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By Emily Banks Wooten
Selective demolition, the first phase of the historic restoration of the Polk County Courthouse, is expected to start around the beginning of the year following approval of an agreement with JC Stoddard as construction manager during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Polk County Commissioners Court. JC Stoddard will also serve as construction manager for the second phase which is restoration and rehabilitation.
County Judge Sydney Murphy presented an update regarding the water infrastructure projects to be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Hurricane Harvey regional mitigation grant.
“On Nov. 9, 2021, the Court agreed that the primary projects for ARPA funds would include interconnectivity and water infrastructure in the unincorporated areas of the county. On May 10, 2022, an MOU template for agreements between the county and the eligible water supply corporations was approved, including a 25% match requirement from the water companies. All but one of the water companies with approved eligible projects have agreed to the 25% match commitment.
“In July, DETCOG approved the method of distribution for the Hurricane Harvey mitigation grant funds, allocating $17,098,000 to Polk County for eligible mitigation projects. We expect that all but three of the water infrastructure projects that were included in the ARPA-funded project list will meet the LMI requirements, allowing us to transition those projects from ARPA to Harvey mitigation. The ARPA funds are more flexible and shifting these eligible projects from ARPA to Harvey mitigation will leave about $800,000 in ARPA for project contingencies.
“With the Court’s approval we will shift the water infrastructure projects for Soda, Dallardsville, Shiloh Ridge, Leggett, and Damascus-Stryker from ARPA to Harvey mitigation grant. The three water projects that will remain under ARPA are Providence, Tempe and Onalaska. Pat Oates with Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong is working on project plans and, once complete, will submit them for TCEQ approval. Once approved, GLS will move forward with requests for qualifications.”
Following Murphy’s update of the timeline, the Court approved advertising for requests for qualifications for the water infrastructure projects under both ARPA and Harvey mitigation.
“I’d like to say that with this whole ARPA/Harvey mitigation, we were one step ahead with our infrastructure and I want to point out that it was truly a partnership,” Murphy said. “We had a water committee that looked at all of it and evaluated. We had continuous support from our grant administrators and especially from Pat Oates. He has met with every water district and they have discussed every water project, so I do want to thank everybody that was involved all the way from the bottom up. I also want to say that Jessica Hutchins (the county’s grants and contracts administrator) has done a fabulous job of keeping all the rest of us straight. I want to thank her as well.”
“This is our federal dollars coming back to the county,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet said.
“Back to the ARPA funds, on Aug. 9 the Court selected LivCom with a 50/50 match with the total county portion being $326,574.50 and Eastex Telephone Cooperative with a 40/60 match with the county portion being the 40, being $4,268,000.25. So we’re getting a $10 million project to provide rural interconnectivity and these projects are expected to be completed in 2024,” Murphy said.
The Court approved the agreements with Eastex Telephone Cooperative and LivCom for the construction of a fiber internet network, with the county’s portion to be paid with ARPA funds.
The Court approved offers to purchase the following tax foreclosed properties, both in Precinct 3: the R.W. Russell Survey, Abstract 68, T12-137, 1.50 acres and the A.J. Bradley Survey, Abstract 936, T13-185, .625 acres.
Conditional approval, pending receipt of a bond, was granted for Stonebrook Estates subdivision in Precinct 2.
The Court approved a resolution in support of Operation Green Light for Veterans. Murphy said she would like to encourage other agencies to participate in the program in which shining a green light from Nov. 7-13 shows support for veterans by letting them know that they are seen, appreciated and supported.
In personnel matters, the Court reviewed and approved personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and reviewed one authorized emergency hiring at the sheriff’s office.
Fiscal year 2022 budget revisions and amendments, as presented by the county auditor’s office, were approved.
During informational reports, Murphy informed the Court and audience that a mailer has gone out to citizens in the county regarding the environmental enforcement department and the emergency management department but that it was not sent out by the county.
The Court also recognized the Polk County Historical Commission which recently received the Texas Historical Commission Distinguished Service Award for 2021, an award given each year to historical commissions across the state that demonstrate outstanding projects and programs encouraging preservation and community partnerships. Members of the Polk County Historical Commission are appointed for two-year terms by the Polk County Commissioners Court and represent all areas of the county. In related activity, the Court presented a distinguished service award to J.D. Coogler, 99, for his contributions to the commission, the state and the nation. Although Coogler was unable to be present to accept the award, other members of the commission accepted it on his behalf.
Pastor Sonny Hathaway of Central Baptist Church of Livingston opened the meeting with prayer.
Items on the consent agenda included:
Approval of the minutes of the Sept. 13 meeting;
Approval of the schedules of bills;
Approval of an order designating surplus property;
Receipt of county auditor’s monthly report, pursuant to Local Government Code Sec. 114.025;
Approval of order setting juror reimbursement for fiscal year 2023;
Approval of order designating regular terms of commissioners;
Approval of order setting terms of the constitutional county court;
Adoption of a resolution expressing intent to reimburse certain fiscal year 2023 expenditures (capital purchases) to be incurred by Polk County, Texas (reimbursement resolution);
Approval of an amendment to agreement with City Of Livingston for (LVFD) firefighting services;
Approval of the submission of grant budget adjustment requests to the office of the attorney general for sheriff and district attorney offices’ victim coordinator and liaison grants;
Approval of a resolution in support of fiscal year 2023 indigent defense formula grant application;
Acceptance of grant funds awarded to the sheriff’s office from the Texas School Safety Center For Tobacco Enforcement Program;
Receipt and recording of fiscal year 2021 Polk County Jail commissary and inmate trust fund financial review; and
Receipt of treasurer’s monthly report for August 2022.