Ellis County commissioners took another step forward in securing a contract with the Ellis County SPCA for animal shelter and maintenance services at its Tuesday meeting. The court approved entering into contract negations with the SPCA.

“We have received their proposal back. Theirs is the only one that we received,” purchasing agent Jodi Platt said. “So we would like to proceed with negotiations with them to get a good contract.”

Rising costs at the shelter prompted members of the SPCA to request a contract increase for the services it provides to the county at the Sept. 12 court meeting.

“We are here following up on a rate increase that we made in early May for our contract between the SPCA and Ellis County. We have not had a rate increase since 2013,” SPCA Executive Director Joan McGrath said previously. “Currently our rate is $50 per animal and with other bills such as salaries, utilities, and the building it is costing us about $90 per animal. That is one of the reasons that we are asking for the rate increase for the contract.”

Commissioners approved a 30-day contract extension with the SPECA while the negotiations take place. The extension is set to expire Feb. 1.

Commissioners took the recommendation of Fire Marshal Tim Birdwell not to enact a burn ban. The previous burn ban was rescinded at the Dec. 29 meeting.

The ketch-Byram Drought Index, which is used to determine fire potential, gave the county an average rating of 367. The index ranges from zero to 800, where a reading of zero represents no moisture depletion and a reading of 800 represents absolutely dry conditions. The threshold for enacting a burn ban is 600.

The Texas Weather Connection’s website states that the KBBI is based on a daily water balance and where a drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture.

Birdwell told the court that there still is a potential of a grass fire. While the ground has moisture, the dead grass above could pose a danger.

The fire marshal’s office does not approve any burning permits. Residents who need to burn items should consult the Texas Outdoor Burning laws. These laws created by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality defines what can be burned, when burning can take place, and where residents can conduct burning of specific items. The burning laws are located the fire marshal’s page on the county’s website.

“Just be careful. If you start burning out there and you burn someone’s property you are responsible for it civilly. They can come back in civil court and file on you,” Birdwell explained. “Be careful that is number one priority there any your burning.”

Residents who have questions can reach the staff at the fire marshal’s office at 972-825-5555. The fire marshals office is in the County Courts and Administration building located at 109 S. Jackson Street in downtown Waxahachie.

In other business the court:

• Approved a request to grant a one-time variance from section eight for two lots who do not meet the minimum road frontage requirements. The property is located at 2300 Patrick Road. South of Mulkey Road in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the City of Waxahachie.

• Approved a replat of two lots that are located on the west side of Patrick Road and south of Mulkey Road in the ETJ of the City of Waxahachie.

• Approved a one-time variance from section eight of the county rules and regulations and specifications for subdivisions and manufactured homes to a low one single-family residence without meeting the minimum road frontage requirements located at 146 Hoot Lane in Ennis.

• Approved to declare a Hewlett Packard Design Jet 500, a Xerox Phaser 3635 MFP, a 1997 Ford F-250, a 1999 Chevrolet Dump Truck, a 1973 Tank Trailer 6300 Gallon, an Alamo 60 inch Rotary Cutting Heads, an Alamo Buzz Bar, an Alamo Boom Hydraulic Tank, an Alamo Boom parts, an Alamo Timber Cutter, an Alamo Cutter Boom, a 1998 Brush Hog, a 1986 John Deere 670b Motor Grader, and a 2008 Ford Crown Victoria as surplus.

• Approved for County Judge Carol Bush to sign a Xerox agreement for the 40th Judicial District Court. The previous monthly payment is $116.27 and the new monthly payment is $113.87.

• Approved to purchase from Austin Turf and Tractor a scrap grapple bucket for road and bridge precinct four.

• Approved the county mass gathering permit process and application.

• Approved an interlocal cooperation contract between the City of Palmer and the county from Jan. 1- Dec. 31

• Approved a work order for Palmer ISD for pothole repairs for parking lot repair at the rear of Palmer High School, Middle School, administrative building, and the Palmer High School Fieldhouse driveway.

• Approved an additional $5,000 in expenses for the district attorney's office in the civil case against constable Mike Jones.