“It will be hard to beat 2012 – we had a heck of a year,” said Pct. 2 Commissioner Stanley Tuttle. “It’s not often that you get $200 million in growth in one year but we’ve got things happening now.”
In 2012, EOG and Southcross built plants in Refugio and near Bonnie View, respectively.
Tuttle said Southcross may be making even more expansions.
County Judge Rene Mascorro said the new plants caused unemployment to go down; however, too many workers commute due to a shortage of housing.
“When I came into office, unemployment was at 6.4 percent and now it’s 4.2,” said County Judge Rene Mascorro. “The next thing we have to work on is housing. We’re getting some traction on that.”
The judge said his goal is that those who want to live in Refugio County will have ample opportunity to find housing.
Joe Arredondo III, economic development director, said his top priority for the year is housing.
“I’m working on housing suitable for middle class, working families,” he said.
Arredondo has contacted a number of contractors who are willing to build in the county. Several locations have been targeted as possible subdivisions.
At the north end of the county, Pct. 4 Commissioner Rod Bernal said the Eagle Ford Shale discovery is bringing more traffic down Hwy. 35.
“The increased traffic has brought more business to town,” Bernal said. “The grocery stores and restaurants are doing more business and people are stopping to buy fuel, generating more income. We’ve been blessed by the Eagle Ford Shale.”
Bernal predicts more income next year from the increased traffic.
Refugio Councilman Frank Hosey predicts that the town will have all its positions filled in 2013.
“By next year the departments will be fully staffed with qualified workers,” Hosey said.
The water department has been short-handed during a crucial time when major sewer and water projects are underway.
The town has relied on its engineering firm, LNV, to ensure work proceeds. The work should be completed in 2013.
“We also will have new homes built through the Housing Rehabilitation Assistant Grant,” Hosey said.
Woodsboro Mayor George Hernandez predicts that a problem the town has been working on for a long time will be solved in 2013.
“We will finally get rid of the arsenic problem,” Hernandez said. “We’ve gone to hydrologists who have concluded that the problem is sulfur which leaches the chlorine from the system.”
The hydrologists are currently running an experiment, which includes aerating water from the well to get rid of the sulfur before blending it with water from the other wells.
“Well No. 5 has no arsenic, so when we blend it with water from the other wells, that should take care of the arsenic problem,” Hernandez said.
So far, the experiment is working and the water meets state standards.
Austwell Mayor David Cann said economic development in 2013 will be brisk in the coastal town.
“We were awarded $400,000 in three CIAP grants,” Cann said. “We will make renovations to the community center, improve drainage on Bay Street and add a Wetlands Information Center.”
In addition, a private citizen recently built 10 boat barns which will be available to rent in 2013.
“We’ve had a little progress for economic development and should have more next year,” Cann said.
Cann said he’s still searching for investors to build a convenience store to serve the community.
“We need a place where people can buy a few things, like milk, bread and ice,” he said.
Cann believes the investment could be lucrative.
In the other coastal community of Bayside, Mayor Ken Dahl said three homes are currently being built using a HOME Housing Rehabilitation Assistance Grant through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The town will turn over the keys in February.
“We’re expecting several other new homes and we’ve got an RV park that is being hooked up with water and sewer and should open this year,” Dahl said. “Things should be pretty exciting next year.”
Like Austwell, Bayside was awarded $80,000 in CIAP grants.
“We will improve drainage on First Street by adding an additional culvert,” Dahl said. “There are now two and when it rains, the water crosses the street. A third culvert will alleviate that problem.”
All the county and city officials who weighed in with predictions for 2013 were optimistic that the new year will ring in good news.