The Woodward News

October 10, 2012

County decides against burn ban

Chris Cooper
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Woodward County Commissioners have decided not to re-implement a county wide burn ban.

After Gov. Mary Fallin recently lifted her governor-declared burn bans across the state, it was up to county commissioners to determine whether a burn ban should continue in Woodward County.

However Commissioners Tommy Roedell and Vernie Matt decided against issuing another ban after hearing from Woodward Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer during their weekly meeting on Monday morning.  District 2 Commissioner Ted Craighead was absent from Monday's meeting.

Lehenbauer said Woodward County only met one of the 4 criteria required to declare a burn ban.  While the county is still under exceptional drought conditions, it doesn't meet the other 3 criteria, which according to Oklahoma Forestry Department, are: 1) no more than one-half inch of precipitation is forecast by the National Weather Service; 2) fire occurrence is significantly greater than normal or initial attack on wildland fires has been unsuccessful due to extreme fire behavior; and 3) more than 20 percent of wildfires in the county have been caused by escaped debris burns or controlled burns.

Beyond not meeting the criteria, the commissioners also agreed that no burn ban should be declared in order to allow county residents an opportunity to get burning done before conditions get drier.

"Winter is coming, and folks around here know what that means. Its best to let them get caught up on their burning now, because things are as green now as they're going to get," District No. 3 Commissioner Vernie Matt said.

In other business, the commissioners discussed the future of Woodward County Employee health insurance benefit options.

Commissioners focused on the benefits of possibly switching to a new healthcare plan which would allow county employees a choice in coverage.  The commissioners said employees would benefit because they would have the option of selecting high coverage if they have more healthcare needs, basic coverage, or an "S-account," in which they could opt out of the healthcare coverage and instead receive monetary deposits into the account.

They said the county could benefit because switching plans could potentially save the county money if employees choose to opt out.

However, Roedell and Matt decided to table the decision until the next meeting on Oct. 15 so that the plan could be further looked into and so Craighead could be present for the vote.

"We have until near the end of the month before a decision must be made," Matt said.  "No need to rush into anything today."

Also Monday, the county board accepted a 6-month contract bid for pot hole patching from Paving Maintenance Supply Inc.