By Kathi Bliss
During a lengthy Monday morning meeting, the Caldwell County Commissioners eyed out-of-the-box solutions towards the restoration and upkeep of the Caldwell County Courthouse.
For several months, repair of several Courthouse windows, along with painting, roof repair and cleaning and sealing the limestone on the historic structure have been heavy topics of conversation for the Commissioners, so much so that much of the work was included in a late-2010 Certificate of Obligation purchase.
Commissioner Fred Buchholtz, in an effort to save money on the project and work toward a more permanent maintenance of the structure, approached his colleagues on Monday with a suggestion that, rather than putting up scaffolding and doing all the work at once, the Court should purchase a mechanical lift, and advertise for an additional maintenance position that would serve as a dedicated “Mr. Courthouse.”
County Maintenance Supervisor Curtis Weber, who said that he had been “instructed not to throw cold water on the idea,” told the Court after being asked by Commissioner Neto Madrigal that he did not feel the proposal was practical. His department, like most others, is facing budget cuts, he said, and he does not believe that adding a staff member is feasible. He also said he believed much of the necessary work on the Courthouse could not be done via lift.
Attorney Ron Heggemeier suggested that the Court table the measure, citing concerns about creating a position without a budget amendment to fund the position. He and County Auditor Sonny Rougeou also said they were unsure that certificate of obligation funds could legally be used for the purchase of equipment toward the restoration.
The Commissioners will revisit the measure at a future meeting.
In other business, the approved an interlocal agreement with several area municipalities and organizations to continue participation in the Plum Creek Watershed Protection Plan.
The original agreement was predicated upon a three-year grant, which will expire at the end of this year. Much of the County’s $9,000 financial participation in the agreement will be in the form of in-kind services including, but not limited to, office space, a vehicle, utilities and office supplies.
In other business, the Court finalized their agreement to vacate a portion of County Road 114 (Mineral Springs Road) due to safety concerns at the intersection.
The measure was first introduced last year, when representatives of the Mineral Springs Baptist Church, whose property straddles the intersection of CR 114 and FM 671, brought forth a proposal to move the road. A neighboring resident donated property, and the church paid for the construction of a new roadway intersection, which will alleviate traffic from cutting through the church’s property.
The Commissioners also had a brief discussion regarding participation in the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ Homebuyer Assistance Program.
The program, designed to help low-income buyers obtain affordable housing, will a forgivable loan of up to $20,000 for loan fees and closing costs to qualified buyers. The loans, which are not available for buyers using sub-prime loan products, eligible to be forgiven if the buyer remains in the property for more than five years.
Several concerns about the program, including using taxpayer funds to help private homeowners make purchases, prompted the Commissioners to vote to table the measure until next week, giving themselves more time to research the possibilities and ramifications of the program.
After a surprising order at the end of last week to temporarily lift the outdoor burning ban, the Commissioners unanimously and quickly voted to reinstate the ban as of sundown on Monday.
Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Parker said Caldwell County residents had been “lucky” that no major grass fires were reported over the weekend after the ban was lifted, and noted that most of Central Texas is still classified as high-danger in the Keetch-Byram Disaster Index.
While the County is under an outdoor burning ban, outdoor burning of brush or trash is classified as a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500. In addition, anyone burning during a ban who inadvertently sparks a fire which destroys private property can be held liable for property damages related to that fire.
In brief news:
The Court heard reports from 10 department heads regarding their activities during the month of April.
They approved the introduction of a Luling field office for the Caldwell County Veterans’ Service Officer, David Francis. Francis will utilize and office in Luling City Hall on Wednesday afternoons from 1 – 5 p.m. to facilitate service to Luling clients.
The Court paid bills in the amount of $59,588.15, which included $3,454 in indigent legal defense costs and $3,950.45 in indigent health care.