By Judy Sheridan
Parker County commissioners agreed to pay an Austin firm to pursue a TxDOT grant, authorized Judge Mark Riley to set standards for a new website and organized committees to examine county policies in a short meeting last week delayed by icy weather.
Riley, referencing an email from Jim Allison, of Allison, Bass and Associates, LLP, told the court that the firm had offered to apply for TxDOT County Road Grants on behalf of Parker County for a $5,000 fee, to be deducted from the grants.
Targeting the repair of roads damaged by oil and gas trucks, the county grant program was approved during the last legislative session, Riley said, but the awards process is competitive.
He said Allison thought Parker County might be eligible for up to $1 million.
The county could either have grant writer Kit Marshall go through the application process or pay the firm, Riley said, which was probably involved in the legislation and understands the nuances. “I don’t know if we don’t get it if we’re still billed the $5,000,” he said. “I need to find that out. Freese and Nichols had no strong preference, but they thought it might be good. I’m leaning that way as well, partly because the timeline is tight.”
“I think we need to try it and see what we can get,” Precinct No. 1 Commissioner George Conley said. “They already know what they’re doing.”
“We might get a better response,” Precinct No. 2 Commissioner Craig Peacock said.
“We’ll find out specifically what he’s talking about doing, and if there’s some reason we believe it wouldn’t be right, we’ll back off,” the judge said.
The court also voted to have Riley establish policy for a new website, soon to go public.
“The policy is real basic, it’s not complicated,” Riley said. “There are no political comments. There will be a review process before department heads post, with exceptions for district judges, the county attorney, the auditor and commissioners.”
The judge said Public Information Officer Joel Kertok will be the webmaster, instructing employees, correcting grammar and forwarding questionable content to Riley and the county attorney.
“The idea is to let everybody have enough freedom. That’s one of the reasons we chose this website,” Riley said. “Everybody can do their thing, and we don’t have one or two people trying to keep everything fresh and current.”
“We planned to do it this week; we may be off a few days,” he said.
Commissioners also volunteered to serve on committees to review county policies on travel, personnel, equipment replacement, take-home vehicles and icy weather — with discussion to follow in a January workshop.
There is no overall policy for icy weather, Kertok said. Each commissioner determines his or her own policy on road construction and maintenance, including the kind of equipment that should be purchased.
“Whatever they do or don’t do is up to them,” he said.
Conley told the court he helped people after the recent ice storm and worked to clear roads Sunday.
In other action commissioners:
• Approved preliminary plats for three subdivisions.
• Approved an interlocal agreement with Hudson Oaks for $14,146 in road repairs for Gray Wolf Trail and Red Eagle Trail.
• Renewed a contract for the City of Aledo for police services for FY 2013-14, to include two deputies this year instead of one.
• Voted to cast all county votes for Steve Harris, the county’s current representative on the Parker County Appraisal District Board.