The Burnet County Commissioners Court edged closer to a possible Wirtz Dam Road bridge with a couple of developments at its regular meeting February 25.
In their first step, commissioners approved an advanced funding resolution between the county and the Texas Department of Transportation for preliminary engineering of the planned road and bridge. The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization will provide funding through Burnet County for engineering.
With the recent development, the county can now begin preliminary engineering and environmental studies for the proposed bridge below Wirtz Dam. The bridge has been on Burnet County Judge James Oakley’s to-do list since he was a commissioner more than a decade ago.
Along with the funding agreement, commissioners also approved three engineering firms that can provide engineering services to the county. Ten engineering firms submitted their qualifications, but, after Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther Jr. and Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery went through the submissions and scored them in four different areas, they recommended the three that earned a perfect 100 score.
These firms can be used for any engineering work across the county, including the proposed bridge.
Oakley stressed that the funding for the bridge would not come from local coffers but the state’s gas tax.
“You can’t see it, but I’m doing a happy dance inside,” Oakley said.
In other business, Jo Karr Tedder, president of the Central Texas Water Coalition, gave a presentation on issues the organization sees facing the Highland Lakes and its water supply. She pointed out that the Lower Colorado River Authority’s recently updated water management plan increased some protections for the Highland Lakes.
One concern the group has, however, is the decrease in the amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes, particularly from the Colorado River north of Lake Buchanan. Tedder said that even with recent rainfall, the inflows are extremely low.
The problem, she said, is that while the LCRA manages the lower Colorado River basin, no one is really keeping an eye on the basin just above the Highland Lakes. In the past, much of the land north of Lake Buchanan was large ranches, she told commissioners, but as those have been broken up, more people are using the Colorado River and its tributaries for water.
Each of those pieces of property can draw water from the river, Tedder said, which means less flowing downstream into the Highland Lakes.
While progress has been made, Tedder said there’s still work to be done.
In another report, Burnet County Child Welfare Board President Caroline Ragsdill updated the Commissioners Court on the board’s work over the past year and thanked commissioners for their support. While the board works toward the well-being of all children in the county, it focuses on kids who have been abused or neglected.
The board works closely with the local Child Protective Services office to ensure it has needed resources, including clothing and other basic items for children who have been removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse. Ragsdill said the number of children removed has decreased some, but the need remains.
She also introduced a recent member of the board, Carrie Rice, a retired Marble Falls teacher.
Oakley opened the meeting by dedicating it in honor of former Burnet County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Archie Hollingsworth, who died February 19 at the age of 71. His funeral was February 24. In recognition of Hollingsworth, commissioners and Oakley donned brightly colored reading glasses, something the retired deputy was known for wearing.