The Ellis County Commissioners Court took no action during its meeting Monday evening regarding the proposed location of a slaughterhouse on Farm-to-Market Road 157 near that road's intersection with FM 875 south of Venus.
The property’s formal address is 7040 S. FM 157.
The lack of action was due to a point of order, as Commissioners Heath Sims, Pct. 3, and Bill Dodson, Pct. 2, voted to table the issue until more information about the site, its plans and the desires of the property’s neighbors could be gathered. County Judge Chad Adams and Commissioner Dennis Robinson, Pct. 1, voted against tabling the item, with Robinson indicating he was likely to vote against the location due to its presence in a platted subdivision.
Adams said county commissioners know their precincts the best and are the best source for whether or not such operations should be placed within them.
The proposed location is in Pct. 4, which Ron Brown serves as commissioner.
“I do not recommend the approval of a slaughtering house in a residential subdivision,” wrote Brown, who was not present at the meeting, in a letter that was read to the other commissioners.
Commissioners questioned the applicant about the proposed facility, including its capacity, holding pens, drainage, water supply, sewage system and its talks with the U.S. Department of Agriculture about inspections and regulations.
Sims, who dominated the discussion regarding the location, said the area is not what is typically called a subdivision, pointing out “there are no cul-de-sacs or interior roads.” Instead, the development contains large acre lots with frontage along FM 157 and cultivated fields behind them, Sims said.
“There are some things there that we as a court need to become better educated on,” Sims said. “I think it would behoove this court to go out and visit this area.”
The applicant, Mahmood Qalawi, told commissioners he purchased the property in the mid-1990s with the intention of building the slaughterhouse then, even going so far as to apply for and receive a permit. However, Qalawi’s health took a turn for the worse, and he was delayed in pursuing his plans.
Since resuming them, Qalawi said he was informed that the process for permit approval had changed, and that he must first get the commissioners court’s approval.
“This is my dream,” Qalawi told the court. “I hope you can help me do it.”
In other business, the commissioners held a public hearing to hear nuisance complaints against the property located at 5000 Vaca Road near Maypearl as requested by the owner.
The property’s reported owner, Adam Gonzales, was not present for the hearing.
However, Daniel Huskins with the county’s department of development was.
“This all started in December of 2004,” he said, telling commissioners of his repeated attempts to get Gonzales to clean up what Huskins described as trash in drainage ditches, barrels with unknown contents strewn about the property and what he believes to be containers of used oil.
“I’ve worked with Mr. Gonzales quite a bit to help him clean up his property,” he said, adding that he has taken Gonzales to the justice of the peace’s court four times. The first time Gonzales pleaded no contest to charges and was fined $200, assistant county attorney Lee Auvenshine said.
The last two times the JP’s court convened regarding the charges against Gonzales, he failed to appear, Auvenshine said, informing the court that with the public nuisance complaint, the county had the option to do nothing, to give Gonzales more time to comply or to abate the nuisance and force Gonzales to pay the county’s costs for the cleanup. If Gonzales does not pay, the county can place a lien against the property, Auvenshine said, noting that if the lien is not resolved, the county can foreclose.
The fire marshal became involved in the dispute in the spring 2005, Huskins said, when Gonzales began storing barrels of oil on the property. After the fire marshal’s intervention, the barrels were removed.
“Being in Pct. 3, and knowing a little bit of the history, I know this has been going on for a long time,” Sims said. “I think we need to pursue our next option and pay for the abatement of this property. My constituents in Pct. 3 don’t want to live in a junkyard.”
Commissioners were presented with photos of the property before approving the abatement.
In other business, the court:
Considered and approved a proclamation honoring the 127th anniversary of the Wayman Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Ennis, which has received a Texas historical marker. Considered and approved the reappointment of the following people to serve a two-year term on the Ellis County Historical Commission: Shirley Graves, Virginia Duff, Susie Toal, Helen Prude, Virginia Kellum, Mary Helen Gentry, Reeda Peel, James C. Templin, Harold Dorsey, Wilma Dorsey, Edwin Farrar, Carol Farrar, Margaret Felty, Shannon Simpson, Carolyn Robinson, William Robinson, Nancy Post, Larry Felty, Jane Dickinson, Sylvia Smith, Betty Dillard, Nana Lou Dudley, Karen Esberger, Carolyn Miracle and Jimmie Faye Bynum. Considered and approved the appointment of the following people to serve a two-year term on the Child Welfare Services board: Sylvia Smith, Diann Wilson, Anita Prewitt, Bernyce Crownover, Cathy Beer, Robin Alred, Dr. Leroy Fenton, Billie Maxwell, Claire Crabb, Carla Estes and Marj Witherspoon. Considered and approved a resolution supporting the Low Income Repair and Replacement Assistance Program improvements and the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan Approved amending the fiscal year 2006-2007 budget to add the position of a part-time clerk (not to exceed 25 hours per week) in the office of Curtis Polk, justice of the peace, Pct. 3. “Due to the workload in my office at this time, I wanted to come back and explain to the court why I need a part-time clerk,” Polk said, telling the commissioners that in the past, he dealt with about 260 traffic cases and 600 arraignments. Thus far, in the current fiscal year, his office has dealt with 1,538 traffic cases and 610 arraignments.
Polk also handles department of development cases as well.
“This spike that we see before us is clearly objective data that you need help to handle the increase,” Adams told Polk. “This additional spike that’s come along merits the additional personnel.”
Polk said the department of development and Department of Public Safety’s Highway Patrol are largely responsible for the increased caseload due to more aggressive enforcement of laws and ordinances.
E-mail Anthony at Anthony.Trojan@waxahachiedailylight.com