Mike Schlichte, vice president at Koltz Associates, was given permission by county commissioners Monday to talk to two oil companies about the construction in northern Bee County on their behalf.
“I already have tentative approval from these two companies to do this,” Schlichte said during the court’s meeting.
The two companies are Texstar Midstream and TEAK Midstream.
Among numerous other ventures, Koltz assists cities and counties with the design and building of bridges. They had done work in Harris and Williamson counties along with Cedar Park and San Marcos.
At issue here is what is now classified as a low-water crossing on West King Lane that is being used by oil companies.
“It was never designed for any type of heavy load,” Schlichte said. “This bridge is not even classified as a bridge in the TxDOT world.”
The county’s road and bridge crew, he said, has been making repairs on the low-water crossing for years.
“You have been shoring it up with the concrete on the outside of it,” he said. “It probably should be replaced.”
Judge David Silva said, “I think we are stretching it by calling it a bridge.”
Schlichte said the idea is to change that though.
“There is traffic and that low-water crossing was never designed to carry the weights going over it now,” Schlichte said. “We are talking bridging that whole gap.”
DeWitt added, “What we have now is a low-water crossing, and when the water goes up, you cannot go back and forth.
“Plus, it is very, very narrow, and two vehicles cannot pass on it.”
Schlichte said that the plan is to build a bridge, not a low-water crossing, that would elevate the road above the flood plain.
“There is really no downside for the county from what I see,” Schlichte said. “If the companies are willing to put up the funding, you get a new bridge, and you are going to get a much better situation out there than you have now for the people that live out there, the school buses that cross it and the oil companies.”
Cost of this gift to the county — $200,000 or so.
“It is just a good deal. A real good deal,” Schlichte said.
DeWitt said that he has been talking to the county attorney about the agreement.
“There is nothing in the law stopping us from accepting a gift of this nature subject to approval of commissioners court.”
There is another catch to this — but it’s another perk.
“If we can get this done the way we are doing it, we might be able to get four more done through the federal government,” DeWitt said.
Schlichte said that every time someone buys gasoline, they pay a federal tax per gallon.
“That goes into a fund that is there for road and bridge replacement,” Schlichte said.
“So, through TxDOT, an application is made from the county on four additional bridges that they have in the queue that they know are going to need to be replaced.
“That application then goes to TxDOT. TxDOT sends it the federal government. The federal government approves it, and TxDOT gives that money to the county.”
So, while the first bridge paid for by the oil companies could come quickly, the additional four bridges could take longer.
“The federal government operates on its own time frame, but other counties have been successful in funding their bridges in this way,” Schlichte said.
“It is really going to help the county out and improve the infrastructure.
“Not all counties take advantage of it. I am glad to assist in any way I can to help y’all get this application through and hopefully get four more bridges done.”
Silva added, “I couldn’t believe some counties wouldn’t take advantage of this.”
Schlichte responded, “They are not as sophisticated as this county, Judge.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.