Water

PALO PINTO — The manager of Lake Palo Pinto on Monday proposed a three-to-one split of county representation on a two county water authority with Parker County.

Palo Pinto County Municipal Water District No. 1 Manager Howard Huffman also urged county commissioners to ensure water wholesalers supplying much of both counties be involved in operations of a proposed two-county Regional Water Authority.

Without elaborating, Huffman said he is "talking to" leaders in next-door Stephens County, too, since it is part of the Brazos River watershed.

"This morning, we don't know what this is going to look like," he said of the unformed water authority.

Early discussions have generally led to a consensus that the easiest legal route is to simply enlarge the water district that governs Lake Palo Pinto. The five board members, who are appointed by the Mineral Wells City Council, would remain on the new authority's board.

Leaders in both counties have discussed adding two voting members from each county. But Huffman on Monday recommended three be from Palo Pinto and one from Parker County.

Huffman said State Rep. Glenn Rogers' chief of staff recommended expanding the board to 13 members, but he asked it be kept to nine.

Rogers, R-Graford, has agreed to file a "shell bill" in Austin to be filled with operational details of the new authority as locals hone them down.

The state representative had yet to file that shell bill Monday.

Both Huffman and County Judge Shane Long emphasized the new entity will not run over the water rights enjoyed by Gordon, Millsap and other communities.

Long was adamant the new entity will not create any new property tax — unless residents vote one in.

All seem to favor creating the entity, to give the growing counties a voice amid larger communities vying for attention during the 88th Legislative Session that opened in Austin on Jan. 10.

"As one, individual voice, we've all been going to the (Texas) Water Development Board in Austin," Huffman said. "We're like little chicks chirping for money. … At some point, we have to take a stand for our region. And everybody needs to be speaking together with one voice. Otherwise, we lose our water."

In other action Monday, commissioners:

• Left the burn ban in place for unincorporated parts of the county.

• Agreed to update addresses along Farm-to-Market 52, after 911 Addressing Coordinator Jennifer Fabian told the court several are not in their correct zip code boundary.

"There's going to be a total of 33 addresses updated to the proper zip code," Fabian said, reporting that 27 of those are on the north and south sides of the highway between Oran and U.S. 281. The other six are west of Oran.

Long said the confusion hinders Amazon and other delivery services.

"But even worse is when you need an ambulance," he added. "You can waste a lot of time and be a couple of homes down from there. … We need to clean it up."

Fabian also said she is sending corrected information to Google to help make searches more accurate.

• Agreed with Sheriff Brett McGuire to create a new job designation so he can hire law enforcement academy candidates.

"I've got two open deputy spots. I thought this would allow me to fill one of those spots with a cadet," McGuire said.

A deputy would cost $60,000, he said, proposing the academy cadet position pay $21.83 an hour. That translates to a little more than $45,000.

McGuire said cadets will have to pledge three years of service to the county force, they must graduate from their academy and earn their Texas Commission on Law Enforcement certification.

"Most of the agencies are having to do this," he said.

• Heard from Public Works Director David McDonald that 328 new construction projects are permitted and underway.

"And we do need that water," he said, harkening to Huffman's earlier remarks.

• Shifted $14,105 from the general fund to the county's debt service account to make a payment on outstanding general obligation bonds coming due before property tax coffers have filled.

The money will be repaid to the general fund from the incoming tax collections.

Long noted that no outside agency was involved in "robbing Peter to pay Paul" within the county's own books.

• Contributed to two nonprofits performing work that benefits the county.

Those are the Gordon Community Library Museum, which received $2,500, and Pecan Valley MHMR, which bills the county about $996 monthly for its services.

• Learned during the regular information technology report that county employees must take a mandatory cybersecurity course this year.

• Announced an employee health screening on March 15.

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