Water, roads topic for counties conference
David Barkemeyer
Milam County Judge

Last week I attended a Texas Association of Counties conference in Austin of county judges and other county officials where we discussed some of the major outcomes of the recent legislative session that affect our state and counties in particular.

There were two topics of significant interest to me, water and roads.

We will all have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment on Nov. 5 that will determine whether some $2 billion will be allocated from the state’s rainy day fund for use by the Texas Water Development Board for regional and local water projects.

The speaker from the Water Development Board explained that only projects that are identified in the current state water plan will qualify for funding.

Each regional board (in our case Region G) will prioritize their projects for the state board who will apparently make the final decisions as to which projects get funded across the state.

Regarding the Little River Reservoir project, since it is not in the current state plan, I assume that we in Milam County do not need to be concerned that it might be a subject for funding should the constitutional amendment pass.

State Rep. Doug Miller from New Braunfels who was instrumental in getting the legislation passed made a strong appeal to all of us to urge voters in our counties to vote for the amendment in that the state is in dire need of developing new sources of water.

Conservation and recycling are being emphasized along with new projects. As I understand it, the plan involves long-term loans by the state rather than a direct grant program.

The other subject of significant interest to all of us was state funding for county roads.

For the first time in many years, primarily due to the extensive damage to county roads being done by oil field trucks and equipment due to the oil boom in south and west Texas, the legislature has allocated $254 million in TxDOT funds for use in repairing and resurfacing county roads.

This is not a huge amount of money, but every county (including Milam) with even the remotest chance is apparently going to try to get in on the action.

TxDOT is busy adopting a set of rules governing how to apply. One thing that I found out is that commissioners court will need to create a reinvestment zone that specifically defines what part of the county (supposedly where the road damage has occurred) the money will be used.

The rules will define how much a county can apply for based on oil production, number of wells, miles of road, etc.

Supposedly they will begin accepting applications by mid January and close the process by the end of February with grants being awarded in April.

Counties will be required to match 20% of funds (10% if you’re declared to be an indigent county).

There were several other worthwhile sessions including one on emergency preparedness put on by a team from Bastrop County, another on changes in the juvenile justice system in Texas, along with a general review of all the legislative changes affecting counties.

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2013-09-12 digital edition

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