Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr.

Alice Echo-News Journal

With half of Jim Wells County indexed at an extreme drought stage, county commissioners unanimously renewed a complete burn ban Monday.

According to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) numbers provided by the Texas Forest Service, the Premont and Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco areas are at a 700 to 800 index score, the highest level on the KBDI.

The northern part of JWC is still in the 600 to 700 range, which is considered a heightened drought level.

Jim Wells County Safety Officer Israel Lopez said rain is needed throughout the county. It has been more than five months since the county has seen significant rainfall.

Alice Fire Chief Dean Van Nest said the Alice Fire Department has seen a 34 percent increase this year in the number of calls they’ve received compared to the same four-month period in 2007. In other action, Van Nest explained the need for a new brush truck to replace two aging vehicles in the department’s fleet. The department has two older vehicles, a 1987 truck and a 1983 truck, the latter of which experienced vehicle failure while responding to a recent call. Van Nest said the department is looking at a $169,000 brush truck with compressed air foam. The truck will be dual purpose, for both brush fires and residential fires, and has a 1,000 gallon water capacity, which translates to 2,000 to 3,000 gallon foam capability.

The county approved going to bid on a new truck for the fire department.

The commissioner’s court also reviewed three bids for the new communications tower at the Jim Wells County Fairgrounds. The first bid was from HMT for a total of $125,240. The second bid was from Western Towers out of San Angelo for $110,518, and the third bid from Trico Tower Service out of Houston for $127,295. The prices provided are for the tower only. Law officials suggested hiring Western Towers, which recently completed a tower project in Laredo.

JWC Sheriff’s Department Administrator Richard Palacios said the antennas would have to be installed on the tower before it’s raised. The commissioners awarded the bid to Western Towers subject to the bid meeting specifications.