Roads group gets OK to use courthouse to gather petition signatures

By Donnita Fisher

Managing Editor

 

In a test of Van Zandt County’s new premises use policy, May 12 commissioners granted Van Zandt Citizens for Better Roads permission for an event permit to gather petition signatures on the courthouse lawn May 30, June 6, 13, 20 and 27. But the vote wasn’t unanimous.

Pct. 2 Commissioner Virgil Melton Jr. voted against issuing the permit and Pct. 3 Commissioner Bobby Chaney abstained.

“I oppose the event and would oppose all campaign events on the courthouse lawn,” Melton said. “Not someone announcing they were running for office … but any political event.”

The courthouse should have a neutral atmosphere, Melton said.

County Judge Don Kirkpatrick said while he and Melton “are good friends …. We disagree on this topic. It is never my intent to control the message delivered to the public.”

Kirkpatrick, Pct. 1 Commissioner Brandon Brown and Pct. 4 Commissioner Tim West voted in favor of issuing the permit.

In the public comment portion of the May 12 commissioners court meeting, resident Dwayne Collins addressed the court regarding the premises policy. “I can see the benefit of keeping yard signs out,” he said, “but this is just government putting limits on what we as free people can do.”

The policy requires those asking for a permit to know how many people will be attending the event. “How are we to know how many people are to show up?” Collins asked.

Everyone – whether they want to collect signatures on a petition for better roads, legalize marijuana or same sex marriages – should have access to the courthouse, Collins said.

“This came up because the court felt under attack,” he said. “And by the way, I am not a proponent of the Unit system.”

The commissioners court has been under fire recently for the state of disrepair of many of the county’s roads. The Van Zandt Citizens for Better Roads is proposing the county go to a unit system of road management whereby funding funneled through a single roads manager instead of each precinct commissioner. Others have proposed a bond issue or designated gas tax.

 

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