Rusk County Commissioners Court dealt with a variety of business items at their regular meeting Wednesday, Feb. 5, in the Rusk County Courthouse in Henderson.

Among a variety of business items, the commissioners approved the enrollment of Rusk County government officials in a state-mandated cybersecurity course. House Bill 3834, passed by the Texas legislature in Austin, calls for county governments to undergo training in proper cybersecurity measures to maintain the security and integrity of electronic systems throughout the state.

“All elected officials and all county employees will participate in a state-mandated cybersecurity course. The course must be completed by June 14, 2020. This was done in the last legislature. If you have access to county email or a county computer, you have to take this course,” said Rusk County Judge Joel Hale.

Hale noted, while the course is required, it is straightforward and takes about 45 minutes to complete. County officials can take the course on their own time by following a link to the course material online.

Commissioners approved the motion unanimously.

Commissioners also took up the issue of a grant application for the Rusk County library.

Rusk County Librarian Pam Pipkin discussed the application for the Jeanette and Jim Larson Mystery Grant, provided through the Texas Library Association, with the court.

“It’s a competitive grant. If their foundation gets a good amount of income, they will give one $500 grant. I wrote the grant proposal thinking it would help fill in gaps in our mystery collection without impacting what we normally would buy out of our county budget,” Pipkin said.

Pipkin provided commissioners with a list of mystery authors the library would need to fill gaps in the library’s collection. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve Pipkin’s submission of the grant application.

David Burks, president of Rusk County Emergency Services District #1, delivered an annual report on the district’s performance during 2019 to the court.

“The ESD started the year with a budget of $1,765,027.29 and ended the year with a budget total of 1, 958,515.40. The increase was due to the sales tax election and the costs associated with the election and the purchase of a building site for a training complex for the fire district. The budget was 7 ¾ cents per $100 valuation,” Burks said.

Additionally, Burks noted 16 departments in Rusk County were fully funded at $20,000 each for the beginning of the year, 12 of which were volunteer departments serving the county.

The ESD also ordered and paid for a new pumper-engine for the Tatum Volunteer Fire Department which should be through production by April 2020, purchased pumping gear for nine departments at a cost of $71,891, shared costs on a pumper for Kilgore Fire Department at a cost of $87,500, repaired a county tanker for the Kilgore Fire Department at a cost of $24,958 and purchased a used truck for Rusk County Rescue Unit. The ESD purchased radios for Carlisle Volunteer Fire Department and rescue tools for the Eastside and Overton Volunteer Fire Departments.

In 2019, the departments in the county answered 2,035 calls, the majority of which were grass fires and wildfires, motor vehicle accidents, medical first responder calls and structure fires. There are currently 186 volunteer firefighters in the county compared to 145 in 2018.

The ESD also purchased building site in Oct. 2019 for the construction of a training center for the ESD and county departments. The 19.5 acre site fronts off of 259 and will enable the 16 departments to come together for joint training sessions to improve their skills and provide better firefighting services to the county. They hope to begin clearing this site by this spring.

“The Rusk County ESD has had a very busy and productive year and we are pleased to present the annual report to the commissioners court,” Burks concluded.

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