• September 18, 2014

Coryell Co. moves forward on claiming funds for oil-traffic roads

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Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 4:30 am

GATESVILLE — Coryell County commissioners on Monday designated three county roads to be included in the application for a $134,000 state highway grant to fix roads damaged in connection with oil and gas exploration and picked a five-member advisory board to help oversee the project.

Before approving Bea Powell Road and Oak Springs Road as one County Energy Transportation Reinvestment Zone (CETRZ) and Slater Road as a second zone, commissioners named Glenn Powell, Dr. Rayford Williams, Neil Walter, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Beth Harrell to the advisory panel.

Application guidelines for the Texas Department of Transportation grant allow for “up to three representatives of the oil and gas industry who are taxpayers in the county” to sit on the panel.

County Judge John Firth said he had not been able to find anyone who qualified as representatives of the oil and gas industry, but that Powell and Williams had previous connections with the industry and the roads targeted for the grant.

Harrell and Van Dyke are members of the Coryell County Economic Development Board. Walter is the District 8 director of the Texas Farm Bureau.

Last year, the state legislature appropriated $225 million to help repair or improve county roads affected by energy-sector activities. Texas counties were allotted a share of the appropriation based on a TxDOT formula.

Coryell’s $134,000 share of the appropriation could increase if other eligible counties do not apply for the funding, Firth said. The county will provide a 20 percent match for projects under the grant.

The application deadline was initially set for this week but TxDOT officials pushed the deadline to March 7-14, Firth said. Coryell is sticking with the original schedule to leave time for feedback in case corrections to the application are needed.

The grant program will not raise or lower taxes, Firth said, but revenues from increased property valuation within the reinvestment zone for the next 10 years will be dedicated to road improvements anywhere in the county.

Road and Bridge Administrator Allen Neel said he revised his department record keeping to include data required for the grant application, specifically road conditions and cause of road damage.

Road conditions are ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being best, Neel said. Oak Springs ranked a 1 on the scale, Bea Powell was a 3 and Slater Road was a 2.

“For this application, this would look a whole lot better if all these roads were ranked as 1’s,” Commissioner Jack Wall told Neel and recommended the roads be downgraded accordingly.

“I would prefer to see the road conditions stated as they truly are,” Commissioner Daren Moore said. “It needs to be consistent with how we evaluate all the roads in the county.”

Firth suggested that Wall, Moore and Neel confer on whether the rankings should be revised.

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