Budget was the theme of the day for Somervell County Commissioners Monday. Commissioners had to consider how agenda items could impact the bottom line and county budget as officials deal with falling interest rates and look forward to the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Mike Dooley reported on the Somervell County Expo Center and said they are proactively looking for ways to adjust to changing patterns.

Dooley said the good news is the Expo Center is not losing events like similar facilities, but revenue is down as fewer visitors are turning out. He is reviewing operations and looking for ways to minimize costs and hopes to present ideas to the court in a special meeting.

Dooley also reported that park permits have almost doubled for Heritage Park. Commissioner Mike Ford asked if he has noticed any parking issues or other trends the court should be aware of.

“I think everything is going well,” Dooley said. “Just a lot more requests than in previous years.”

He added that they might need to monitor the situation once the Riverwalk is up and running.

John Hawkins also addressed the court regarding Heritage Park. Karen Richardson, Karen Davenport and other residents have expressed an interest in decorating the park buildings at Christmas. The decorations would reflect the era for each building and individuals would be responsible for setting up and taking down the decorations.

Commissioners supported the idea but were concerned about the lack of a power supply near the historical buildings and the small breaker box that was available for the pavilion and bathroom.

The motion was approved and Commissioner James Barnard will work with the group to figure out the electrical situation. Hawkins said the group hopes to have the decorations on display the two weekends leading up to Christmas.

Bill Oakley with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) addressed the court about maintenance work needed on two watershed dams in the county.

The dams, Paluxy River sites 23 and 25, said the dams were built by the former Soil Conservation District through a federal program.

“Fortunately, there’s not a whole lot of work that needs to be done,” said Ray Creswell.

Site 23 was built on the Wisenbaker property off US Highway 67 in 1980; Site 25 was built in 1983 on FM 51. Both dams are in need of brush removal and fence repair which would cost about $500 each.

Creswell said work should begin in 30 to 60 days.

Terry Starnes also gave the court some food for thought for the next budget cycle on behalf of the Glen Rose Rodeo Association. He is hoping the county will have room in the next budget for new rodeo equipment.

He said the 15th annual Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association event at the Expo Center was a record year. The March event saw 450 cowboys and cowgirls and handed out $50,000 in prize money.

“We managed to pull off a first class event in a second class economy,” Starnes said.

But the condition of the equipment used in the event is dire - if not down right embarrassing.

“It’s just about past the point of being able to put a coat of paint on it and have one of Mike’s (Dooley) guys weld it back together,” Starnes said.

He added that a worker nearly broke his arm in the March event and he is afraid that quality livestock vendors will hesitate to bring their animals to events at the Expo.

The items that need to be replaced are 16-year-old bucking shoots, run-ups, panels and the timed event side of the arena. Dooley said a rough estimate for a new shoot set is $30,000, but the price would be a little more if they included the roping shoots.

County Judge Walter Maynard said the court supported the idea but would have to wait until budget time to evaluate the available county funds. He noted that Energy Future Holdings (EFH), owner of Comanche Peak, is looking into reducing their property value.

The Somervell Volunteer Fire Department is set to receive a 2009 Ford Trauma Hawk ambulance after commissioners approved the purchase. The new vehicle will cost $107,927.50 and the county will trade in one ambulance as part of the deal.

Assistant Chief Steve Willis said the department would transfer equipment, such as stretchers and backboards, to the new unit. Professional Ambulance out of Comanche, will manufacture the vehicle in about 120 days.