County Commissioners approve updated county hazard mitigation plan
By Wesley Gardner
Caldwell County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the adoption of an updated 5-year hazard mitigation plan that will allow the county to apply for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the case of a local disaster.
According to Caldwell County Grants Administrator Dennis Engelke, approval of the document will also allow the county to apply for funds that could be used for pre-disaster mitigation projects, ensuring the county is prepared for disaster events before they occur.
“This report contains hazard descriptions for the following activities: floods, extreme heat, expansive soils, dam failure, drought, wildfire, thunderstorm winds, tornado lightning hail and winter storms,” said Engelke. “It’s a very comprehensive report.
“Although many of the items in the report may never see the light of day as far as being funded, the object is that the item has to be in the plan to even be considered for funding.”
Engelke noted several Caldwell County action statements included in the plan that could be considered for funding:
$10 million for the construction or acquisition of a multi-use evacuation facility that could be used in the event of a disaster;
$2.5 million to replace all bridges throughout the county built before 1950 to ensure they can support emergency vehicles;
$1.4 million to repair roadways identified in the county transportation plan;
$1 million for the acquisition and installation of generators at all critical facilities throughout the county.
Engelke noted commissioners would be required to review the plan at least once a year to consider any needed adjustments.
In other business, Commissioners accepted a $67,000 Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund grant award recovery from a previously approved FEMA project.
“We received word on March 23 from the governor’s office regarding additional relief that was being awarded on defraying the county’s local share match on 11 of our FEMA Hurricane Harvey road projects,” said Engelke, noting the county had the option to either accept the money or return it to the state, prompting a bout of good-natured laughter from the commissioners.
“I’m just reading from the guidelines,” Engelke added through laughter of his own.
County Judge Hoppy Haden jokingly pondered the commissioners court best course of action.
“That’s a tough one,” Haden quipped.
Commissioners unsurprisingly approved the measure unanimously.
In other business, commissioners approved the application of a County Transportation Infrastructure Fund grant for more than $848,000 to repair roads damaged by trucks and heavy equipment traffic resulting from increased energy-sector activity in the county.
According to Engelke, the county would likely be eligible to receive even more funding through the grant program.
“Caldwell County is eligible for a minimum, I emphasize minimum, grant of $848,543,” said Engelke, noting the county would be required to provide a 10 percent local match. “The normal match of this program is 20 percent, but since we have classified as an economically disadvantaged county, the match is 10 percent.”
Engelke added that the county would likely be eligible for additional funding because there’s a good chance some counties throughout the state might not apply for funding.
Haden noted that the availability of the grants were coming at a good time as construction of the Permian Highway Pipeline ramps up throughout the county.
“Due to Kinder Morgan pipeline coming through, roads that traditionally might not have been affected by the energy sector are definitely being impacted now,” said Haden. “They’re actively coming through my ranch right now, and I counted 16 18-wheelers and 40 pick-up trucks this morning.
“They’re definitely impacting our roadways.”
Commissioners on Monday also voted to keep the county wide burn ban inactive in light of recent wet weather.
Despite the removal of the burn ban, protocol still remains in place to ensure safe burning, including alerting appropriate law enforcement agencies before conducting any controlled burns.
Burns can begin no earlier than one hour after sunrise and should end on the same day no later than one hour before sunset, officials said. Any waste burned at a particular property must have originated from that site, meaning the burning of trash brought in from outside the property is not allowed.
Additionally, burning will not be permitted when surface wind speed is predicted to be less than 6 miles per hour or greater than 23 miles per hour during the proposed burn period.