During the June 4 special meeting of Commissioners Court, Naismith Engineering Owner David Underbrink told the court that if Senate Bill 1747 is signed by the governor and becomes law, the county will need a set of priorities for road and bridge improvement projects.
If signed, the bill will provide $225 million in state funding for counties whose roads and bridges have been damaged by oil and gas industry related use.
One recent media report quoted Karnes County Judge Barbara Shaw as saying that it would take $300 million to get Karnes County roads and bridges “up to par.”
Underbrink suggested that the county create a one, two or three-year plan, and then update that plan annually. Projects can be outlined in one-page documents, that can be “shuffled” or rearranged as the county’s priorities shift over time, he said.
“What we can do is help you with generating that project list and part of our services would be to help be here for any interviews that you conduct to help get input on how the list needs to be arranged,” Underbrink said.
A list of projects will be needed for any state-funded grant funding the county may apply for, Underbrink said.
Commissioner Shelby Dupnik asked Underbrink how much money Karnes County might receive from the state for the projects.
The amount will based on a funding formula based on several different factors, that will accompany the legislation if signed into law by the governor, Underbrink said.
“You may be able to get $10 million per year, for two years, as a grant,” Underbrink said. “You will have to put in 20 percent into the project with that. If you have any excess money beyond that, then that is yours to do whatever you want otherwise, but you have to have at least 20 percent to get the grant money.”
“There are no rules, yet,” Underbrink said. “TxDOT has not created the rules associated with this law, so some things could change from what I am guessing today. You are going to have to have a list of projects either way. You need that, whether you ask for a grant, or not.”
“The county is in need of a lot of projects,” Commissioner Dupnik said, adding that he wanted to make sure each step of the process is handled correctly.
Underbrink encouraged the county to construct roads designed to last 20 years, rather than build something less than that that will fall apart within two or three years.
“The state can’t even build roads that last 20 years,” Commissioner James Rosales said.
“They can, if they have the money,” Underbrink said. “And that is what we are talking about here, is we can hit the roads that are most used, and get those built so that we can forget about those for a while, and just do the regular maintenance on those, and then we can continue with the other roads that are less used. If we approach it correctly, I think you can get something that will last, but you are going to have to spend money.”
“It is going to be a million dollars a mile, or so,” Underbrink said.
“We have to start somewhere,” said Commissioner Pete Jauer. “We have already invested $18,000 in a lobbyist this year and we got the bill passed... We need professional help. We can’t do it ourselves.”
Commissioner Dupnik made a motion to hire Naismith Engineering to develop a capital improvement program for the road and bridge department and the motion passed on a 5-0 vote.
The court then voted to spend $25,000 to pay Naismith Engineering for services related to work on the capital improvement plan.