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Stories Added - March 2009
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Commissioners to meet Monday to move ahead with conference center
Polk County Enterprise - March 2009
LIVINGSTON — Polk County Commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. Monday in a special session to discuss approval of a resolution to authorize County Judge John Thompson to move ahead with a grant application related to the creation of Polk County College and Conference Center. Commissioners also will consider the continuation of the ban on all outdoor burning during Monday’s session. In an interview Friday, Thompson said Polk County has tentative approval for a grant in the $4 million range to fund a college and conference center as discussed with Commissioners Court in February. That approval is contingent on accomplishing a list of other tasks by March 20, Thompson said. One of those tasks is how the county plans to meet its obligation for matching funds. Thompson said there are several sources for the matching funds, but commitments won’t be available by Friday. He will ask the court to use the funds coming from Offi ce of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA) for Hurricane Ike as a “placeholder” until the other funds are available. “We can’t afford to miss this grant opportunity,” Thompson said. The items requested by Pedro Garza, regional director for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, will make up an EDA Applications Supplementary Package for Construction Investments. The package will include letters of commitment from private beneficiaries, engineering reports, legal opinions, environmental narratives and related information, floodplain maps and certification of any impact the new building would have on historically significant landmarks or artifacts. As that package moves through the approval process county officials can put together alternative sources of revenue. Nichols and Otto file bills to help build a higher education center in Polk County. State legislators filed bills this week to enact the necessary legislation to create the college complex. State Sen. Robert Nichols (RJacksonville) and Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton) filed bills to help establish a higher education center in Livingston. “The Polk County Angelina College Center in Livingston will mean increased opportunities for residents in Polk County,” said Nichols. “I am proud of Rep. Otto and I can help make this project a reality.” Otto also commented on the benefits the center will bring to the area. “The new center is good news for Livingston and Polk County,” said Otto. “Sen. Nichols and I are committed to doing what we can to promote higher education in the region.” Senate Bill 1670 and House Bill 2979, which are identical bills, allow the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to sell a piece land in Livingston for the amount it was first purchased for in the 1970s.
The land, which TxDOT does not plan to use, will be the site for the Polk County Angelina College center. Texas law usually requires TxDOT to sell land at current, fair market prices, but this legislation will allow the agency to sell the land in Livingston for the original purchase price. This will dramatically lower the cost to acquire a building site. “It’s a win-win,” said Otto. “TxDOT can sell excess land and Polk County gets a good price for the site of a new higher education center.” Polk County Judge John Thompson expressed gratitude for the legislation. “I appreciate Sen. Nichols and Rep. Otto for helping us bring this center to fruition,” said Thompson. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Polk County.” Dr. Larry Phillips, President of Angelina College, stressed the significance of the bills. “This legislation is important for the future growth of Polk County and will enable a higher education center convenient to everyone,” said Phillips. Nichols praised the hard work of the Angelina College President and the Polk County Judge. “I appreciate Judge John Thompson and Dr. Phillips bringing this issue to our attention,” said Nichols. “It’s a great example of how area leaders can help us serve the people of Polk County.” Passage of the bill also will knock $450,000 off the project’s budget, according to Thompson. “There are a number of other things in motion. Getting commissioners to sign off to use hurricane funds as a last resort will give us more time to obtain those funds,” Thompson said. Through a partnership with Angelina College, the Polk County College facility would allow students graduating from local high schools the opportunity to complete two years of study without long commutes or the expense of living on campus at an out-of-town college or university. Officials plan to offer vocational programs that would qualify students for industrial or technical positions that require shorter training periods.