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January 31, 2014

County adopts zones

Two CETRZ areas set up for incoming awards

Athens — In a special meeting on Thursday, the Henderson County Commissioners Court adopted two County Energy Transportation Reinvestment Zone areas.

The 83rd Texas Legislature set aside $225 million to a transportation infrastructure fund to be awarded to counties who wish to create the reinvestment zones.

Henderson County is eligible for $286,847 of that amount, but to qualify for that, counties must establish one or more zones. Henderson County held a public hearing concerning the zones in December, then set to work drawing up the proposed boundaries.

“Since then, we’ve put together all of the information that is required to be compliant with filing to be a part of this program,” County Judge Richard Sanders said.

The areas designated as zones by the Commissioners are in areas where there is active oil and gas exploration, production or transportation. Zone 1 encompasses 2,312.09 acres in Precinct 1 in the vicinity of the Tri-Cities Gas Field near Farm-to-Market Road 753.

Zone 2 is mostly in Precinct 4, and borders Anderson County to the south. The eastern border of the 5,247.82 acres is the boundary between the Athens Independent School District and LaPoynor Independent School District. The western boundary is in Precinct 1, along County Road 1100 to the west of State Highway 19.

If any county does not apply for its possible share, the counties that do could receive more than their estimated allocation.

Sanders said some counties have declined to get involved in the process. Because of that possibility, the amount the county is applying for is more than $5 million.

“I can see where other counties might not do it, because of the extent of the process you guys had to go through to get it prepared,” Sanders told the commissioners.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin said the creation of the zones will have no effect on the amount property owners pay in taxes, but that it could affect how tax dollars are allocated. If the taxable value of property within a CETRZ increases, then the extra tax income generated by the value increase is automatically earmarked for road and bridge expense.

The Texas Department of Transportation adopted the final rules on the County Transportation Infrastructure Fund Grant Program on Nov. 21. TxDOT also announced a narrow window, Feb. 7-14, for counties to submit an application to apply for grant funds.

Geeslin said that allowed counties little time to adhere to the requirements established by Senate Bill 1747 and the adopted rules.  Although a request to extend the application period has been submitted to TxDOT, as of press time the deadline remains Feb. 14.

Sanders said, following Thursday’s action, Henderson County will send its maps and information to Allison Bass and Associates in Austin to be reviewed and submitted to TxDOT.

Geeslin said oil and gas-affected counties may be eligible for grant money from this fund for projects defined by the statute as “the planning for, construction of, reconstruction of, or maintenance of transportation infrastructure, including roads, bridges and culverts intended to alleviate degradation caused by the exploration, development, or production of oil or gas.”

TxDOT’s estimated allocation for oil and gas-producing counties range from Andrews County at $8.7 million to Presidio County at about $92,000. Anderson County had an estimated allocation of $314,577, Ellis County $270,314, Kaufman  County $285,863, Navarro County $314,036 and Van Zandt County $279,644.

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