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Court seeks party status in landfill fight

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

The Caldwell County Commissioners Court responded to public encouragement on Monday morning when they chose on a split vote to seek “party status” in the upcoming Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Contested Case Hearing against the landfill permit sought by Green Group Holdings for

the 130 Environmental Park project.

Party status ensures the County a “seat at the table” as the process of the contested case hearing goes forward, supporters said. However, others believe that litigation should be a last resort for the County.

“Look at all of your options,” urged Kenwood Maeker, of Luling. “What comes before the revenue is the expenses, and this host agreement could be a revenue windfall. If you can’t make an agreement, then we have options – negotiation or mitigation. But litigation should be our last option.”

Byron Friedrich, and several others, disagreed.

“Getting our name on the list is not the County initiating a lawsuit,” he said. “We have every right to be heard, and Caldwell County has every legal right and every obligation to participate in the contested case hearing.”

“This is an administrative hearing,” Jody Friedrich reiterated. “You don’t even need to have an attorney present, you just have to have a representative there that has the authority to seek party status.”

TCEQ describes a contested case hearing as being “similar to a civil trial conducted before a district court judge,” without a jury present, and Caldwell County District Attorney Fred Weber, speaking briefly from out of town, confirmed that the contested case hearing is, in fact, a legal proceeding.

Weber declined further comment on the issue.

Green Group representatives had little to say about the County’s decision, which passed after more than an hour of consultation with outside counsel from the Allison Bass Law Firm, on a 4-1 vote with dissent from County Judge Kenneth Schawe.

““We will continue to move forward with our plans for 130 Environmental Park,” said Green Group Vice President of Project Development David Green. “We still fully intend on being an active and involved member of the Caldwell County community.”

The formal contested case hearing is scheduled in Courtroom B of the Caldwell County Judicial Center on Thursday, March 26, 2015, at 10 a.m. Prior to that time, the Commissioners have been rumored to be seeking a representation agreement with Allison Bass for legal counsel in the matter.

In other business, the Commissioners voted to waive subdivision fees for Phase 2 of Sunrise Meadows, a subdivision on Barth Road.

“Our previous engineer failed to address some drainage problems, and put in a letter to approve the preliminary,” said inspection official Kasi Miles. “When it came forward for final, Tracy [Bratton] said they couldn’t do it because of drainage.”

Miles reported that the oversight on the part of the County Engineer required the developer to reevaluate his plat, costing him five lots from the subdivision, and more than $35,000 in fees and expenses to re-plat the subdivision.

As a matter of attempting to make an effort of good faith, Miles asked the Court to waive the final plat fees, as the construction fees for road and drainage as the subdivision moves forward.

The developer will still have to pay residential construction and septic fees as his subdivision moves forward, but the Court voted unanimously to waive the fees as Miles had requested.

The Commissioners also heard a brief report from County Auditor Larry Roberson, who reviewed the final costs on the renovation project at the Caldwell County Judicial Center.

According to Roberson, some aspects of the project, including the project management fee of $92,400, came in under budget, while other things, including the furniture and fixtures, were more expensive than originally expected.

“The Commissioners should be commended on the way this project was managed,” Roberson said. “I was pleased to have been a part of it.”

Depsite the budget overruns, the full cost of the project leveled in at $10,897,695, which Roberson called “a good value.”

In brief news:

The Court heard a presentation from Fred Blood, of the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition, who discussed the possibility of a change in EPA air quality standards within the next calendar year.

They received a report of their last fiscal year’s outside audit. According to the information provided, the County is in solid financial shape.

The panel authorized Schawe to enter an agreementment with a television production company, which has pitched the filming of a new HBO series in and around Lockhart. The agreement will allow the County to receive compensation for use of the Courthouse lawn and surrounding county buildings as production moves forward.

The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the second floor courtroom of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public and webcast at www.co.caldwell.tx.us.

 

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