Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Orange Grove Journal

Jim Wells County Commissioners made the decision Monday morning to go ahead with a burn ban in the unincorporated areas of Jim Wells County, following another week of dry weather and high drought conditions.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Wally Alanis said he received numerous calls in the last week concerning the dry conditions in the northern JWC area.

Last Thursday, as an example, Alanis said the Orange Grove Volunteer Fire Department faced a bad fire that nearly consumed two homes in the area.

The numbers from the Keetch Bynum Drought Index, provided by JWC Safety Officer Israel Lopez, showed harsh drought conditions, rating a 600 to 700 for southern JWC.

North of Highway 44 shows an index of between 500 to 600.

The higher the number on the index, the harsher the drought conditions.

Alanis made the motion, and added that the court could revisit the matter, if a change in drought conditions occurred.

The court approved the motion unanimously.

Another item also dependent on the weather was the aerial firework ban for unincorporated areas of JWC.

The court voted to approve the ban, which covers missiles with fins and rockets with sticks.

Commissioner Zenaida Sanchez stressed to the audience the ban was for the use of these specific types of fireworks, and not the sale of these items.

It is still legal to purchase these types of fireworks within JWC, but the use of them in unincorporated areas of the county is prohibited while under the ban.

The consequences include being charged with a Class C Misdemeanor.

JWC personnel are placing burn ban signs around the area.

County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz said the sheriff's department usually delivers notices to fireworks vendors when an aerial firework ban is in effect, to let them know of the change.

The commissioners left open the possibility of lifting the ban before the holidays through an emergency meeting should drought conditions improve.

Also on the agenda, Alice City Manager Albert Uresti and interim Public Works Director Baldo Cantu Jr. made a presentation before the court to discuss possible options for extending the wastewater main on San Felipe Street to service both county and city residents.

Uresti and Cantu said the city council proposed extending the wastewater main 500 feet at a cost of $40,000.

Cantu asked that on any upcoming grants, if it might be possible for San Felipe Street to be included.

"The cost could be shared by both entities if grants were available," he said.

Commissioner Sanchez said the best-case scenario would be if they could hook up everybody from Apple Street to Beam Station Road, which would be longer than the 500 feet the city is requesting assistance on and more expensive.

Commissioners asked what would be done for the other residences along San Felipe Street, not included in that 500 feet the city is considering. The residents on the northside of San Felipe Street are within the city limits.

"What do you propose for those in the other area?" Sanchez asked.

"We're not really here to comment on the other part," Uresti said.

He said they were directed by the council to discuss the 500-foot portion of San Felipe Street, but they were willing to look at the entire cost of going all the way down, from Apple Street along San Felipe and on to Beam Station Road.

Uresti said the residents on the northern part of the street live in the city limits and are City of Alice residents.

"They're still people," Saenz said, referring to the other residents on the southside of San Felipe Street.

Uresti said he needed to serve the citizens of Alice because they pay the taxes.

The county has three projects going on in the area. Engineer Pat Coym, who was at the meeting, said he expected no extra funds would be left after the projects were complete.

Sanchez said she felt that if there was any additional money left over, it should go to those three or four homes on Evelyn, Eva or Gulf streets, which were not hooked up during the grant period. Uresti suggested a motion be made that Coym and Cantu get more information on future grants for the project. Saenz looked at Uresti and said, "Well, we'll take the suggestion, but not the motion."

Alanis spoke up and said the county still had other projects that needed to get done. He said the area around Orange Grove is rapidly growing, and there are projects there that need attention once the Rancho Alegre projects are complete.

He also had something to say about Uresti's suggestion.

"Run the line for city people only. That doesn't sit well with me," Alanis said.

Sanchez said she didn't think the money should come from current grants, but did say they would look into future grant possibilities, which was the motion that the court approved.

"We felt it's something that's beneficial for the city and county," Uresti said.