By MARY RAINWATER
In their last meeting of 2013, Anderson County Commissioners held a public hearing Friday that will allow for the creation of a transportation reinvestment zone, and give the county a shot at a grant totaling at least $314,000.
According to County Auditor Karin Smith, the county is eligible to receive the Texas Transportation Infrastructure Grant for funding of county road improvements and is required to create a County Energy Transportation Reinvestment Zone (CETRZ) in order to receive those monies.
“The grant requires a 10 percent match, and we could receive more than the $314,000,” Smith said, with Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston reporting that the county would be applying for three times that minimum amount.
“This grant is the result of a lobby by Texas county commissioners and others to be compensated for damage done to roads destroyed by heavy trucks,” Johnston explained. “We can create one or multiple zones.
“This will not increase or decrease taxes at all,” the judge added. “Once we create the zone, any tax increases down the line will have to be used for transportation.”
The county can disband the CERTZ at any time, Smith reported, and if that happens that money will go back into the county's general fund.
Johnston also told commissioners that a board made up of representatives of the energy industry and resident taxpayers will need to be created within the next month.
In a meeting on Dec. 9, commissioners approved a retainer agreement with Austin-based law firm of Allison, Bass & Associates, LLP, who will assist the county in completing the steps involved in the grant process.
“This is a great opportunity for us as a county to receive these funds to help maintain our county roads,” Johnston said previously. “And with just a 10 percent matching rate, we put in $30,000 to get $300,000. That is a very good thing.”
Also on Friday, commissioners:
• APPROVED reports from county officials, budget amendments and bills.
• APPROVED a bid from the Texas Association of Counties for property and liability insurance for 2014, with a premium of $227,103, which is a savings of about $50,000 from the current policy with Travelers Insurance.
• APPROVED the 2014 renewal of workers compensation insurance with Texas Political Subdivisions at for a premium of about $149,759, slightly less than the 2013 costs.
• APPROVED a 911 system upgrade as recommended by the Anderson County Sheriff's Office. The cost of the upgrade, which includes doubling the storage capacity and upgrading the software, is $12,400, which will be fully paid for by the East Texas Council of Governments.
• TABLED the awarding of a bid for a pug mill (for mixing of oil sand) for the year 2014 as the deadline for taking bids has not yet occurred.