By MARY RAINWATER
Anderson County Commissioners took steps toward obtaining a $300,000 grant to fund county road improvements on Monday, approving a retainer agreement with a law firm to help get the process moving.
According to information provided to the county by the Austin-based law firm of Allison, Bass & Associates, LLP, the Texas Transportation Infrastructure Grant is the result of legislative efforts to address damages incurred to Texas county road infrastructure as a result of energy activities.
The passage of SB 1747 and its House companion HB 260 along with the passage of HB 1025, resulted in $225 million of state appropriations in the form of grant funds to be administered by the Texas Department of Transportation.
Anderson County is eligible to receive a grant of a least $314,577 and is only required to match 10 percent, or about $31,457.
Due to a “highly abbreviated timeline,” commissioners approved the retainer agreement with Allison, Bass who, for a flat fee of $5,000, will assist the county in completing the steps involved in the grant process.
“If we don't get the grant, we will not have to pay the fee,” County Auditor Karin Smith told commissioners.
“This is a great opportunity for us as a county to receive these funds to help maintain our county roads,” County Judge Robert Johnston said. “And with just a 10 percent matching rate, we put in $30,000 to get $300,000. That is a very good thing.”
In a related action, commissioners also approved 9:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 20 as the public hearing date for the Texas Transportation Infrastructure Grant.
Also in the meeting, the court declared an emergency and amended the 2013 budget $250,000 to cover health insurance claims.
According to Smith, as of Nov. 14, the county was down about $100,000 and expected a shortfall totaling $250,000 by the end of 2013. The amendment moves those funds from the county's fund balance (savings fund) to the insurance claims fund.
Also on Monday, Commissioners:
• APPROVED budget amendments and bills.
• AUTHORIZED the Auditor's Office to go out for bid on a Pug Mill (a machine for mixing road materials) and take action as necessary.
• APPROVED allowing a Precinct 2 employee to be paid 80 hours vacation in lieu of taking time off, per vacation policy.
• AWARDED bids for paving paving county roads, septic rock and base stone, iron ore gravel, corrugated metal culvert pipe, road oil (refined), cracked fuel oil, CRS-2 asphalt emulsion, asphalt treated road material, bituminous cold path material, asphaltic concrete hot mix, gasoline and diesel for 2014.