, Port Arthur, Texas

January 3, 2014

Commissioners to hold public meeting to determine how to proceed with infrastructure projects

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

BEAUMONT — The Jefferson County Commissioners’ Court will take the first step in the application process for a grant that will assist in infrastructure improvement projects at a 1:30 p.m. meeting on Monday.

The court will hold a public hearing to discuss the boundaries and requirements of creating a County Energy Transportation Reinvestment Zone (CERTZ), as well as whether or not to create at least one CERTZ in order to fund one or more infrastructure projects that fall within its boundaries.

In order to help various counties recover and repair roads that are being damaged by heavy oilfield equipment and related services, the 83rd Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1747, which allows the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to distribute funds. TxDOT has the power to administer grants that could amount to more than $1 million, Fred Jackson, assistant to Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, said. To qualify for the grant, the county must first establish one or more CERTZ.

A CERTZ differs from a Transportation Reinvestment Zone (TRZ) in that the county must commit 100 percent of the increase to transportation. In a TRZ, the commissioners set the limits, Duane Gordy, of the Beaumont-based Community Development Education Foundation, said.

The county will be reimbursed for the 20 percent of the funds it must match before the grant money can be distributed, Gordy said.

“The negative issue on this portion of the funding would be whether a county can contract with a vendor to wait for the funds to be distributed before having to pay the draw,” Gordy said. “The most practical application would be to use funds that have been previously committed to a project in the current budget cycle and then capture the grant funding to put dollars back in place that would have been spent anyway.”

In addition to establishing the CERTZ, before applying, Jefferson County must provide a list of projects to be constructed along with a plan for construction, a definitive description as to the scope of these projects, the identification of where matching funds will come from, and a previous year’s road report, Gordy said. The county must also establish a committee of five people to oversee the zone and the work it wants to do. Three of those members must be involved in the oil business.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Brent Weaver said that the commissioners are still in the preliminary stages of determining which areas of the county are in most need of attention.

“I'm evaluating my precinct to see what my needs are in terms of fitting the funding category for that type of grant,” Weaver said. “But right now we’re still navigating our way through the process to see what we might be eligible for.”


Twitter: @ErinnPA