By Gloria Way
Trinity Bay Conservation District (TBCD) had a full agenda with 25 items to be considered at its regular meeting held on Wednesday, October 11, 2023. One of the most important items and much needed item approved was item #21 “consider and possible action signing a one-year contract for an Emergency Notification System with Regroup Mass Notification.” This system will alert TBCD customers to any situation that needs immediate attention by its customers. Over the last week there have been several water boil notices for customers in specific areas of the TBCD service area due to pipes bursting, etc., because of the drought situation. There were numerous complaints by customers that they were not aware of the water boil notice. With the emergency notification system, the customer can be alerted by email, phone, or text that a water boil is in effect, and, when the water boil notice has been rescinded. Water/sewer operations manager Mike Will said that it will take a couple of months for the data to be collected from TBCD customers as to how they want to be notified, and then have all the data entered to create the notification system. The emergency notification system will also be able to send out weather alerts and panic alerts. The initial cost for 12 months is $5,200.00. After the emergency notification system is implemented, TBCD has one year to decide whether to renew the contract or not.
General Manager Jerry Shadden updated the Board on the design and construction of the bridges at Spindletop and SH 65 and SH 124. LJA Engineering was hired by TBCD earlier this year to conduct a drainage study and LJA concluded that the major blockage to prevent water flowing down Spindletop were the two bridge sites at SH 65 and SH 124. The channels under the bridges are too small and shallow and create flooding. Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) informed TBCD that the channels need to be widen and the bridges will need to be rebuilt. LJA told TBCD that just the design of the two bridges would be $600,000 each ($1,200,000 for both bridges), and the actual construction cost of each bridge would be approximately $5,000,000 to $6,000,000). Chambers County Commissioners Court approved to split the cost of the designs with TBCD, each paying $600,000.00. Shadden had said that at a previous meeting with TxDOT, TxDOT agreed to build the bridges if TBCD paid the design cost. At a more recent meeting, TxDOT told TBCD that TBCD “misunderstood” and did not agree to build the bridges. “As it now stands,” stated Shadden, “TxDOT said get the design done and then we’ll talk.” TxDOT has also made it clear that they will not engage in any form of flood mitigation along I-10 (along Hankamer and Winnie) unless the lower flood problem has been resolved. This means that those property owners who live north and just south of I-10 will continue to be threatened with flooding for the next couple of years until the two bridges are built.
Another issue is the question of who will pay for the two bridges if TxDOT reneges? Shadden also stated that TBCD was actively searching for grant opportunities to fund the bridge construction but even the grants that may be available are 75%-25% grants meaning if rewarded, the grant will pay for 75% of the project and TBCD will have to pay 25%. This amount could run as high as $3,000,000.00.
Shadden also presented to the Board the income statement for September 30, 2023. The statement indicates that TBCD came under budget in both the drainage and water/sewer departments. In a previous meeting Shadden declared that with the water/sewer rates and services increasing, the additional income will be solely used for repairs and maintenance.