Burnet County is now under a burn ban after three commissioners voted to approve it, effective immediately. Two of the five-person Commissioners Court were absent for the regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 28. Missing were Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther and Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall.
In other business, commissioners approved — under protest — the authorization of an award to GrantWorks for development of the county’s Hazard Mitigation Program; approved applying for a $5,000 grant from Lehigh Hanson for a hazardous household waste collection Oct. 16; and passed two resolutions to proclaim Oct. 3-9 both Texas Extension Education Association Week and National 4-H Week in Burnet County.
FEMA changed the rules for how a county develops its Hazard Mitigation plan, which involves every municipality in the county. The plan makes a county eligible for disaster recovery funds and pays for projects like the new Avenue N bridge in Marble Falls. The old bridge usually floods during big rain events, blocking the main entrance and exit to Meadowlakes.
The plan expires every year and has to be renewed. Usually, the county develops its own plan, but this year, FEMA required the county to hire an outside firm to do what County Judge James Oakley said is already in place.
“This is frustrating,” Oakley said. “We have done this for years and years and now it’s a $70,000 process, although we only have to pay $17,000 of that, but it’s still taxpayer money.”
Development Department head Herb Darling called it “a colossal waste of time and money,” but that it did have a silver lining.
“It does give commissioners an opportunity to go out and identify projects that would benefit the county in the case of disaster,” Darling said. “It enables us anytime there’s a presidential disaster declared for the state to apply for funds.”
The reason for the cost is because only a limited number of companies are available to do the work, Darling said. Counties are no longer allowed to do it themselves, although most of the money comes from a federal grant.
In the past, Hazard Mitigation plans were developed on a regional basis and cost each entity in the region about $2,500 each.
“At least we get to spread that $17,000 over five years,” Oakley said. “And the municipalities are able to piggyback on it.”
Another expensive endeavor but worthwhile, commissioners agreed, is the hazardous household waste collection on Oct. 16. The silver lining here is the number of entities contributing money to make the collection happen.
“It’s been five years since we’ve had one,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Damon Beierle. “It’s overdue.”
In a county with five lakes, it’s also important to do it, said Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery.
“We’re protecting ground water as well as the surface water,” he continued.
The expense of the event comes from the need to have an out-of-town mobilization unit on hand to test chemicals and make sure hazardous waste is handled properly. The county was asked to put up 25 people in hotels overnight for the event by Clean Earth, the entity contracted to oversee the event.
“Mobilization is about $500 a head,” Dockery said.
Money to pay for the event is coming from the Lower Colorado River Authority, LeHigh Hanson, and others.