaurant workers.

In other business, commissioners approved seeking bids for the sale of the county annex at 200 East Franklin Street.

In July, the court approved a contract to sell the property to Waco Housing Authority with a special provision allowing the county to lease space in the building for the tax office and other offices until the Covington Street annex renovation is completed.

Hill County Judge Justin Lewis and County Attorney David Holmes reported that the transfer from one government agency to another is allowed by law, but the buyer requested that the bidding process be conducted. The property will be advertised with bids accepted by the county prior to a sale.

An agreement was approved with Azbell Electronics for audio-visual improvements in the District Courtroom at the courthouse. Options have been explored for improving the sound system in the courtroom, and Lewis said that the company completed the sound system at the Hill County Exhibits Building with good results. The improvements were approved by the court at a cost of $27,839.

Change orders were approved as work continues to remodel and improve the Covington Street annex. Money already set aside in the contingency fund for the project will be used to replace a sewer line and place heavy mounted planters at the front of the building as a safety feature to prevent vehicles from hitting the building.

Commissioners also approved several contracts for work to finish work on the Precinct 1 annex in Huron, which will complete cabinetry in the facility and ensure that water tanks are available on site for road building and fire suppression needs.

Commissioners approved a resolution continuing the Texas Department of Agriculture grant program to provide home-delivered meals to elderly and disabled residents. Under the agreement, the county makes a contribution to the program, which allows homebound residents to receive meals and visits from volunteers.

Commissioners approved the court’s meeting schedule for the new fiscal year. Meeting dates and times—the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 8:30 a.m.—will remain the same with some exceptions during the annual process of setting the county budget.
In August, the court will meeting on the second, fourth and fifth Tuesdays. In September, meetings will be scheduled every Tuesday.

In other action, the court appointed Doug Schwartz to the Emergency Services District (ESD 1) Board of Commissioners.

The court also voted to keep the sheriff and constable fees charged for various services unchanged this year.

The county will seek proposals from auditors to perform the county’s outside audit when the current contract expires.

A preliminary plat was approved for three lots on HCR 2117 off of Farm Road 2960 in the Whitney area.

Donations for road work were also approved in the amount of $35,000 for work on HCR 2203 and $27,857 for work on HCR 4109.

The court’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be Tuesday, October 11, at 8:30 a.m.

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