Oct. 1, 2014, marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Denton County Alternative Dispute Resolution Program, also known as DCAP. This program is the result of the partnership between the Denton County Commissioners Court, the Denton County Judiciary, and the Denton County Bar Association.
DCAP, a 501(c)(3) entity, was formed for the purpose of providing low cost and no cost mediations to low income families in Denton County who find themselves involved in the civil and family court process. This was made possible by the award of a contract from the Denton County Commissioners Court, using funds from court filing fees earmarked for alternative dispute resolution. With the support of the District and County Judges, DCAP opened its doors and began to establish a reputation as a unique and highly efficient part of the judicial process.
Volunteer attorneys from the Denton County Bar Association donate over 1,200 hours per year (pro bono) serving as mediators at DCAP. This community outreach program has not only resulted in assisting in the efficient administration of justice for Denton County citizens, but has been responsible for removing in excess of 2,500 active cases from the dockets of the Denton County court system.
As a part of DCAP’s commitment to the community, college students interested in pursuing a career in law or alternative dispute resolution are provided an opportunity to “shadow” experienced mediators. This mentoring program is made possible by working in cooperation with Texas Women’s University and the University of North Texas.
The Denton County Alternative Dispute Resolution Program has been recognized statewide and was named as an Outstanding Community Partner by the State Bar of Texas. DCAP continues to serve as an outstanding example of what can be accomplished when the individuals behind the resources come together for a common cause.
Single Sticker vehicle program begins March 2015
HB 2305 passed into law in the 83rd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. The law eliminates the annual motor vehicle inspection sticker and combines it with the motor vehicle registration sticker issued by the County Tax Assessor-Collector.
The new law does not remove the requirement to have a vehicle inspection, but does revise how the inspection fee will be paid, as well as the issuance of the inspection sticker.
Starting March 2015, the registration sticker will serve as proof of both inspection and registration. Vehicle owners must have a current valid inspection within 90 days prior to the vehicle registration expiration. Also vehicles sold by a dealer must be inspected in the 180 days prior to the sale of the vehicle.
There will effectively be two phases of the transition:
March 2015 to February 2016: The first year all motorists will be allowed to register their vehicle as long as their inspection is current. The registration renewal sticker will be “synced” with the inspection and the registration sticker will be issued. This means that beginning March 2015, if a motorist presents their registration for renewal and their inspection is still current, the Tax Assessor-Collector office will issue a new registration/inspection sticker.
March 2016 and forward: The second and subsequent years, the vehicle must be inspected within 90 days from the date of expiration of registration sticker to be considered valid.
The TxDMV will begin the information campaign in late October and the Denton County Tax Office led by our Tax Assessor Michelle French, plans to hold several area public outreach meetings from October to March to help inform Denton County residents about these upcoming changes. I know Tax Assessor French will do a great job communicating and implementing these changes.
New signal lights on FM 407
Denton County is adding two additional traffic lights to FM 407 next to Lantana, Double Oak, and Bartonville including one at McMakin Road/Blanco Drive and another at Simmons Road. With the daily traffic on FM 407 estimated at roughly 24,000 cars daily, and construction beginning on the new 120,000-square-foot Kroger across from Lantana, these lights are especially important.
Our office has been working with the developers since they first bought the property to do traffic projections. The McMakin/Blanco light is expected to be completed by March 2015 before the center is expected to be open for business. We are also planning a traffic light at the intersection of Simmons and FM 407, which should be operating by May 2015.
Each traffic light costs about $200,000 and is funded by the Texas Department of Transportation. The lights are among the final items in the ongoing two-year project to expand FM 407 from FM 2499 to FM 1830. The last addition to the corridor is the landscaping once the roadways are complete.
What is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya (pronounced chik-en-gun-ye) is a viral disease transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito and has arrived in Denton County. The most common symptoms are fever and severe joint pains, often in the hands and feet. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
Symptoms usually begin three to seven after being bitten by an infected mosquito and typically resolve within seven to ten days. The Chikungunya virus does not often result in death, but in severe cases it can be painful, with symptoms lasting weeks or even years. Complications are rare, but more common in infants under a year old, older adults over age 65 years, and people with underlying medical conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes or heart disease.
Chikungunya is most often spread to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.
These are the same mosquitoes that transmit the virus that causes Dengue Fever. They bite mostly during the daytime. If a person is infected and bitten by a mosquito, that mosquito may later spread the virus by biting another person.
Travelers are at risk when visiting areas where Chikungunya occurs, and in areas being affected by a Chikungunya outbreak. Two locally acquired cases of Chikungunya have been confirmed in Florida. A map of the countries and territories where Chikungunya cases have been reported is available at http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/geo/index.html.
See your doctor if you think you or a family member might have Chikungunya. Your doctor may order blood tests which would likely include tests for both Chikungunya and Dengue Fever, especially if you recently traveled to the Caribbean or South America. Dengue Fever is another mosquito-borne illness similar to Chikungunya.
Sheriff’s Department expands to six districts
One of the items approved in the recent new budget is an increase in the number of Denton County Sheriff’s deputies. In order to reduce response times to calls in unincorporated areas, the Commissioner’s Court approved additional funding to allow the hiring of six additional deputies to begin patrolling six districts across Denton County, and increase from the current four-district outline.
Under the current system, when factoring in the I-35 construction and increased traffic, calls for service at peak traffic times could delay response. Having deputies in the six districts eliminates the need to navigate that construction to respond to calls.
The Denton County Sheriff’s Office covers 538.3 square miles of unincorporated land of the estimated 951.8 square miles in the county. In 2013, the Denton County Sheriff’s Office received 14,187 calls for service with an increase in 2014, and a 2015 projection for 15,500 calls for service. I am excited that these additional deputies and smaller districts will provide a decreased response time and higher level of emergency services.
If you have any qu
estions or comments, please let me hear from you. My email is [email protected] and my office number is 940-349-2801.