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Broadband heading to northern Polk County

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081122 broadband north polk county

To be paid for with ARPA funds

By Emily Banks Wooten
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The Polk County Commissioners Court approved action regarding a request for proposals for rural internet connectivity to be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds during its regular meeting Tuesday.

“A little bit of history – previously we formed a committee in 2018 or 2019 that included our local vendors. We invited everyone to the table. It also had DETCOG representation. This was pre-COVID, pre-knowing we were going to get ARPA funds, this was pre pre pre,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said.

“The broadband committee appointed by the Court has been meeting since October 2021 to develop the plan to provide fiber access to all areas of the county that do not currently have service and specifically making sure that the black hole that currently exists in Precinct 3 starts closing some of those gaps.

“In November, the Court accepted water and interconnectivity in the unincorporated areas of the county as the primary projects that would be funded with ARPA funds. A request for proposals for rural internet connectivity for Polk County was issued on June 16 of 2022. We received proposals from Charter Communications, Eastex Telephone and LivCom and the broadband committee was given the opportunity to review the proposals and score them.

“The committee recommends to fund LivCom’s Option 1 which is backbone construction on Highway 59, 190 and 146 for a total county portion of $326,574.50 which is a 50/50 match. The committee further recommends funding the full proposal from Eastex for a total cost to the county of $4,268,025 which is a 40/60 match for a total project cost of just over $10 million.

“These projects are scheduled to be completed by the beginning of 2024. Basically, what these projects would do is fulfill the original goal of the committee to build a backbone or structure where children, local business and local residents would have access to internet communications.”

An interlocal agreement between the county and the Texas Department of Public Safety for a permanent commercial driver’s license facility in Polk County was approved.

“The purpose of this agreement is for the county to provide DPS a permanent CDL facility in Polk County in order for DPS to provide CDL skills testing. It will be located on county property adjacent to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff is okay with it. He’s reviewed everything. The current construction plan includes testing lanes, inspection, canopy range, office space, equipment storage and restrooms. The initial agreement has a 10-year term,” Murphy said.

A request from the Texas Department of Transportation for a special use permit for the bridge replacement on Sunflower Road/County Road 1077 over Big Sandy Creek in Precinct 4 was approved. “This is a formality with TxDOT through the national parks service to give them easement down there,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet said.

Based on the recommendation of the appointed scoring committee, the Court approved the selection of J.C. Stoddard Construction as the construction manager for the two phases of the historic restoration of the Polk County Courthouse. The first phase will be selective demolition and the second phase will be the restoration and rehabilitation project. The extensive historic restoration and ensuing construction is part of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, a grant program administered through the Texas Historical Commission.

A prepositioned contract for disaster debris removal services with DRC Emergency Services was approved. The Court had previously approved DRC as secondary and TFR as primary, but upon further review learned that DRC was actually cheaper than TFR. While both have contracts, per FEMA requirement, the county must accept the lower bid, therefore, the Court approved changing the sequence and naming DRC primary, thus making TFR secondary.

The Court approved receiving and recording the district judges’ orders setting the FY2023 compensation for the county auditor, assistant auditors and 258th and 411th district court reporters, court coordinators, bailiffs and labor pool staff pursuant to Local Government Code.

A request from the City of Onalaska for the collection of their ad valorem taxes by Polk County Tax Assessor-Collector Leslie Jones Burks was approved.

Based on a request from the auditor’s office to begin the process of the FY2023 annual bids for precinct road materials, limestone, tires, oil and grease, gas, diesel, pest control services and motor grader blades, the Court approved advertising for bids.

In personnel matters the Court reviewed and approved personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and also reviewed an authorized emergency hiring in the district attorney’s office. FY2022 budget revisions and amendments, as presented by the county auditor’s office, were also approved.

Although the Court was slated to discuss and consider award on the 2017 GLO DR 4332 (Harvey) Program, GLO Contract No. 20-065-018-C064 in old business, the item was tabled at the request of Precinct 1 Commissioner Guylene Robertson who wants to get more information.

During information reports, Murphy took the opportunity to review the Texas County & District Retirement System plan assessment.

“We received and approved this June 14, 2022. We wanted to revisit it because some people don’t realize the extent of this benefit.

Based on the different lengths of service to the county from 10 to 30 years of employment, it pays out 25% to 99% of your salary respectively. This is in addition to the health benefits. Through the basic plan option, the employee deposit rate is 7%. The county matches it by 250%. That’s a heck of a retirement plan.”

Murphy recognized Casey Lowrie, the county’s information technology and systems administrator, for her reappointment to the Texas Association of Counties Information Technology Advisory Council for 2022-2023. Lowrie is one of 11 across the state who was invited to join the advisory council.

Murphy also offered congratulations to Emily Banks Wooten and the Polk County Enterprise on recently receiving multiple awards at the annual Texas Press Association Convention.

Items on the consent agenda included:

• Approval of the schedules of bills;

• Approval of an update to the master street address guide;

• Approval to file a claim with the state comptroller, pursuant to Government Code Section 61.0015(B) for the reimbursement of a portion of the juror fees paid by Polk County during the period of April 1 through June 30;

• Ratification of an order authorizing a donation to Habitat for Humanity;

• Receipt of the treasurer’s FY2022 third quarter report;

• Approval of a request from the treasurer to open a new TexPool investment account for the American Rescue Plan Act funds;

• Approval of FY2023 budget for the contract with Texas Department of Family and Protective Services relating to Title IV-E Child Welfare Program;

• Ratification of a Statewide Automated Victim Notification Service (SAVN) FY2022 amendment; and

• Approval of the renewal of an agreement with Texas Document Solutions for printer/copier equipment services.

Joel McMahon, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Livingston, opened the
meeting with prayer.

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