Aransas County commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday, Oct. 12, approved a contract, an amended resolution, an updated intergovernmental agreement, a memorandum of understanding, and a resolution pertaining to FEMA and Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) grant projects.

Each of the items were approved with 4-1 votes, with Commissioner Wendy Laubach casting the lone dissenting vote each time.

Before casting the dissenting vote on the first item addressed, Laubach said, “I have to vote no on every grant request moving forward if I can’t get the information I need to make a decision.”

First item approved

The first item approved was authorizing County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills to sign a contract with Tetra Tech for the preparation of Phase 2 benefit cost analysis (BCA) for Little Bay Restoration.

A FEMA 404 Hazard Mitigation Grant funds this project.

Phase 1 is already in process, and nearing completion.

County Project Manager John Strothman noted Phase 2 deals with construction, based on options found in Phase 1.

“Our (current agreement) is for Phase 1,” he said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner-elect Pat Rousseau said there have been issues in the past with public involvement in some of (the post-Harvey projects), noting the county is paying for the BCA. She asked when the public gets involved in the BCA determination.

Strothman said the BCA is a 600-plus-page document that looks at the values of property to be protected, versus the cost of project options.

“We did it for the application, and when we do the deliverables,” he said.

Laubach said, “I think what Rousseau is asking is when will the public get involved before saying (the project) is set in stone?”

She then asked about getting a copy of the BCA after it’s completed, and was met with silence.

Laubach was then told she would have to go through the same process as a regular citizen to get a copy, using an open records request sent to County Attorney Kristen Barnebey.

“(In this matter) a commissioner is treated the same as a regular citizen,” said Barnebey.

That is when Laubach said she can’t vote for any grant request without having information she needs to make her decision.

Commissioner Jack Chaney suggested having a workshop at a later date to discuss the information contained in the BCA.

Commissioner Charles Smith, addressing the Little Bay Restoration (LBR) project, said, “The request for this grant was originally made in 2018. How did this grant come about?”

Strothman said the LBR project, and several other projects were added to the countywide hazard mitigation plan (HMP), and public meetings were held regarding the project(s).

Commissioner Casterline noted when the HMP was adopted, the Aransas County Navigation District (ACND) did not participate. Of the five projects submitted for grant funding, the three shoreline projects were approved almost immediately, and the LBR and Cove Harbor projects lingered on.

Long Term Recovery Team (LTRT) member William Whitson noted the ACND provided a lot of data that is being used in the BCA, and added, “The (BCA) files are so large you can’t email them. It’s a large, complex document.”

“Will the ACND be given a BCA (document) when done?” asked Laubach.

Strothman answered affirmatively.

“But not me?” asked Laubach.

Strothman said Phase 1 of the LBR project is the circulation study. The next phase is looking at options to satisfy the BCA.

“The BCA is not really an issue, but the options (to solve the problem are),” said Whitson.

Casterline said he wants to get a Tetra Tech representative to a commissioners’ meeting.

“I’d like to know what’s involved in the process (developing) the BCA,” he said.

A Tetra Tech representative, speaking virtually, said she can make that happen.

The vote was taken and approved 4-1.

Second item approved

The second item approved was an amendment to Resolution #R-39-2020, authorizing the submission of a CDBG-MIT application to the Texas General Land Office (GLO).

LTRT member Kim Foutz noted the amendment clarifies Nueces County’s involvement in the grant for the Fiber Optic Loop communications system.

“They want to make sure they’re not included in the grant request,” said Foutz.

In the original resolution Nueces County was listed as paying $25,000 of the in-kind match. It will no longer be listed in the overall agreement, but will now just pay Aransas County $25,000, but the overall agreement will show Aransas County paying $25,000 more. There is no net change in what the county will pay out of pocket.

“This is our overall agreement for the project approved before,” said Foutz. “The only change is with Nueces County.”

The vote was taken and approved 4-1.

Laubach reiterated, “I’m voting against it if I can’t get information (due to) stonewalling by the county attorney.”

Rousseau also suggested holding future public hearings regarding these projects in the evening so there is better attendance.

Third item approved

The third item approved was an updated Intergovernmental Agreement among Aransas, Refugio, San Patricio, and Victoria counties and the City of Rockport for the purpose of submitting a multi-jurisdictional CDBG-MIT application to construct a Fiber Optic Loop communication system.

Since this relationship was previously discussed, there was little discussion, and the vote was taken and approved 4-1.

Fourth item approved

The fourth item approved was a Memorandum of Understanding between Aransas County and Nueces County to memorialize the willingness and intent of Nueces County to support Aransas County, and the intent for Nueces County to pay $25,000 for indefinite access to the public safety telecom network from North Beach to Victoria and public safety towers along the same route.

Since this issue was previously discussed, there was little discussion, and the vote was taken and approved 4-1.

Fifth item approved

The fifth and final item approved was Resolution R-41-2020, a resolution approving the Intergovernmental Agreement among San Patricio, Refugio, and Victoria Counties and the City of Rockport; approving a separate Memorandum of Understanding agreement with Nueces County; and authorizing the submission of the Intergovernmental Agreements and Memorandum of Understanding to the GLO as part of CDBG-MIT application for a proposed Fiber Optic Loop Project.

“This is just the umbrella resolution the federal government likes to have,” said Foutz.

Since this issue was previously discussed, there was little discussion, and the vote was taken and approved 4-1.

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