Burn ban vote tied in Upshur County

By Phillip Williams
By a 2-2 tie vote with one member absent, the Upshur County Commissioners Court on Friday declined to reinstate the recently-lifted rural burn ban.
Two Upshur County cities, Gilmer and Big Sandy, still have such bans in effect for now, however. Those prohibitions, and the county’s former one, came in the wake of recent extremely hot, dry weather which made outdoor burning hazardous.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael Ashley’s motion Friday to renew the rural restriction drew support from Precinct 1 Comissioner Gene Dolle, but opposition from Precinct 2 Commissioner Dustin Nicholson and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jay W. Miller.
Since County Judge Todd Tefteller was absent, there was nobody to break the tie vote at the meeting in Gilmer, so Ashley’s motion failed.
The court had voted 4-1 Sept. 15 to end the ban with only Ashley dissenting. He later said conditions were still too dry to safely burn outdoors.
Tefteller, who voted to end the ban at the Sept. 15 meeting, said at that time that if conditions worsened enough, he would reinstitute the order on his own, as he has legal authority to do.
He had issued it in early August, and the court had voted more than once to continue it.
The week after the court lifted the ban, Ashley said he and Dolle had both received numerous phone calls asking it be reinstated, and that they emailed County Judge Todd Tefteller about it. The matter then appeared on Friday’s agenda.
With Nicholson presiding in Tefteller’s place Friday, Ashley moved to reinstate the order, citing data from the Texas A&M Forest Service to back his contention that burning was still too hazardous.
Dolle, who had originally voted to lift the temporary prohibition, said his constituents wanted it restored and that many persons in his precinct were burning unsafely. He also said he had little recent rainfall at his home.
Miller, though, said “I haven’t heard of any issues” with lifting the order, and asked why emergency personnel weren’t present to support renewing the prohibition.
At the Sept. 15 meeting, Nicholson had said the Upshur County Emergency Services District No. 2 wanted the ban ended, while Miller and Tefteller said county Emergency Management Coordinator Marc Nichols also favored terminating it.
During Friday’s meeting, Nicholson said the court had the option to issue a “provisional” order letting rural residents burn while under supervision, but Dolle said “We’d probably wear the sheriff’s office out” enforcing that.
The Gilmer City Council, meanwhile, declined last week to lift the local ban, while Big Sandy Mayor Linda Baggett’s order prohibiting burning remains effective.
Big Sandy City Administrator Laura Rex said Monday burning inside city limits is more hazardous than in rural areas because properties are closer together in the city, and a fire could spread more easily to an adjacent property.


Facebook Comments