KARNES CITY – Members of the public encouraged the Karnes County Commissioners Court to make every effort to hire a professional engineer or a professional engineering firm to manage the county’s road and bridge department.
Bernice Stimson was first to speak during the court’s May 31 meeting.
“I am here this morning to speak of the need for Karnes County to hire a road engineering firm,” Stimson said.
Stimson passed along to the court written information on behalf of Shanna Hall, who could not attend the meeting. The information listed contact information for engineering firms as well as a list of the firms’ necessary credentials.
“Karnes County needs a professional engineer in charge of the road and bridge department,” Stimson said.
“We have recently learned that the Legislature has appropriated funds for the first time in history, for the repair and building of county roads in all the areas affected by the oil and gas exploration,” Stimson said, explaining the anticipated need of professional documentation that likely will be required in order for the county to receive such funds.
Maurice Yarter then spoke to the court about the procedures the county will need to follow in order to take advantage of state funds for county roads.
“The state has sixty days to respond to an application made by the county,” Yarter said. “Some of the criteria that will be used to determine the allocation of funds are the number of overweight vehicle permits, a ratio of oil and gas production taxes collected by the comptroller, the ratio of well completions from year to year, and the volume of oil and gas waste injected.”
Yarter said the county would need to match 20 percent of the grant under the bill, or 10 percent if the county qualifies as being economically disadvantaged.
“We need to make the road and bridge department a priority,” Yarter said, “and get an engineering firm hired yesterday so that we can be one of the first applicants for the grant funds and to provide some much needed professional direction for the road and bridge department.”
Yarter said the commissioners had a role to play as well, by completing the county road condition reports so that all the information is ready for use when needed.
Two items on the agenda involved the ratification of County Judge Barbara Shaw’s interim appointment of Homer Rios as designated qualified administrative officer to act in the absence of a road and bridge administrator, the advertisement for a road and bridge engineer, and moving monies from personnel wage line item to temporarily increase the salary and phone allowance of Homer Rios to that equivalent to what a road and bridge administrator would receive.
Shaw called for these agenda items to be skipped as they were “no longer an issue.”
The court then discussed establishing a procedure for hiring a road engineer.
“Statute calls for us to seek an engineer for Road and Bridge,” Shaw said. “That is what was voted in by the voters. I know last time when we advertised for that, I don’t remember where we advertised, but I don’t think we got any applicants at all.”
Shaw said that after making some phone calls, she was advised to contract with a company to conduct an executive search summary.
“If we can, to be able to find a qualified engineer, to be able to come down here and help us, I would like to talk to some of these headhunter kind of people or human resources kind of people... to see if they can find anybody that would be willing to work in a small county... to find somebody that fits our need.”
“It could cost some money, but we are paying tons of money for a salary survey study so I think we could pay this, too,” Shaw said. “I just want you to approve of me being able to go out and see if I can get some of these people to help us.”
Commissioner James Rosales made a motion to approve having the county judge seek help in finding an engineer, and the motion passed on a 5-0 vote.
Next on the agenda was an item regarding possible action regarding discarded building materials at locations adjacent to County Road 326.
“We still have to get all that stuff hauled away,” Shaw said.
“One of the things that is usually included in these bids is when somebody goes and demolishes a site or whatever, they have a disposal cost included in that,” Shaw said. “Any time you have something that you have to dispose of, regardless of what it is, you should have some kind of guesstimate in there that tells you how much you are going to pay to dispose of it.
Shaw said that since no disposal cost was paid, and instead the materials were dumped on the road, she consulted with the county attorney to seek remediation for the situation.
The county should not have to pay the cost of trucking the materials to a landfill in the San Antonio area, Shaw said, noting that she sent letters to the contractor and the owner of the hospital site seeking the removal of the materials.
Shaw then read the letter she sent on behalf of the county.
“Please note that Karnes County did not authorize the deposit of your debris at County Road 326,” Shaw said. “You have 72 hours upon receipt of this letter to have the debris removed. If the discarded building materials are not removed, the county will take necessary steps to remediate the debris and seek compensation for the remediation.”
Commissioner Tracey Schendel commented on the contractor’s role in the situation that had developed.
“That fellow, he was paid to haul it to San Antonio,” Schendel said. “But he hauled it down here, where did his fee go? It didn’t cost him as much to haul it there.”
“Can we take it back to him?” Commissioner Shelby Dupnik asked, suggesting the possibility of having county workers return the materials to the hospital demolition site.
Two individuals seated in the audience asked the court if Jeffrey Wiatrek’s bond could be used to pay for part of the costs.
Shaw said she had asked the county attorney to look into that, as a possibility.
The issue of what to do with other demolition materials staged across the county, such as demolition materials from the old elementary school gym which was staged on a county road near Karnes City, was also discussed.
Shaw asked the court to authorize her to hire someone to move the materials, if it became necessary.
Commissioner Dupnik made the motion to authorize, which was seconded by James Rosales and unanimously approved.
The court also voted to approve authorizing the county judge to hire a contractor for the purpose of removal of concrete rubble from a location between County Road 343 and 344.