Dewitt County Spotlight - Cattle calls adding to deputies workload
Aug. 20, 2013 at 3:20 a.m.
Updated Aug. 21, 2013 at 3:21 a.m.
Road repair priority in DeWitt budget
CUERO - Repairing and maintaining county roads are a high priority in the proposed 2013-14 DeWitt County budget.
County commissioners held a public hearing on the proposed 2013 tax rate and budget Tuesday with County Judge Daryl Fowler giving a presentation to commissioners, staff and the public.
The proposed tax rate is 46.937 cents per $100 in property valuation. The current rate is 50.203 cents per $100.
Almost half of the county's roads are being impacted by the ongoing Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas activity.
Study estimates that $21 million to $40 million annually will be needed for road maintenance in the next decade.
Property tax revenue should raise $16 million for road projects under the proposal. The county will also receive an estimated $5 million to $8 million under new state funding laws.
A second public hearing on the proposed tax rate and budget will be at 9 a.m. Monday.
Commissioners are expected to vote on the proposals Sept. 9.
- Sonny Long
CUERO - DeWitt County Sheriff's Office deputies rounded up cattle for more than six days during a recent 60-day period, sort of.
Those 6.4 days are the equivalent to the 154 hours sheriff's deputies spent making 205 loose livestock calls from July 16 to Aug. 16.
Calls averaged 42 minutes, said DeWitt County Sheriff Jode Zavesky.
The DeWitt County Sheriff's Office patrols more than 900 square miles of county roads with one deputy per shift during the day and sometimes two at night, Zavesky said.
"We understand the problem with the lack of rain has caused a severe problem with the ranchers," said Zavesky, acknowledging the drought's role in the increase.
"The lack of grass for their herds has caused an substantial hardship on the ranchers of the area.
"That hardship becomes a very dangerous situation when the livestock and vehicles collide."
The sheriff said it can be costly in another way for livestock owners - monetarily.
"If it can be shown that the deputies have had repeated calls to the same locations, it might become very costly to the owner," Zavesky said. "Tickets are usually written only when repeated calls for the same livestock are required."
"Livestock are impounded most often when the owners cannot be located or the cattle cannot be returned to a pasture."
If located, the owner must pay for the hauling of the livestock as well as the fees charged by the company boarding the animals, according to information from the DeWitt County Sheriff's Office.
If no owner is found, an ad is placed in the local papers to try to find the owners.
If still no owner is found the livestock are sold at auction, the fees collected are used to pay for the hauling and boarding. Any remaining money is deposited with the county.
"We are asking that all ranchers do their best to keep their livestock within their fences," Zavesky said.
"We understand that livestock will sometimes get loose, but those that escape the confines of their pastures continually cause the biggest problem."