Gonzales County commissioners on Monday, March 13, approved the creation of a new long-term permit that can be granted to companies that need to lay temporary water line over or along county roads and rights of way.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Collie Boatright Jr. said there was a lack of an option that would allow the county to issue a water line permit for a longer amount of time.
“It wasn’t working good with the temporary permits because it would only be for 90 days and they would have to come back and reapply,” Boatright said. “We were trying to make it a little less paperwork and do a long-term deal where they would only have to come in once every six months or year and redo the paperwork. We don’t have very many of them, but there are just a few places where they do use a little bit of county right of way.”
Boatright confirmed to County Judge Pat Davis that the charge is similar for the permit as it is a $1,000 permit fee per 90 days for up to a mile of county right of way, plus $500 for each additional mile or portion of a mile. However, if a company fails to get a permit and installs any portion of a proposed temporary waterline on county right of way without an approved permit, they will be charged $6,000 plus $500 for each additional mile or portion of a mile.
A six-month permit would cost $2,000 plus $1,000 per additional mile, while a nine-month permit would be $3,000 plus $1,500 per additional mile and a year-long permit would be $4,000 plus $2,000 per additional mile. However, while a 90-day temporary permit can be renewed repeatedly by just paying an additional $1,000 plus $500 per mile, a long-term permit cannot be renewed; a new application would be necessary at the end of the effective permit date.
“Dollarwise, it’s the same, it’s just two different permits where it saves paperwork,” Boatright said.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Donnie Brzozowski said he had concerns about how the permits were going to be enforced.
“The only thing I hate about long-term water line permits is we might go back where we used to be and they'll send us some money, but at least when we had a shorter term, they were having to come in and renew it,” Brzozowski said. “Who is going to go and check on those? I don't want to go back to where we were, when we’ve got these water lines running down the side of the road and about half the time they are out in the road. They’re driving the stakes and we’ve got safety issues with the school buses running down the road. Who’s going to check on these, plus we’ve got to mow these right of ways and keep them clean.”
County Permitting Officer Jimmy Harless said he understood that, as a condition of the permit, the permittee had to help maintain the right of way, though often some of the permittees fail to behave as expected.
“I think that y'all and your employees drive your county roads way more than I do,” Harless said. “I mean, if I happen to be there on a permit, or on a complaint, that's different. I don't mind if there's a concern for you to call me and I'll go out and look at it. I've done it for Commissioner Brzozowski a couple of times.”
Harless noted, however, he lacks enforcement power to make the company maintain the right of way or be good neighbors, but Davis said the permit can always be brought back before the court, at which time it can be discussed and possibly revoked “if they are not handling their obligation.”
Brzozowski asked what would happen if he told a company he was not willing to issue a permit for longer than 90 days at a time.
“It's up to each commissioner and at his total discretion within his precinct of what he allows. You can allow whatever you want them to do or not do,” Boatright replied. “It's up to you what you allow on your county roads.
“It still leaves you the same discretion; we'll do a short term or long term; it's not making you do anything you don't want to have to do.”
In other action, Sheriff Keith Schmidt asked commissioners to approve a resolution to apply for a $55,000 grant for overtime pay as part of the Local Border Security Program Grant for Fiscal Year 2024. GCSO deputies take part in coordinated border security operations in an effort to deter and interdict criminal activity.
The department is part of the Coastal Bend Joint Operations and Intelligence Centers (JOIC) Region, which includes Aransas County, Bee County, Calhoun County, Dewitt County, Fayette County, Goliad County, Gonzales County, Guadalupe County, Jackson County, Jim Wells County, Karnes County, Kleberg County, Lavaca County, Live Oak County, Matagorda County, McMullen County, Nueces County, Refugio County, San Patricio County, Victoria County and Wharton County.
During public comments, County Attorney Paul Watkins told commissioners he had a second assistant attorney resign from his office and “I’m sad to tell you it’s money that’s the problem.”
“We’ve had one application at the salary we have now. We cannot continue to function effectively two attorneys short,” Watkins said. “We’ve tried another method. We’re going to some of the schools and just trying to recruit them straight out of school. If we don’t have any luck, I’ll probably be coming back to you to talk about some money.”