|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
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Hydroelectric plant land swap completed
BY GREG PEAK
LIVINGSTON – Following a brief closed session to discuss the matter with their attorney, the Polk County Commissioners Court on Tuesday finalized the exchange of property at Southland Park with East Texas Electric Cooperative (ETEC). Commissioners signed the agreement in which they will grant a 99-year lease to ETEC for 1.965 acres of the 20-acre park. In exchange, ETEC will purchase 2.974 acres of adjoining property and add it to the park to replace the recreational land they will be using. ETEC is in the process of building a hydroelectric plant at the base of the Lake Livingston Dam and needed a piece of the county-owned park for the site. Jim Allison, the attorney representing the county in the negotiations, explained that because the parkland was originally acquired using a grant from both the National Park Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, both of those entities had to agree to the deal. The replacement of the land being leased to ETEC was required before the state and federal agencies would sign-off on the project. "Essentially, the park will actually grow from 20 acres to just over 21 acres," Allison explained. He noted as part of the deal, ETEC will make improvements to the property, such as hiking trails and a bird watching tower, and then maintain them into the future. The park is located immediately south of the Lake Livingston Dam and fronts the Trinity River. Plans call for it to be developed into a major bird watching area to help attract tourists into the area. Clean audit report In other business, commissioners accepted the annual audit report on the county's finances for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013. Robert Belt of the accounting firm of Belt Harris Pechacek, LLLP., of Houston told commissioners the audit presented a "clean opinion" and that no major problems were found. He noted that while the nearly $16.6 million in general fund expenditures exceeded the more than $15.7 million in income, the deficit was planned. He explained the majority of the $842,000 general fund deficit was offset by $604,000 in other surplus revenue. This required the county to move $237,000 from its fund balance to offset the loss. He noted that the county had expected to move $741,000 from the fund balance when the year began. "This means that you retained more than half a million dollars in the fund balance that you thought you were going to have to spend," he said. The fund balance is the reserve the county sets aside to cover emergencies, and Belt noted that it is recommended that counties have enough money in the fund to operate for 60-90 days without any other source of income. When the fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2012, the county had almost $6.9 million in its fund balance and when it ended it had retained just over $6.6 million. Belt said Polk County's fund balance is "very healthy" and will help keep the county on solid financial ground going into the future. County Judge John Thompson noted this was not always the case and thanked Belt for his help over the past several years in improving the couty's financial picture. Other business During the meeting, commissioners also: • Reappointed Thompson and Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments' board. • Authorized the purchase of a Lexis Nexis Accuprint LE System for the county environmental enforcement office at a cost of $570. • Approved a request from Pct. 2 Commissioner Ronnie Vincent to accept for county maintenance roads in the final plat of Yaupon Cove mobile home sections one and two, East Walnut, East Hickory Cove and Red Haw. • Approved an interlocal agreement with Bernalillo County, New Mexico, to house inmate at the IAH Secure Adult Detention Facility.