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Law will likely fund repairs to Karnes County roads
by Christina Rowland
Jul 08, 2013 | 886 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KARNES COUNTY – South Texas counties could soon get a boost from the state in helping to pay for much needed county road maintenance after Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill on June 14 setting aside $225 million for a transportation infrastructure fund.

Karnes County Judge Barbara Shaw was part of a judges coalition that had a big part in helping that make the bill that was once an idea a reality.

She is excited that her county will benefit from her work.

“This is a milestone for counties as this is the first time in history that the legislature has appropriated funds for county roads,” she said. “ Our Judge’s coalition is very optimistic that we have taken a positive step for county road funding to continue in the future.”

There is a catch though. The money is obtained through a grant program that is administered by the Texas Department of Transportation, and the requirements for the grant are still up in the air.

“The bill (Senate Bill 1747) requires TxDOT to develop criteria for the awarding of the grants for transportation infrastructure projects on county roads and sets out criteria requirements and provisions regarding the grant application process,” according to a bill analysis.

Not all of the responsibility falls on TxDOT through; there are certain things each county must do before it can even apply for the grants.

“The commissioners court must designate reinvestment zones,” Bee County Commissioner Dennis DeWitt said.

The reinvestment zones are the only places in which the grants can be used.

“Once we able to determine exactly what we are supposed to be doing; commissioner’s court will work to ensure we meet the needs for a reinvestment zone,” Shaw said.

Additionally, the bill says that each county must “create an advisory board to advise the county on the establishment, administration and expenditures of a county energy transportation reinvestment zone.”

The bill also stipulates who must make up the advisory board; “three oil and gas company representatives who perform company activities in the county and are local taxpayers” and two public members.

According to Shaw Karnes County has approximately 580 miles of county roads and there are several areas that will need work.

“If we compare our county to counties of similar size and mileage we have a few million dollars easily between 3 to 5 million road damage,” she said. “Neismith Engineering is working on a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for Karnes County. This plan will help us prepare to apply for grants that become available.”

The bill does not go into effect until Sept. 1 so the commissioners court still has time to prepare if Karnes County decides it would like to pursue any of the grant funds.

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