Lamar County Commissioners extend virus guidelines

Lamar County commissioners recognized the coronavirus pandemic has yet to subside and likely won’t soon at their Monday meeting. They extended their “Rules and Guidelines Governing the Management of the Covid-19 Outbreak” through the end of 2020, which includes disbursements of CARES Act funds.

Emergency Management Coordinator Quincy Blount presented requests for CARES Act funding, including commercial washers and dryers at the jail and various equipment for the Lamar County sheriff’s officers. Blount and Sheriff Scott Cass requested a no-contact metal detector for the jail to maintain social distancing as well as 13 cellphones with keyboards and mounting gear for patrol cars. Commissioner Ronnie Bass said the cellphones would be an important investment during the time of the coronavirus pandemic because they would allow officers to communicate about potentially infected people without violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA, by broadcasting the information over the radio.

The commissioners received a presentation from Air-Med Care, a national air ambulance service with a local base on Deshong Drive near Paris Regional Medical Center, regarding discounts for county employees through a payroll deduction program. The service offers emergency air transportation for patients and family members and is offering county employees a hefty discount should they enroll in a 1-, 3- and 5-year payroll deductions for $60, $170 and $275, respectively. While the service claimed county employees would pay “$0 out of pocket,” the representative later said insurance may not cover the entirety of the flight bill.

During a public hearing regarding filing fees for public records, local researcher Skipper Steely spoke, commending the district and county clerks for their work making valuable historic records available, but also suggested a program where the public could donate money to help digitize records. District clerk Shawntel Golden said her department currently has $46,798 they hope to use to fund computers, staff and software to digitize records. Many older records, some dating back to the 1880s, are fragile and difficult to handle in a delicate way, so Steely, county clerk Ruth Sisson and Golden reinforced the importance of getting the records online.

Sisson added that due to Covid-19, her department has to limit the number of researchers who can access records at one time for safety reasons, so getting more of them online would make information more accessible.

In addition to their knowledge of public records, Golden and Sisson also implored the court to fund roof repairs in the county courthouse, a topic of conversation that has come up at several meetings. Golden said the leaks in her office are unacceptable and the commissioners, including Bass, spoke up about needing to address the issue in a timely manner, especially as the court agreed to spend more than $21,000 on a new fire pump for the courthouse.

Looking forward to the fall, the commissioners approved a request from Main Street Coordinator and Historic Preservation Officer Cheri Bedford to host vendors for the annual Festival of Pumpkins, coming up Oct. 23 and 24.

The meeting was more crowded than usual as three students involved in 4-H and FFA from Prairiland ISD came to accept a proclamation from the court declaring Oct. 4 through 10 “National 4-H Week.” Proud of their achievement, the students snapped a photo with County Judge Brandon Bell and the commissioners after the approval.

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