The Comal County Conservation Alliance asked county commissioners Tuesday for a written endorsement of its goals as a complement for future grant applications, but came away empty.
Helen Ballew, Great Springs project director and CCCA vice president, said the pre-crafted letter on county letterhead, the county’s request for CCCA advice and technical assistance on environmental issues, would help the organization secure regional funding.
“The county isn’t obligated in any way by signing this letter – there’s no commitment stated or implied on its part,” she said. “But the letter is part of a regional effort to receive grant funding that includes other counties with needs and opportunities similar to those in Comal County.”
Ballew couldn’t say which grants CCCA was pursuing, their total funding amounts and which purposes they would serve, leading commissioners to hesitate.
“Do you need a letter from us pledging support or is it us asking for your advice or assistance?” County Judge Sherman Krause asked.
Ballew said a letter worded as a county request would have greater impact than a simple endorsement. The funds, totaling as much as $25,000, would partially fund surveys of residents on topics such as county purchases of land tracts to protect the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.
During open forum at the Oct. 10 commissioner’s meeting, CCCA proposed the county purchase 610 acres in two of seven tracts formerly part of the Old Boy Scout Camp off Farm-to-Market Road 32. The purchase would satisfy federal statute in providing the 500 contiguous acres for the golden-cheeked warbler under the county’s Regional Habitat Conservation Plan.
Krause said he and Precinct 2 Commissioner Scott Haag have been in discussions with CCCA on several topics during recent weeks. Haag was concerned about the high costs associated with the land purchases and their possible affects on property taxes.
“That’s my biggest concern,” he said. “Everyone in this room would like to conserve property – that’s not the real issue,” he said. “It’s spending county money, and we have many taxpayers on fixed incomes.”
After Precinct 1 Commissioner Donna Eccleston expressed similar concerns, Ballew shifted discussion back to the letter, which commissioners felt could be misconstrued. Precinct 4 Commissioner Jen Crownover moved to approve it, but it failed for lack of a second. Commissioners pledged, however, to continue working with CCCA on mutually agreeable solutions.
Also Tuesday, Purchasing Director Ramona Womack reported that the cost for the furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) package for the new jail would be far less than expected.
Womack said value engineering measures, transferring usable fixtures from the current jail, and pricing options for new equipment reduced the budgeted $1,743,436 down to around $891,425.
“We haven’t yet identified contractors (to provide) every single piece so we’re asking you to approve the budgeted amount as the (ceiling) so we can begin making purchases,” she said.
“It’s nice to see something come under budget,” Crownover said.
In other moves Tuesday, commissioners:
•Approved an amended plat combining lots in the Vintage Oaks at the Vineyard subdivision; revising a street name for a private road located in the county; the treasurer’s monthly report for October 2019.
•Approved renewing an interlocal cost sharing agreement between the county and city of New Braunfels regarding public transportation services.
•Took no action on an order prohibiting outdoor burning in unincorporated county areas.
•Approved assigning the county’s allotment of votes for candidates to Comal Appraisal District’s board of directors to incumbent John Tyler.
•Approved line-item budget transfers to cover fuel and other remaining 2019 expenses for the Precinct 4 constable’s office ($2,800) and sheriff’s office ($99,165).
To access Tuesday’s meeting video and agenda, visit www.co.comal.tx.us/agenda.htm.