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GILMER— Upshur County Tax Assessor-Collector Luann Howell plans to resume the practice of opening the Gladewater branch two days weekly, on Mondays and Tuesdays, in April. It is now open only Tuesdays.
In other business, the Upshur County Commissioners Court last week approved having two commissioners oversee the construction of a drive-through window at Howell’s office near the courthouse.
Pct. 1 Commissioner Mike Spencer and Pct. 2 Commissioner Don Gross will oversee the project, and Howell told reporters after the court’s Feb. 28 meeting that she plans to open the window April 3. It once served as the drive-through window for Gilmer National Bank, which occupied the building many years ago, but the onetime window was closed because that bank constructed a nearby motor bank (which now houses the county extension office.)
During her campaign for tax assessor last year, Howell had pledged to ask the commissioners court to consider reopening the window. She told reporters that although it will be open to all patrons and “a good service for the people,” it will provide convenience for “especially the handicapped and those with small children.”.
The tax office draws as many as 300 persons in a day, noted Howell, who took office Jan. 1. She attended last week’s meeting, but did not address the court.
Total cost of the project, which is funded in the current county budget, is yet unknown, but the mechanical drawer, speaker and microphone cost a combined $2,715, Howell said.
She plans to open the window from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and one Saturday monthly, probably from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., she said. She said she was leaning toward opening the first Saturday monthly, but delaying to the second Saturday when the first falls on a holiday weekend.
Drive-through customers will be limited to two transactions apiece. Matters involving titles will be handled only during the first hour and last hour on weekdays, and all hours on Saturdays, to avoid backing up the line of traffic excessively, Howell said.
She said the county is still in the planning stages of modifying the building and “that’s why it had to be on the agenda” for Tuesday’s meeting of the court. Spencer and Gross have looked at the facility, Howell added.
She also said the tax office’s new branch in Diana will open sometime after April.
In addition to acting on the window Tuesday, the commissioners accepted Longview Asphalt’s bid on oil dirt for the Road and Bridge Department although it was not the low bidder.
Lance Phillips, representing low bidder Texas BIT of Tyler, asked the court why it was not accepting his firm’s bid since it was the lowest. County Road and Bridge Administrator Andy Jordan replied that state law allows the court to take the “lowest and best bid,” and he told Phillips that the county “had a couple of situations where we could not get materials from your company.
“I am stopping a problem before it happens again,” Jordan maintained. “You have to be able to supply a product.”
County Judge Dean Fowler told Phillips, “I think you can see the concern is customer service.” After Phillips responded that “we really don’t have that many problems,” Fowler told him, “We hope you all bid again next year.”
The court then accepted Jordan’s recommendation to approve Longview Asphalt’s bid. After the meeting, he said its bid was $1 per ton more than BIT’s.
The court also Tuesday approved Sheriff Larry Webb’s request to build a half wall with a swinging gate in the front of his office, thus creating a waiting area.
Fowler said the move was designed to prevent persons from walking straight back through the office at the justice center. Webb told the court he would use inmate labor, and that estimated cost of materials is $346.68.
Also Tuesday, the court approved Pct. 1 Constable Gene Dolle’s request to name Kevin Brownlee as his deputy constable. Dolle said Brownlee, who was present, had 23 years’ experience in law enforcement and would be a “great asset.”

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