County eyes radio upgrades

By Karen McCrary
LULING NEWSBOY & SIGNAL

The topic of upgrading radio communications in the County was back on the Commissioners Court agenda Monday. Commissioner Tom Bonn told the Court that the State has received about $66 million, out of a $1billion grant, for system improvements.
About one-third of the allotment to Texas will be shared by four major cities, and the remaining funds will be shared by the 24 Councils of Government throughout the state.
Bonn said that the grant funds will require a 20 percent match – in cash or in-kind services. He said that the County could join Bastrop County in submitting a regional application for funding.
“If we want to go from our analog system to a digital system, we can join them,” he said.
The commissioner said that 150 analog mobile units would cost about $450,000, and the cost for two consoles would be about $150,000.
“We can ask for a second complete (tower) site, which would put six transmitters at the Luling site and give us seamless radio communications throughout the county,” Bonn said. “We could also use the Bastrop system, and this upgrade would move everyone in the county to Project 25.”
County Auditor Sonny Rougeou said that there is about $50,000 in a maintenance account, which is being built up specifically for communication improvements. He noted that the match on a $600,000 grant would be $120,000, and the $50,000 could be used as a part of the match.
“We are in better financial condition than we were a couple of months ago,” Judge H.T. Wright said. “We planned to build our own stand-alone system, but I don’t think we have any other option than to upgrade.”
Bonn said that the whole idea is that through the upgraded radios a person can talk with anyone he or she needs to, without going through numerous ‘patches’.
Sheriff Daniel Law said that the Sheriff’s Office recently had a situation and had to call in Constables from neighboring counties, as well as those in Caldwell County.
“We went out and took care of things,” he said.
The sheriff said that the mandates coming down, on communications, hamper small counties who do not have the funds available for the upgrades.
“CAPCOG has been more than fair with us,” Bonn said. “They are going to do whatever they can to bring us up to the regional level. Our alternative is to do nothing, then we’re looking at two channels, and no trunking.”
Bonn made the motion to proceed with the application for a regional grant, with Bastrop County as the lead agency, to move to Project 25; the Court voted its approval.
Steven Bird, of Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, met with the Court to discuss its options under HB-621. The bill gives taxing units the authority to tax goods in transit, or to do nothing and allow those goods to remain exempt from ad valorem taxation.
Goods in transit are those goods (tangible personal property) acquired in or imported into the state; detained at a location in the state where the owner of the real property does not have direct or indirect ownership of the goods; and are transported to another location with 175 days.
Bird said these goods do not include oil, natural gas, petroleum products, aircraft, a dealer’s motor vehicle inventory, a dealer’s vessel and outboard motor inventory, a dealer’s heavy equipment inventory, or retail manufactured housing inventory.
If Caldwell County chooses to tax these items in 2008, it must hold a public hearing, adopt a resolution at a called meeting, and provide the Chief Appraiser with a copy of the resolution prior to Jan. 1, 2008. Bird said that taxing entities who choose not to tax goods in transit for 2008, can opt for taxation in later years, provided the outlined steps are completed before January 1 of the first tax year in which the governing body proposes to tax goods in transit.
Once an entity approves the taxation of goods in transit, they will continue to be taxed annually until the governing body of the taxing unit rescinds or repeals its previous action, Bird said.
Judge Wright noted that taxing goods in transit could deter economic development. He thanked Bird for providing clarification on the House Bill.
The preliminary plan for The Woods at St. John Colony – Phase 1, was approved by the Court. Kasi Miles told the Court that Phase 1 includes eight lots, from 1.609 to 2.023 acres, that front on St. Johns Road. The 15-acre tract is part of a 40-acre mother tract that will be developed in several phases.
Bids for two new tractors and two new single-wing rotary cutters were opened and read. Judge Wright charged the auditor and Unit Road System Director Dwight Jeffrey with reviewing the bids, and making a recommendation to the Court at the Oct. 15 regular meeting.
The Court voted to adopt a resolution approving the 2007 tax roll for the County. The resolution notes that amounts due, on the roll, totals $9,169,112.17 for 2007.
The governing board also voted to keep the burn ban on, and approved the Indigent Health Care and Indigent Burial reports for August. Judge Wright said that an additional large bill is anticipated for Indigent Health Care for FY 2006-07 (which ended Sept. 30). He said that the expenses for the year should be less than budgeted.

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