Saturday, March 15, 2014


We all know that if something seems to be too good to be true it usually is.  Sort of like the millions of dollars that the state has allocated for oil filed damaged roads in Texas counties.  The total estimated grant funds available for this round is 224,500,000 dollars.  Milam County's share of that could be over 2,000,000 dollars.  That's a lot of money I don't care who you are.

The County Transportation Infrastructure Fund Grant Program is the source of this windfall for
Texas counties.  Senate Bill 1747 during the last legislative session made this funding possible.  Summary of the bill is, "Relating to funding and donations for transportation projects, including projects of county energy transportation reinvestment zones."  The bill is aimed at aiding counties to repair damage to the county roads caused by oil field activity.

Now some of you might say why so much for Milam County?  Again sounds too good to be true.  Just so happens while we do not have the oil activity that some of the counties do we do have an extremely large number of shallow wells being drilled and produced in the Minerva area.  The formula to award funding is based on several weighted factors and well completions, which we have a lot of, accounts for fifty percent of the total score in determining the funding allocated to each county.

One of the things you have to watch out for anytime the state or feds offer you money is the strings attached.  One of the items that concerned me was that the counties that receive the funding have to create a reinvestment zone.  This zone is to remain in effect for ten years.  The purpose of the zone is to capture any increase in the tax base over the next ten years and that money must be allocated to road and bridge projects only.

This was one area that concerned me.  Creating something that for the next ten years would tie up any future increase in tax revenue is not a good idea.  Especially if you take into account some of the doomsday predictions for the county's future. 

 Another issue that concerned me was the requirement that a committee is appointed to advise the court on the projects, but that the court did not have to listen to the committee's suggestions.  Sounds sort of like a push to me.  Why appoint citizens to waste their valuable time to make suggestions that won't be followed?

There were other issues that should raise a red flag to anyone that has ever worked with TXDOT.  I visited with commissioners about my concerns and could not get any real answers.  As a matter of fact at the time TXDOT did not have any real answers.  However, I spent a good deal of time with a TXDOT representative yesterday discussing my concerns, and again it sounds too good to be true.

Many counties have indicated that they will dissolve the reinvestment zone when their projects are complete.  That would free up any increased revenue to be used where it is needed.  Counties do not have to involve TXDOT engineering services which can sometimes cost more that the project itself.  At this point in time there are no Legislative strings or TXDOT strings attached to the funding.

This is a great windfall for Texas counties including Milam.  The Commissioners are well advised to pursue this grant, and I am sure they have met the deadline for filing, which is today March 14.  Please do not get your hopes up as to all the roads in Milam County getting paved.  Not going to happen.  Some might get a new seal coat, but most of the projects involve maintaining current road and bridge infrastructure in the county.

As a final note, congratulations to the Commissioners Court on the grant, or should I say applying for the grant.  All signs point to us getting the grant, so it will help road maintenance in the county.  The Legislature will be meeting again in January and there is the potential of them providing more funding for future projects.  Of course, there is also the possibility of them making it too good to be true.  Might be a good time, starting now, to thank Representative Farney and Senator Schwertner for their support and let them know Milam County could use another round of funding.

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