Aransas County Commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday, Aug. 17, heard a report from Long Term Recovery Team (LTRT) member Kim Foutz about prioritizing projects for the final round of CDBG-Mitigation grant funding (Hurricane Harvey funding), as well as new grant funding sources.

“There will be regional competition, and communities that provide a match will score better,” said Foutz, adding there are more projects expected than money available.

“They are allowing three partnering projects (with other entities) and three single entity projects, but it’s likely only one project will be funded,” she said.

Possible county projects include the fiber optic loop ($10 million to $15 million); storm drainage and water/sewer projects ($22.4 million); and drainage/road projects ($20 million).

Fiber optic loop

The proposed fiber optic loop would require a 1% match ($100,000 to $150,000), and would ensure communication between surrounding communities during times of crisis. This is a project that involves partnering communities.

Storm drainage and water/sewer projects

This project will involve partnering with Aransas Pass, with the 1% match provided by Aransas Pass. The work would be accomplished in the southern and western stretches of Aransas County.

Drainage/road projects

This project would involve Aransas County only. The 1% match ($200,000) would come from the county’s drainage fund.

“We’re looking for a large clustered project, and Ruby Allen (ditch) seems to be rising to the top,” said Foutz.

Another pool of funding that will be announced soon is from CDBG-MIT Regional MOD, or those regional CDBG-MIT funds administered by the local Council of Governments (COG).

“They’ve indicated we’ll find out our allocation soon,” said Foutz. “The first allocation was $54 million (CDBG), but we don’t expect (this allocation to be as big).”

She noted a hurricane dome will not score well with this funding.

Possible county projects include the Fulton Beach Road extension -county section ($6,666,667), Newcomb Point ($2.7 million), Aransas County Airport mitigation improvements ($3.9 million), harden schools/generators ($3 million), and Linden Street drainage improvements (no estimated cost provided).

The possible work at the airport includes fuel farm hardening ($316,680), helicopter instrument approach ($1,129,500), lighting system ($750,000), runway end identifier lights – REILS ($110,438), and T-hangar parking pavement rehab/repave ($1.9 million).

Unmet needs in jurisdictions outside Aransas County’s control, which the LTRT have identified, include Fulton Beach Road extension – Aransas County Navigation District (ACND) and Town of Fulton section ($13,333,334), Water Street (no estimated cost provided), Fulton Beach Road – alternative funding option ($3,102,384), and Little Bay dredging/shoreline resiliency ($5 million).

Foutz noted unmet needs in jurisdictions outside Aransas County’s control (ACND, City of Rockport, and Town of Fulton) will require input and coordination with those jurisdictions.

She also noted the ACND is seeking funds on its own for bulkheading/breakwaters at Cove, Rockport, and Fulton harbors.

General discussion then followed Foutz’s presentation

Commissioner Bubba Casterline said, “If we’re not being asked by other entities to partner, I think we need to focus on our projects.”

Foutz noted the Futon Beach Road erosion project is an eligible partnering project that commissioners approved sending a letter to affected entities to see if they wanted to take over the project in their jurisdictions.

Casterline also said in earlier discussions it was noted the county talked about partnering with other entities in low/mod areas.

“The areas in the south (that we can partner with Aransas Pass) is where our low/mod is at,” he said.

Foutz said the grant administrators are looking at those areas for possible projects.

“If we’re only going to get one partnership grant and one singular grant (Aransas County only) then (we have to make sure we don’t hurt our chances at getting the fiber optic loop),” said Foutz.

Casterline said one of the county’s biggest needs is obtaining drainage through state rights of way.

In regard to determining projects, which fit low/mod requirements, Foutz noted new maps indicate Holiday Beach and Lamar are no longer considered low/mod areas.

Making low/mod determinations even more difficult is the fact some counties (as a whole) are considered low/mod, but Aransas County is not.

“We have to look at individual areas,” said Foutz.

Commissioner Wendy Laubach asked how a low/mod area is determined.

“By HUD (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development),” said Foutz.

Commissioner Charles Smith said, “This is the feds saying, ‘We’re going to help you, but you can only spend money in low/mod areas.’ It’s called social engineering.”

Foutz said she will bring back an updated report when it is ready (i.e. – funding announced, etc.).

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