|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - July 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
County road fund faces $200,000 loss
Trinity Standard - July 2008
GROVETON – A loss of $200,000 in road and bridge funding is expected next year if the federal Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act is not reauthorized by Congress.
During Monday’s meeting of the Trinity County Commissioners Court, officials were told efforts to win approval for the bill have been rejected. This would mean funding received by the county from the U.S. Forest Service would drop from just over $300,000 to around $100,000 during the coming fiscal year.
All of this money has been allocated in past years for use by the four precinct road and bridge departments.
“We’re talking about one-third of our budget,” Pct. 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham noted.
The federal act was first enacted in 2000 as a means of compensating counties and school districts that contain large tracts of un-taxable U.S. forest land. Trinity County currently contains 67,000 acres of the Davy Crockett National Forest which cannot be taxed or developed.
County Judge Mark Evans noted that in 1908, the federal government entered into a covenant to provide financial assistance to local government to offset the loss of tax income.
For many years, the U.S. Forest Service shared a percentage of the timber sales from national forest land with the local governments. The amount paid to schools and counties would rise and fall each year, depending on how many trees were harvested.
When environmental lawsuits and other factors forced the U.S.F.S. to all but stop the timber harvest, Congress enacted the Secure Rural Schools act which established a set annual amount.
If the bill is not reauthorized, the old system of timber sale income will be used.
During the current fiscal year, the act provided over $600,000 to local governments – half of which went to the county and the other half divided among the Groveton, Trinity, Apple Springs and Centerville school districts.
The judge noted that because the Groveton Independent School District gets the largest portion of school allocation, it will be hit almost as hard as the county.
Evans said that during the current year, GISD received about $155,000 under the federal program – a figure that could fall by about $120,000 next year if the bill is not reauthorized.
The Trinity ISD, which has the least amount of federal land, currently received only about $30,000 but that figure would also drop significantly.
The first Secure Rural School Act expired in 2006 but was reauthorized for one year in 2007. Evans noted that efforts to again reauthorize the bill have failed, mostly due to opposition from President George Bush.
Evans told commissioners there would be two more chances for the money to be reauthorized this summer – one as an attachment to the supplemental funding for the Midwestern floods and the other on a tax bill.
It was noted that in order to make up for the loss in federal money, the county would need to increase its property tax rate by 10 cents per $100 in assessed value.
Water tank bid accepted
During the meeting, commissioners accepted a bid from Caldwell Tank, Inc., of Louisville, Ky. for the construction of a water tower in the Lake L Acres subdivision.
The water tank is being built by Trinity Rural Water Supply Corporation (TRWSC) under a grant obtained by the county.
Total cost of the construction will be $658,700 with TRWSC providing $488,500 as matching funds for the grant.
Jim Barrington, TRWSC president, apologized for the delay in awarding the contract but told commissioners that construction should begin in early August.
Commissioners were concerned that the delay in construction would prevent them from applying for another grant later this year that would benefit one of the other rural water companies serving the county.
Barrington assured commissioners that the grant money would be spent first, allowing that account to be closed out before the deadline for applying for a new grant arrived.
Roads openings, closings eyed
In other business, commissioners conducted a public hearing regarding the opening of what some claim was an old county road in Precinct 4 off FM 377.
The owners of a 50-acre tract are asking the county to open the old county road in order to provide access to their property.
Richard Tullos, one of the owners of the tract, said he currently has access through a “temporary easement” granted by International Paper but wanted to obtain a permanent route.
To do that, he said he wanted to extend Dukes Road by reopening an old road that ran to McClain Cemetery.
Other residents of the area including Travis Strong and Kim Suggs opposed extending the existing road and argued that the road in question was never a county road, but only a wagon trail that had long been abandoned.
Precinct 4 Commissioner James Alford noted the issue was very serious and did not want to make a decision without doing some research.
“The main question is whether this was once a county road or not,” he said, and asked that the matter be tabled to let him research the matter along with County Attorney Joe Bell.
It was noted that if this was once a county road, unless commissioners formally abandoned it sometime in the past, they could reopen it. If it was never a county road, their options would be to either let the matter drop or purchase the property. That would entail either negotiation with the current owners or through the condemnation process.
In other road-related discussion, commissioners met with Oscar Bierman regarding the closure of a portion of the King Loop, also in Precinct 4.
The section of the road in question runs through Bierman’s property.
Bierman was asked to consult with his neighbors to obtain their permission and to have notices posted at either end of the section to be closed.
A hearing on the matter will be held at a future meeting of the commissioners.
During the meeting, commissioners also:
• Agreed to allow AFLAC to offer supplemental insurance policies to county employees.
• Voted to authorize an additional $14,750 as local matching funds for the airport runway resurfacing grant from the Texas Department of Transportation. Evans noted TxDOT approved the grant several years ago but has been unable to find anyone willing to bid on the project.
The county and the City of Groveton have each already paid TxDOT $20,000 in matching money for the project but TxDOT has indicated that an additional $14,750 is need to get the project started.
• Approved a new County Personnel Manual.
• Approved a resolution supporting the Alabama-Coushatta Indian tribe’s right to operate gaming casinos on tribal lands located in nearby Polk County.
• Ratified a lease with the Thornberry Family Partnership for four buildings located in Groveton to be used to house county offices during the major courthouse restoration work set to begin later this year.
• Authorized the addition of the Kalin’s Center child advocacy program to be included on the voluntary donation list for jury funds. Jurors have the option of either keeping their jury fees or having the county donate them directly to programs listed on the donation list.