By Kathi Bliss
Caldwell County is one step closer to the possibility of receiving a grant upwards of $2 million for maintenance of county roads impacted by the energy industry in Caldwell County.
For weeks, the Commissioners have been considering a County Energy Transportation Reinvestment Zone Project (CERTZ), which under the State of Texas Transportation Code could make state funds available to maintain roads adversely impacted by the energy industry.
In specific, Commissioner Fred Buchholtz brought the idea of the grant application to light in response to the growth of the oil and gas industry in the southern portion of the county in recent years.
Part of the process of establishing a CERTZ project includes spelling out the specific area for the Transportation Reinvestment Zone, and appointing a commission of citizens to sit on an advisory board.
During Monday’s meeting, the Commissioners reviewed a proposal that would take in the Salt Flat and Luling oil fields, along with other portions of southern and central Caldwell County.
The zone, which can be increased in size but not reduced, was approved unanimously by the Commissioners, despite not having been reviewed by Allison Bass, the law firm the Court hired to review the process for the County.
Buchholtz and County Judge Tom Bonn called for the vote on Monday based on a looming Feb. 7, 2014, deadline on the project. Although Allison Bass is attempting to secure a 30-day extension, that extension has not been approved and the County needed to move forward, as the next regular meeting of the Commissioners Court is not until Feb. 10.
If approved, the County must provide a 10-percent cash match on the Transportation Reinvestment Zone Grant, which could amount to nearly $300,000, depending on the size of the grant award.
The Court will discuss, at a later date, the names of individuals who might be appointed to the advisory board.
In other business, the Commissioners grappled over the best way to get help for Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Ritchey to coordinate efforts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in connection with recovery from the Oct. 31, 2013 flooding event.
Bonn had suggested the county hire an independent contractor to assist Ritchey with the coordination, which he said would be an “intensive process.” However, other Court members suggested it would be more appropriate to put the individual on the books as a temporary employee.
Although the position was on the agenda as an independent contractor, the Commissioners voted unanimously to advertise for a “temporary employee” to fill the position, and will nail down the specifics as to salary and job description at a later time.
They heard from Les Reddin, the project manager for the construction of the Caldwell County Judicial and Service Center (“old WalMart”) about a series of changes that will add more than $314,000 to the “owners contingency fund” on the project. Those cost savings include changes in lighting and decor, landscape and millwork, as well as wage scales.
In brief news:
The Commissioners Court will have to find an alterative meeting location for two meetings during the month of February, as Election Administrator Pamela Ohlendorf will be utilizing the Conference and Training Room at the LW Scott Annex for early voting in the March 4, 2014, primary election.
Working under the approval of the Court, County Auditor Larry Roberson will soon attempt to sell both a 2005 boom area platform lift and a set of load meter truck scales as “surplus property.” The items were purchased over the last several years with the promise that they would be useful in saving or generating revenue for the County, but have gone underutilized by the departments that requested them.
The panel approved the continuation of an Outdoor Burning Ban.
The County paid bills in the amount of $155,209.30.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month in the Conference and Training Room of the LW Scott Annex. Workshops can begin as early as 8 a.m., and regular meetings begin at 9 a.m. All meetings are open to the public and are webcast at www.co.caldwell.tx.us.