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Commissioners Decide to Wait on Environmental Impact Study for Middle Creek Bridge
Wednesday, July 9, 2014 • Posted July 11, 2014

The Blanco County Commissioners Court met in a Regular meeting on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. The meeting was held in the Commissioners Courtroom of the Blanco County Courthouse, Johnson City, Blanco County, Texas. All four County Commissioners and Blanco County Judge Bill Guthrie attended the Regular meeting.

Blanco County Commissioner John Wood led the Court in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Blanco County Clerk Karen Newman presented the minutes from the Special meeting of June 24, 2014. The minutes were approved as read after Blanco County Commissioner Chris Liesmann gave a motion to accept and County Commissioner Paul Granberg seconded. No discussion followed, and the motion carried.

Paving bids for Precincts One, Two, Three, and Four were received by the Court. Each of the Commissioners reviewed the bids submitted for their respective precincts. After reviewing the bids for Precinct One, County Commissioner Wood gave a motion to accept the paving bid by Big Tex Paving. The motion was seconded by County Commissioner Granberg. Blanco County Commissioner James Sultemeier made a motion to accept the paving bid for Precinct Two from Big Tex Paving, and County Commissioner Liesmann seconded. Blanco County Commissioner Liesmann gave a motion to approve the paving bid for $222,469.65 in Precinct Three. This motion was seconded by County Commissioner Granberg. Commissioner Granberg reviewed the bids for Precinct Four and made a motion to accept the bid from Big Tex Paving in the amount of $36,139.68. All motions were approved by the Court with no discussion.

Blanco County Commissioner Granberg told the Court that the firm of Blanton & Associates would contract for an environmental impact study for the Middle Creek Bridge project not to exceed a cost of $5,500. The proposal by Blanton & Associates is a written version and there are some verbal proposals as well. The proposals were collected to allow the County Commissioners to gather numbers for costs. According to Commissioner Granberg, “the proposal will cover all to be done in an environmental impact study like this…we were told it is not really necessary to do but we feel it is in the County’s best interests.” Blanco County Commissioner Granberg made a motion to approve an environmental impact study for the project not to exceed $5,500. Commissioner Liesmann seconded the motion and Judge Guthrie called for discussion or questions.

A discussion followed and County Commissioner Sultemeier asked if the money for the study was in the budget. Commissioner Granberg answered that it [the study] would be an additional expense and different line items to the budget would be reviewed. County Commissioner Wood recommended that, “we hold off for now until we know if we have the funds for the study.” Commissioner Granberg recommended that the study not be signed off on yet, but that all else is in place. Commissioner Granberg agreed that the budget would come first and the study would be completed when it is known if the money is available. County Commissioner Liesmann agreed that the Court pass and wait for authority to bid the project first, and prior to construction of bridge and approaches.

County Commissioner Granberg said, “no construction until all is completed. We want to let people who are concerned know that we will look at the environmental impact and get the numbers.” Commissioner Granberg added, “we may possibly shop costs, and look at the environmental study before project construction begins.” The motion to authorize for an environmental impact study for the Middle Creek Bridge project was withdrawn by County Commissioner Granberg.

Judge Guthrie asked if anyone in the audience wished to speak regarding the proposed Middle Creek Bridge project. Several residents who attended the meeting said they wished to speak to the Court about the proposed Middle Creek Bridge project.

Al Niece has worked in equipment construction for many years and was the first to address the Commissioners Court. Niece told the Court, “I am glad you have tabled [this bridge proposal] regarding an environmental bid. How did Middle Creek get put in front of the five to six projects referenced in the Blanco County Transportation and Economic Plan? What happened? We have issues on County Road 407 where a death occurred.” Blanco County Commissioner Sultemeier answered that the study included studies of roads and bridges on State roads, not County roads.

Concerned resident Virginia Russell spoke to the Court next. Russell said, “I too am glad that the study is tabled. We want you to know that the proposed site has already been compromised. I have pictures to show this and I will share them with you.” Chris Faught also spoke to the County Commissioners. Faught told the Commissioners, “if you have an environmental study done we will also hire an environmental Consultant regarding the rules and laws at issue. Middle Creek is subject to several laws, and these include State and Federal laws. These laws protect our natural resources.” Faught went on to name several agencies who are involved in the enforcement of these laws. He ended by saying, “we are here to help the County and make sure that if construction is done it is done properly and all laws are applied. We will check for compliance of them.”

Stephanie Morgan also spoke to the Court regarding the proposed Middle Creek Bridge project. Morgan told the Court, “I am a permanent full time resident of the area and there is negative impact. We have safety concerns…it is a bad idea. There is fast traffic on this narrow road and there are blind spots.” Morgan continued, “I have met many of my neighbors during this process, and most of them are peaceful people, it is why we are here. We are united. We do not want to keep anyone out. Yes, there are safety issues. Why are there no warning signs or flood gauges?” County Commissioner Granberg said the same signs are at all the creek crossings. Morgan replied that the residents recommend a more modest approach. “If the project has been discussed for 14 years what other County actions are on record?” Commissioner Granberg answered there was discussion [of the project] in regards to the County budget. Morgan ended by saying, “I ask that you consider my comments as food for thought…this is an inappropriate project for Middle Creek.”

Keith Hickman asked the County Commissioners, “where did the money come from for this bridge? Is it from individuals, trusts, corporations, or County tax dollars?” County Commissioner Granberg answered the money was from the road and bridge fund. Hickman asked, “tax dollars?” The discussion period ended at this time, and Judge Guthrie said, “we will pass with no action at this meeting.”

The County Commissioners considered discussion of the importance of procedural compliance of the Purchase Order Policy and approval of non-compliant purchases as recommended by the County Attorney. Blanco County Auditor Cindy Lent and Judge Guthrie addressed the Court regarding this matter. Lent told the Court there are two steps that must be followed for approval of a purchase. She said the opinion of the County Attorney is that it is best to pay it [invoice]. “But all follow statutes.”

Judge Guthrie told the Court, “this is a new procedure. There are to be no purchases without a purchase order (P.O.) first. All must be done in the proper order and approved by me. The item under discussion is a $729 part for the glass pulverizer. The County Attorney has recommended payment, but we must have a P.O. before making a purchase.” Lent added that there are provisions for emergency situations. County Commissioner Granberg gave a motion for approval of the non-compliant purchase as recommended by the County Attorney. This motion was seconded by County Commissioner Wood. No discussion followed, and the motion passed.

The Court also considered appointment to the Constable Precinct Four position to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Ty Grenwelge. Judge Guthrie told the Court there are three candidates under consideration for the appointment. Blanco County Commissioner Wood said that all three candidates are well qualified and experienced. County Commissioner Wood made a motion to appoint Ronald Steubing to fill the Constable Precinct Four position recently vacated. County Commissioner Granberg seconded Commissioner Wood’s motion. Judge Guthrie asked for additional comments or discussion and there was none. The motion carried.

Judge Guthrie asked the Court to consider Resolution opposing the proposed new rule to define “waters of the United States” as defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Army Corp of Engineers. Judge Guthrie told the Commissioners, “Blanco County has not really been affected by the proposed new rule, but our western neighbors have been. There are real problems with the Environmental Protection Agency’s new definition of waters, and the proposal vastly expands the Federal Clean Water Act. Other counties in the State have asked to look at opposing the proposed new rule.”

Judge Guthrie added that the rule means agencies make rules, and not by the legislative process. Blanco County Commissioner Sultemier gave a motion to accept Resolution opposing the proposed new rule and County Commissioner Liesmann seconded. No discussion followed and the motion was approved.

The Commissioners Court approved the estimated July 2014 payroll in the amount of $257,991.03. A motion for approval was made by County Commissioner Liesmann and seconded by Commissioner Wood. The official reports were also approved after a motion from County Commissioner Wood and seconded by Commissioner Sultemeier. The last item on the Agenda was approval of the outstanding bills for $73,684.10. Judge Guthrie said if there were any questions regarding the outstanding bills these could be asked of Blanco County Auditor Cindy Lent and Blanco County Treasurer Camille Swift. A motion to approve the outstanding bills was presented by County Commissioner Sultemeier and seconded by Commissioner Granberg. No discussion followed, and the motion was approved.

The Regular meeting ended after a motion to adjourn and seconded by Commissioners Sultemeier and Liesmann, respectively. The Court adjourned until 10 a.m. The Court would reconvene at 10 a.m. to hold a Workshop meeting pursuant to Chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code (the Texas Open Meetings Act). Coverage of the Workshop meeting will run in the July 16th edition of the Blanco County News.

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