THC issue: ‘there’s now some light’

by dentonramsey

THC issue: ‘there’s now some light’

By Denton Ramsey / Staff Writer

Every once in a while an issue comes up in a community and causes controversy, leading to what some would call “bad press” for government agencies and the way they handle grant situations with small towns like Alpine.

Such is the case at hand in an ongoing battle between Brewster County, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) and the Texas Department of Housing Community Affairs (TDHCA).

The key issue surrounds the county fighting to receive efficient funding from TDHCA for a grant issued through THC in a ‘Historic Trails Program’ intended to rehabilitate ‘historic homes’ in the Alpine community.

If the county is approved by TDHCA to receive additional funding for the project, the Commissioners Court hopes to possibly complete the local rehabilitation process of two local homes prior to the December, 2006 deadline.

The TDHCA funding approval is a necessity if the county expects to successfully move forward with the rehabilitation project.

According to Judge Val Beard, “There’s now some light” due to the latest efforts to make this project work successfully.

“As most people know by now, we are caught between two state agencies,” Beard said. “Delay is not something we like in Commissioners Court; it’s just been inevitable.”

According to Beard, the commissioners elected to go ahead with the replacement of four homes not of interest to THC.

“Construction on those homes is set to being in April,” Beard said.

Commissioner Wacky Pallanez and Judge Beard have talked and both feel that progress has been made.

“Executive Director Larry Oaks, of THC, came to visit us last Friday,” Beard said. “The meeting included Mr. Oaks, Jerry Carbajal, Commissioner Pallanez and Travis Roberts. It was a positive meeting.

“The most important thing is that THC is now aware that the funds we have in this grant for the rehabilitation project are all the funds we have – it’s the only way we can afford it.”

The Brewster County Commissioners Court has already been granted an extension on this project, which lasts until the end of this year.

“After evaluation, our efforts to find other funding services were not worth the time or risk of going any further with that,” Beard said. “If we are going to be able to do a rehabilitation of two of the houses, we first have to go back to TDHCA to raise our limits of spending for rehabilitation.

“We have accomplished job number one – THC will support us. If we can accomplish our goal to get TDHCA to raise our spending limits and can agree on what will be part of the rehabilitation process, as opposed to restoration, I feel we can move forward with this project.”

According to Beard, THC is not expecting restoration of these homes – having the exterior of the houses “shined up” is acceptable to THC.

“They also insist on formalizing a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MOU),” Beard said. “THC also agrees that two of the homes are too dilapidated to be restored and these homes can now be demolished and replaced.

“As far as the documentation process involved in this project, Mr. Oaks said he would be satisfied with local volunteer experts doing the job, such as Travis Roberts, and we will include that information in the MOU. If it’s not done this way, we can’t afford it.”

The risk of another delay is a possibility, but Beard and the commissioners are working quickly to accomplish the task at hand.

“If we want to go through with this program, its looks like the latest changes are the best we can do,” Beard said. “If all of this goes through as planned, then maybe we can do it.

“Give Mr. Oaks credit for coming here. There’s now some light, which is better than last week. But we have got to move fast because if this project is halted again, we’re looking at the possibility of losing funding with TDHCA.”