|Trinity Standard - Local News
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Road repair work awaiting funding
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON — Upgrades and repairs to a number of county roads cannot get underway until late October at the earliest, Trinity County commissioners learned Monday. During their meeting Monday in Groveton, grant consultant Ray Vann told them that there have been some delays in completing the engineer work on the various projects being planned by the county and under the present schedule, it would be October or later before work could begin. The county is planning the roadwork as well as the installation of a new water storage tower near Trinity High School under its $3.8 million "Ike 2.2" federal grant. The money is part of the second round of federal funds awarded to cities and counties to help them prepare for future disasters. The Ike 1 and 2.2 grants were created in the wake of the massive Hurricane Ike, which ripped through Southeast Texas in September 2008. The county has earmarked $570,000 of the grant for the new water tower to insure that the Trinity High School – one of the area's designated emergency shelters – will have adequate water service during future disasters. Most of the remaining grant money will be used to fund roadwork, which includes paving some roads and laying new rock surfaces on others. During his report Monday, Vann told the commissioners the engineer has now completed 30 percent of the project design. When that happens, the plans are forward to the state for their review. Once the state signs off on the plans, an environmental study is done and once that is completed, the county can seek bids on the work. He noted the engineer originally was scheduled to hit the 30 percent completion mark around March 1 but did not reach that point until March 15. Vann, who is the grant administrator selected for the project, said he hopes the state will give their approval to the plans sometime this week or next. Once that happens, the state will select a firm to do the environmental study and give them 90 days to complete the work. "While the environmental study is underway, the engineer will continue his work and finish the specs for the project," Vann said. Once the environmental study is completed, the state will release the funds for the project and the county can seek bids for the work as soon as the engineering designs are ready. "As things stand right now, if everything goes according to plan, you could be turning dirt sometime in late October. If things don't go according to plan, it will be later than October," he said. One of the more costly road projects to be handled by the grant will be the relocation of a water line under Lake L Drive, the main road leading through the Lake L Acres Subdivision. When the subdivision -- located east of Trinity off FM 356 -- was built, the developer used the street right-of-ways as utility right-of-ways and buried the water lines often down the middle of roadways. This causes major problems when trying to maintain or repair the streets. Under the grant, the county plans to relocate the line under Lake L Drive, which is the only county-maintained road in the development. During his report, Vann also updated commissioners on the status of the remaining $150,000 from the Ike 1 grant. Under Ike 1, the county funded the installation of emergency generators at the rural water supply companies and the county's senior centers. After all of that work was completed, they still had some available funds and elected to use it to replace an old emergency generator at the county jail, purchase a new emergency generator for the Dorcas Wills Memorial Baptist Church in Trinity and purchase walk-in coolers for both the Groveton and Apple Springs senior centers. Vann explained that Dorcas Wills church has been designated as an emergency shelter but until it had an emergency power supply it could not be used for that purpose. The grant administrator said the engineer is expected to complete the design work this month but the preliminary word he has received is it looks like the projects will be $20,000 over budget. He told commissioners that if the cost does exceed the available money, they would have to decide what to cut out. "We do have a working generator at the jail right now so if something has to be cut, it only makes sense that we cut the new one," County Judge Doug Page said. Vann noted they would have to wait to see the cost estimates when the engineer completes the designs and then make a final decision. Page noted that the county owns a large emergency generator located behind the jail that serves the courthouse. "Its large enough to power both the courthouse and the jail and I thought about connecting it to the jail but the state won't let us do it," he said. Election problems During the meeting, County Clerk Diane McCrory noted that some apparent problems have cropped up in the upcoming Groveton School Board election "A friend of mine requested to vote by mail and instead of sending an application for a mail ballot, they sent an actual ballot," McCrory said. In addition, while state law requires the election judge to sign the back of all mail ballots, the ballot her friend received was signed by a GISD employee. "This is not in compliance with state law," she said. "We really need an election administrator for Trinity County to smooth out these problems," McCrory said. Under state law, if the county creates such a position, the administrator would be in charge of all elections within the county, including school, city and special district elections. McCrory has recommended creating the post in the past but commissioners have balked at the cost. It was noted that under state law, an election administrator would have to be paid a salary equal to that of the county clerk. Although no formal action was taken on the matter Monday, commissioners again indicated the county could not afford the additional salary at this time. Audit report During the meeting, the county received the outside audit report on its 2012 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30. Auditor Kim Johnson gave the county an "unqualified" or clean opinion, meaning that all figures in the county's financial statements were "fairly stated in all major aspects." In her report, she raised an issue that has been the subject of the county's audit reports for a number of years – deficits in the county's general fund. She noted the end of the budget year, the general fund was short by $424,000, which forced the county to take out short-term bank loans to finance its operations until tax revenue could be collected in November and December. It was noted that the 2012 deficit was $38,000 less than the one the county faced one year earlier but Johnson warned that more work needed to be done to solve the problem. Commissioners asked if she would be available to work with the county when the new budget is drafted for fiscal 2014 later this year and she said she would be glad to provide advice. Other business During the meeting, commissioners also: • Learned the county has now updated the computerized criminal history reports for both juvenile and adult offenders and is now in compliance with state requirements. The county was in danger of losing access to state grants until it had at least 90 percent of the criminal histories on file with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Page noted that thanks to the work of the district attorney, county attorney and county clerk's offices, as of April 17 they had 90.5 percent of the records uploaded to the state. • Reappointed County Attorney Joe W. Bell as the county's representative on the Deep East Texas Council of Government's board of directors. • Received a report from County Auditor Sheila Johnson on a review of cash counts and monthly reports filed by the various county departments. No problems were listed. • Proclaimed May as Elder Abuse Prevention Month in Trinity County. • Proclaimed April as National County Government Month in Trinity County. • Accepted a bid of $2,6,26 from Nelms Dozer Service of Pennington on a 1976 model CAT 955K formerly owned by the Precinct 2 Road and Bridge Department.