|Trinity Standard - Local News
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County approves home program
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – After receiving assurances Monday they were not obligating county money, Trinity County commissioners agreed to take part in a rural home grant program. After meeting with representatives of the consulting firm Grant Works, the commissioners agreed to apply for the HOME Investment Partnership program through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). Under the program, residents of unincorporated areas of Trinity County who live in substandard homes can apply for a grant to have their home either rehabilitated or replaced. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered in Texas by TDHCA. When presented with information at their Feb. 11 meeting about the program, commissioners postponed action to give County Attorney Joe W. Bell a chance to review a resolution under which the county would apply for the program. During Monday's session, Bell assured commissioners it was a standard agreement and that it did not obligate the county to spend any local funds. Representatives of Grant Works, who administer a HOME Investment Partnership program for the City of Trinity, said that under the system they use, that county would have the grant money in their bank before they would be required to write checks for the work. The one exception would be for the title searches conducted on each property – at a cost of about $1,000 each. The county would have to spend their money up front, but would be reimbursed by the grant program. Under the new rules for the HOME grant program, because Trinity County has a population of under 50,000, they would not be required to provide any matching funds, material or labor under the grant. After approving the resolution Monday, the county will now have to seek Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from companies interested in administering the grant program. Fees paid to the company selected to oversee the grant are paid by the grant. The company selected would handle the applications from homeowners, hire the contractors to do the work and perform all of the paperwork associated with the grant program. The one exception would be that the county would have to issue the checks for the work. The county posted legal notices seeking RFPs this week and will open them on March 15. Commissioners are selected to pick a grant administrator on March 25 in order to meet a state deadline for participating in the program this year. Bond revocation In other business Monday, commissioners voted to pursue the revocation of a utility bond against the owners of the apparently defunct Eagle Falls subdivision located off FM 356 at the Trinity-Polk County line. The action was taken after a group of Eagles Falls property owners appeared before the commissioners seeking help after the owners of the development failed to complete roads and install promised utilities. Karon Knoth of Houston, spokesperson for the group, told commissioners the developer, Thomas Aikin, no longer would return phone calls and had ceased to develop the property as promised. She added all of the timber on the subdivisions unsold lots had been clear cut, lowering the value of the lots purchased by about 35 people before the development was shut down. Knoth explained the developer ran into problems with the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when he apparently began moving dirt in a federally protected wetlands area. The EPA imposed a fine and halted the work in the development until the problem was corrected. Knoth said after this problem arose in 2011, those who had already purchased land were assured the development would resume but so far the situation has continued to decline. She noted because the utilities have not been installed as promised, they cannot build the homes they planned for the property. During the discussion, Bell said about the only action the county could take at this point was to seek the revocation of the bonds that were posted for the utilities. The bonds were required by the county when Aikin platted the development to guarantee that the utilities would be installed. By revoking the bones, the county would force Aikin's insurance carrier to provide the guaranteed funds. "The money could then be placed in escrow and used to for the utility work," Bell said. He noted that in all likelihood, a receiver would eventually be appointed by a court to handle Eagle Falls and the receiver could use the bond money for the work. Because the developer has had problems with other projects in the past, Bell also suggested the property owners get in contact with the U.S. Attorney's office about a possible fraud complaint. Other business During the meeting, commissioners also: • Approved an agreement with Certified Payments, Inc., to allow all four justice of the peace offices to accept payments of fines on-line. Certified Payments currently provides that service to the county tax office. • Accepted a $35,715 grant from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation to purchase a police vehicle for use by the 258th District Attorney's Office. • Set a public hearing for to be held during their March 11 meeting on canceling a portion of the Trinity Plantation subdivision plat. Property owner Kent Smith is seeking to combine his two platted lots into a single acreage lot.