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Roadway cash seen as shackle to growth
by Jason Collins
Jan 09, 2014 | 72 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE – Passing up $755,000 in money from the state is difficult, but county commissioners may have to do just that because of a requirement in the grant that could hurt three-quarters of the county.

During their meeting in early December, commissioners talked again about the state allocating funds for road repairs and the rules to accepting it.

Part of those rules are that the county create a reinvestment zone and allocate any increase in tax revenue from that zone back into that zone for the next 10 years.

This was a concern as this is the only portion of the county seeing substantial oil and gas growth.

The state, through the Texas Department of Transportation, forcing the county to restrict tax revenue money to one portion of the county for 10 years was the reason commissioners passed continuing the grant application process with the caveat that there was a way to avoid this stipulation.

Dennis DeWitt, commissioner for Precinct 2 where this would occur at, voiced concern that, while this would be beneficial for his constituents, it could be detrimental the rest of the county.

The current prediction is that there could be one, possibly two, more cryogenic plants going up in precinct 2.

“That is a huge revenue source coming in,” he said.

“And it would all go back to that precinct.”

Judge David Silva, “Do we want to lose that money for 10 years. That is a greater concern than repairing two or three roads.”

The state money in question must be used for repairs to county roads, not state highways where most of the damage is occurring, in north Bee County—specifically roads within the reinvestment zone where road damage is occurring due to oil and gas activity.

Ray Gonzales, road and bridge administrator, said that the county has already partnered with the local oil companies to ensure that roads damaged by heavy trucks are repaired.

“Our county roads are in pretty good shape,” Gonzales said. “We did have a little damage, but we were compensated for it.

“They furnished the material, and we provided the labor.”

DeWitt said that application for this money came up in the past, and he and the judge were both hesitant even then.

“We didn’t feel we were having the amount of damage on our roads to take a hard look at this,” DeWitt said. “Unless it has changed it obligates the county to dedicate the taxes for 10 years in that area for those roads.

“This would take it out of the general fund for 10 years.”

Commissioner Carlos Salazar, also echoing the thoughts of Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez, said, “I could see if the roads were in dire need... but they are not.

“I would support it if that 10 years were not a part of it.”

And, while $755,000 is the amount being mentioned most often, this is the maximum, and there is no guarantee the county would receive this full amount.

Commissioner Ken Haggard, reminded, “If this, whatever amount we get, goes to that end of the county... does that not alleviate the money amount we intended to spend on that end of the county to go back to Precincts 1,3 and 4?”

Silva, echoing the thoughts of most commissioners, said, “We want to look at it. We don’t want to pass up on any money.”

The law firm of Allison, Bass and Associates has agreed to handle the paperwork for the county.

Their fee is $5,000, which is only due if the county is awarded the grant.

Numerous other counties are also looking into applying for the money.

Refugio commissioners approved going forward; however, their court had a different take on the matter.

Denman Netherland, representing Grantworks Inc. of Austin agreed that they would have to create a County Energy Transportation Reinvestment Zone, or CETRZ.

However, Netherland said that the county could spend the money outside of the zone created.

In contrast, Bastrop commissioners approved the grant process with the understanding that the money can only be used with zone, or in their case, zones created.

Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape, according to Statesman.com, told his court, “Any growth in taxable value in the future will flow back into that zone to be reinvested to continue to maintain the roads in that zone for at least a 10-year commitment.”

According to TxDot information, Bee County would have to provide a 10 percent match to receive the grant.

The state information also states that the county must “dedicate or pledge all of the increase in the appraised value of real property located in the CETRZ to their projects.”

Distribution of the $225 million allocated to repair county roads will be done by formula, “taking into consideration weight tolerance permits, oil and gas production taxes, the number of well completions submitted to the Railroad Commission, and the volume of oil and gas waste injected per county.”

For now, Bee County will continue with the grant process. However, all commissioners agreed they would decline the money if it was not beneficial to the county as a whole.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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