Palo Pinto County commissioners

PALO PINTO — County commissioners on Monday took no action on a letter supporting legislation creating a two-county water authority with Parker County.

Palo Pinto County Judge Shane Long told commissioners that he believes the state representative working on the measure in Austin still supports the plan to achieve a stronger local voice on water issues.

“But I believe he is of the opinion it’s got to be a multi-county water district,” Long said of Texas Rep. Glenn Rogers, R-Graford.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jeff Fryer agreed it was premature to sign a letter endorsing the district as it’s been discussed so far — an expansion of the existing district that oversees Lake Palo Pinto, with maybe four new board members chosen by the two county commissioners courts.

“He (Rogers) hasn’t gotten us a bill back ... or one that’s finalized,” Fryer said.

Rogers’ chief of staff Michael Davis said as much in an email to the Weatherford Democrat that afternoon.

“We have it in drafting with the legislative attorneys,” Davis wrote, after saying the bill’s local nature exempts it from last Friday’s deadline to file most bills.

The commissioners have pondered a bigger district since discussions began late last fall. Stephens County has been mentioned as a partner, and Precinct 3 Commissioner Mike Pierce said Monday that “portions of Erath County” might be a good fit.

Long underlined the need to gather political clout on water issues.

“We should look at a region that is large enough to have a voice,” Long said. “Palo Pinto is growing every day. I fear our groundwater is dropping rapidly, with the potential for drilling a well. I’d much rather see it be a much larger district, however, that turns out to be more than just a portion of Parker County and part of Palo Pinto County.”

Before discussing the water authority, the court was told by a local water provider that he was withdrawing a request for the county’s legal blessing to seek a federal grant.

The Lake Palo Pinto Area Water Supply Co.’s shot at a Community Development Block Grant was a long one to begin with.

Federal CDBG grants are tied to areas in poverty, and supply company General Manager Chase Lerma had hoped the high-end housing the carrier serves would not dilute the low-income areas also in its network.

Lerma reported Monday, though, that a survey attached to the grant application did not achieve the 80-percent customer response required in the application.

Perhaps more importantly, 51 percent of responses were from high-income households.

Lerma had hoped for funding to lay larger pipelines in the growing area and to build a storage tank.

The company’s withdrawal leaves the county with no CDBG grant projects. But Fryer said the Santo Special Utility District had expressed interest in one.

Office Manager Misty Mills said Tuesday, though, that an April 10 deadline to survey the entire community did not appear realistic and the water company had asked to be considered when the next grant window opens.

Also during the meeting, an unnamed food truck vendor’s request to set up at the Courthouse Annex in Mineral Wells was turned away.

Long said he was “hesitant” to let the vendor establish a presence apart from during public events.

“If we let one vendor set up there, we’ll have 10 in the parking lot,” he said.

The court on Monday also agreed with Fire Marshal Ricky Hunter that drought conditions remain sufficiently at bay to keep allowing outdoor burning.

“This week looks like another low-risk (week),” Hunter said, reporting the highest drought-monitor reading was well within safe parameters — 264 on a scale to 800. Better yet, the average local number was 96, Hunter said.

Finally Monday, commissioners agreed to a $14,300 bid to replace the double doors to the new Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace courtroom at the annex.

“They were never done properly,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Glover said after the meeting.

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