County job openings

By Keith Self, County Judge

Collin County employs around 1700 people. We offer competitive salaries, out-of-this-world retirement benefits, and almost absolute job security as long as you perform your duties.

We have a merit pay system known as pay-for-performance. Since salaries are a major portion of our budget, I thought I would lay out some parameters of our salary structure as we move toward budget discussions.

The Collin County starting salary for entry-level positions is $12.54 per hour, which is 73 percent higher than the federal minimum wage. That’s our lowest starting hourly wage, not our average hourly wage.

$12.54 per hour is not only 73 percent above the federal minimum wage; it is also 4.5 percent above the average hourly wage in Texas. Did you catch that? Our lowest starting hourly wage is 4.5 percent above the average hourly wage in Texas; not the starting hourly wage in Texas, but average hourly wage in Texas, which is obviously dominated by the private sector.

Add another 14 percent of salary for retirement. The average private sector contribution to a 401k (when/if offered) is about 4 percent. The county contributes 14 percent.

And we pay about 84 percent of employee health care costs.

Like most government entities, our turnover rate is a fraction of the private sector.

Our elected officials, appointed officials, supervisors and employees provide the excellent level of service that our citizens expect in Collin County. These factors are why I get regular comments about how much folks prefer doing business in Collin County than other, unnamed counties in our vicinity.

I believe that our merit pay system could be reversed if we do not adequately and transparently articulate our total compensation plan. Trust me, the desire for automatic government pay raises is alive and well.

We take great pains to compare our salaries to “like” organizations. Where we can, we include private sector positions. Where we cannot, we compare only against public sector positions. And last year, we adjusted several positions where experience had gotten out of sync with comparable positions. We go to great lengths to make sure our work force is properly compensated.

Today, we have 39 open jobs posted. If you like what you read above and believe that one of the positions fits you, apply …

Water update

I was asked to include a report on the Lake Lavon water level. Frankly, there’s not much to report. The lake level has been right at 12 feet low since last September, and today is no different. We are just a smidgen above 12 feet low. We need rain badly before summer, even with the Lake Texoma pipeline coming online.

New regulations for Lavon, Texoma boaters

By Texas Parks & Wildlife

Recent changes mean that boaters and anglers who take steps designed to prevent the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels, silver carp and bighead carp won’t have to worry about being in violation of state laws prohibiting the possession of certain exotic species. These changes take effect May 17.

“Boaters and anglers on Lake Texoma, Lake Lavon and the Red River and its tributaries are being asked to take proactive steps toward being good stewards of the state’s aquatic resources by draining all water from their watercraft before leaving a boat ramp and hitting the road,” said Brian Van Zee, regional inland fisheries director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

Zebra mussels have become well established in Lake Texoma, and they can be spread to other waters by boats. Boaters are already prohibited from transporting exotic species that are visible to the naked eye, such as adult zebra mussels.

The new regulation is intended to prevent the spread of zebra mussel larvae, or veligers, which are so tiny they cannot be seen without a microscope. Veligers can survive for days in water trapped in a boat. Boaters on Lakes Texoma and Lavon who drain all bait buckets, livewells, bilges and any other systems or receptacles that could contain water prior to traveling on a public roadway will not be considered to be in possession of zebra mussels in violation of state law, with certain exceptions.

“The regulation does allow persons to travel from one boat ramp to another on the same water body without draining water,” said Ken Kurzawski, regulations and information director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division. “This will allow striper guides on Lake Texoma to trailer from one boat ramp to another during the day. It will also allow bass tournament anglers to take out at one ramp and go to another for weigh-in. Guides and anglers will also be allowed to collect shad for bait in Texoma and then go below the dam to fish without draining water.”

In short, all water will need to be removed from a boat before leaving Lakes Texoma or Lavon for another lake, the boater’s home or other destination. The regulation applies to the Red River from the I-44 bridge in Wichita County downstream to the Arkansas border, including all Texas waters of Lake Texoma and Lake Lavon.

A second regulation designed to prevent the spread of silver and bighead carp also takes effect May 17. This regulation primarily affects anglers who collect live bait; it prohibits the transport of live non-game fish from waters known to be inhabited by the two species of carp. Waters affected are the Red River below Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border, Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines (including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake) and the Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman Dam.

“Collection and use of non-game fishes for bait on those water bodies will still be legal,” said Kurzawski. “The regulation prohibits the moving of live bait fish from one water body to another. Young silver and bighead carp can easily be confused with native bait fish such as gizzard and threadfin shad. Anglers need to note that while it will be legal to take shad from Lake Texoma to below Denison Dam on the Red River, it will not be legal to take live bait from the Red River below the dam back to Lake Texoma or any other water body.”

The new regulations are one part of the next phase of a continuing effort to protect the waters of Texas from invasive species. In late May TPWD will launch a public information campaign aimed at getting boaters to Clean, Drain and Dry their boats in order to help stop the spread of zebra mussels and other invasives. The campaign will use billboards, banners, signage at area businesses, buoys at boat ramps and radio public service announcements to get the message across.

Zebra mussels have the potential to hinder the water supply of communities throughout North Texas by damaging water treatment plants and clogging water supply pipelines. Once they have become established in a reservoir, there is no known way to get rid of them. Zebra mussels were brought to Lake Texoma on boats trailered in from other states with infected lakes. Stopping their transport from one water body to another by boats appears to be the only way to prevent their spread.

To learn more about zebra mussels and other invasive species or to report a suspected sighting, visit

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Water restrictions remain in effect

The watering restriction won’t be watered down any time soon.

Here’s the latest word from the folks who control the tap:

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) manages the water level of Lake Lavon based on long standing flood control procedures. Lake Lavon is first a flood control reservoir. Due to recent rains, Lake Lavon is now above the normal conservation pool of 492 feet msl and is now in what is considered the flood pool, which is when the reservoir level is above 492 msl. Runoff from recent rains is continuing to flow into Lavon, and USACE will release water as needed to protect lives and property. Releases will not occur when levels return to the normal conservation pool of 492 feet msl.

“Officials with NTMWD are monitoring the inflow of rain runoff into Lakes Lavon and Jim Chapman, water supplies utilized by NTMWD, and will also review short-term forecasts and other data to determine if the current water management measures can be relaxed while still planning for the long-term needs of its consumers.

“It is important to note that due to the zebra mussel infestation, NTMWD still cannot pump from Lake Texoma which normally provides 28 percent of the total water supply for the district.”

NTMWD, member cities, and customers remain in Stage 3 of their plans with enhanced strategies.

Twice per month watering restrictions will be extended until June 1, 2012.

Consumers are asked to only water when absolutely necessary. If you must water, please reduce turf irrigation and focus on watering trees, shrubs, and foundations.

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