February 10th, 2022 the Medina Commissioner Court meeting began with a presentation of an award to the County, held a lengthy discussion on a potential Master Drainage Plan by Westwood Engineering and ended with the approval of a study on potential ways of alleviating traffic in Castroville. Commissioners Jerry Beck, David Lynch, Judge Schuchart, and Commissioners Larry Sittre and Timothy Neuman were all present for the 10 a.m. portion of the meeting.
The court then moved on to approving several items involving subdivisions, starting with the re-visitation of the preliminary approval of vacate and replat Lot 17 of Peanut Valley Subdivision; Located in Precinct 3 off of County Road 6825. During it’s original court date January 13th, 2022 Rakowitz Engineering & Surveying request for a variance to Section 220.127.116.11. of the Medina County Subdivision regulations specifying that the minimum frontage on every lot be on a County Road be 60ft was denied, leaving the Rakowitz to search for another way to get around the issue.
Narrowing at the front and tapering at the back, making the property into a ‘pizza slice’ shape, it failed to meet the minimum frontage rule of 60ft for every lot located on a County Road. Returning this week a Rakowitz representative presented the idea of dedicating .14 acres of each of the three lots at the front of the plat to the County in order to make up the difference.
This plan was approved by the court and after tabling the preliminary approval of Rihn Acres Subdivision, precinct 3 off of highway 173 the court then approved the Master Development Plan for Megans Landing Subdivision; located in Precinct 2 off of FM 1957, with 156 lots each being half an acre in size.
Immediately following this the court quickly approved the release of the Maintenance Bond of Hunters Ranch Subdivision, Unit 8; located in precinct 2 off of FM 1957 (Potranco Road).
Westwood Engineering Flood Prevention Plan Presentation
Next Mark Miller, from Westwood County Engineering took the stand to introduce Alan Stanton, Drainage and Flood Control Leader as the head of the coming conversation regarding identification of projects and funding sources for ongoing flooding issues.
“He’s here to talk about what you said: to identify quadrants in Medina County and funding mechanisms to create projects to get some of those flooding issues addressed,” Miller said.
Stepping away, Stanton took his place and began to paint a fuller picture on the potential of implementing a Master Drainage Plan (MPD) to the court.
“Master drainage plans address the needs for current and future drainage infrastructure, needs to mitigate flood risks for residence, businesses and roadways,” Stanton said. “…the process of a master drainage plan is to facilitate public input meetings, discussions, gather historical data, update flood risk maps with new data, identify all the buildings, residences, the commercial properties, and roadways in the flood plain; develop short and long term plans and identify funding mechanisms…A proactive drainage plan will increase the resiliency of the medina county against flooding …”
Stanton then presented a small map, explaining to the court how it showed that all four precincts had major flood risks, identifying that over 2200 new properties were in these effective flood plains. He also said that this was likely less than the actual number as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map shown had been completed in the early 2000s and the county had grown since.
“Our team has completed some of the MDPs for cities and counties in South Texas and we’ve had success in getting the projects funded and constructed and its important to have this plan in place before other opportunities come,” Stanton said. “And as ya’ll are having more development, to also minimize risk to newly proposed developments and existing developments.”
When asked by Judge Schuchart to elaborate on how the plan process would work, Stanton answered that the plan would look at every problem and then identify alternative forms of costs to address them.
“…we can look at every problem,” Stanton said. “The regional, the local, anything and so with those projects we start to identify what are the low hanging fruit projects, what are the less costly alternatives and which are the high cost. From there we see which one will be eligible for federal and state funding. We obviously don’t have all the money, drainage is expensive and so those higher cost alternatives will be offer greater opportunity for federal and state funding. But projects that we would look at would be diversion, storm drainage, regional retention facilities, anything that helps or would benefit the property…”
Commissioner Sittre then added in his own counter suggestion to the flooding problem: Property buyouts.
“So considering the past flooding they’ve had in the State of Texas, even talking to some of the commissioners over in Galveston County, they just came in and bought the houses out,” Sittre said. “They said ‘you will rebuild at this level’ and I asked him how that worked out and he said ‘best thing that ever happened.”
Medina County FEMA Director Pat E. Brawner then spoke up from the benches to add in his opinion on the proposed buyout option.
“… we got a hazard mitigation grant from the Texas Water Development Board and one of the problems that you run into when you do that, unless you’re ready to condemn all the properties, they have to agree to the buyout,” Brawner said. “If the homeowner says ‘I’m not selling, I’m going to die here’ you can’t take it. You cannot get everyone to agree in that area. Then when the county does buy the property out, now the county has responsibility for that property forever. You can’t let anybody build on it, you can’t let anybody do anything so that’s another problem you have to be very careful with when you start looking at buy outs.”
Commissioner David Lynch then sites, despite receiving similar flood mitigation offers before, money could still be an obstacle in the situation. Adding to the conversation that their current early warning system that they had approved to counter flooding risks was initially chosen because the proposals they received at the time were too expensive.
“There were several multi-million dollar mitigation proposals put forward for effecting the drainage department and sect at the time,” Lynch said. “But we opted to do the early warning system, we decided we could afford it.”
Brawner backed up this claim, saying that their current system had even been paid in half by grant money from the Texas Water Development Board.
“The other projects were in the multi million dollars,” Brawner said. “We went up to, I believe, the largest project for trying to correct everything was 12 million dollars and we just didn’t see that we had that kind of money to do it at the time. And the buyouts, half the people that were involved in those wouldn’t even enter into any discussions on being bought out.”
To further explore the issue of funding, Judge Schuchart asked about grants and whether they would pay for…conducting of studies. Stanton explained to the court that he recommended that instead of using a grant to fund the study, conduct a study first as the results could open the County up to receive more grant options.
According to Stanton, though it costs around half a million dollars to make a study precinct wide, that would include data on every part of the process he’d already gone over and that if they wanted to get grants, the county could find opportunity soon.
“Just recently the state awarded 338 million in flood mitigation grant money,” Stanton said. “Many being up to 100% state share to over 100 applicants in 2020 and that opportunity is going to be coming up in the next couple of years again as well for flood infrastructure funds…”
The master drainage plan was ultimately approved.
Parking Lot Lease Agreement
Following this, Lawyers Margaret Squire and Garret Wilson were invited up to speak on the approval of an Easement Agreement for Access and Parking behind the building located at 203 S Teel Dr., Devine.
“It’s kind of a very minor lease request,” Wilson said. “We’re representing the current owners …and the purchaser know as Sherry’s flower shop downtown.”
Wilson explained that the flower shop owners were interested in using the parking lot and driveway areas located on a 0.2646-acre tract, more or less, out of New City Block 16 in the City of Devine, also partly out of Lots 3, 4 and 5, Block 2, J. M. Bright Addition to the City of Devine.
“There is some large parking area behind these buildings used by everybody in the area,” Wilson said. “My clients actually thought they had owned the area but through a title search realized that was not the case, but we need the ability to continue parking there. So we’ve come up with a pretty simple lease agreement that allow parking for up to five parking lots at the agreed lease rate for five year term”
According to the written terms of the lease agreement the lease will begin sometime February 2022 and end on December 31, 2026, with the lease being renewable for up to five additional terms of five years.
The agreement also states that the tenant will agree to pay the parking lot landowner the total sum of $500 rent for the initial five years and will use the premises only for the purposes of parking for up to five vehicles. Only including vehicles either belonging to the tenant, their employees, customers or guests to get access to the flower shop.
The agreement was recognized by the court and approved.
Request for Change Order
Lastly the court approved some change order requests for the Medina County Jail Addition for UPS Feeders and breaker upsizing, masonry and painting for a total of $7,114. On top of this, Judge Schuchart explained the last item on the cost list, describing these CMU Wing Walls to the court.
“I guess there is a problem all over the country where you put people from different gangs in jail units, they end up communicating through windows because they see each other,” Judge Schuchart said. “This jail design puts 8 in, sharp walls which will cut out the sight line from one jail cell to the other so that gang members won’t communicate with one another.”
The labor and construction of these extra CMU Wing Walls is $1,967, bringing the overall total for the change order requests to $9,081.
‘Spirit of Health’Award Presentation
Cody Knowlton, President and CEO of Baptist Health Foundation San Antonio (BHFSA), alongside Chairman of The Board Dawn Stockton kicked off the meeting with a presentation of the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio 2021 ‘Spirit of Health’ Award to Medina County.
“For outstanding leadership and courage in the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stockton said.
According to Cody Knowlton, the presentation also comes with a $1000 award usually given to a non-profit within the county receiving the gift. For Medina County, that would be HANK, Inc. Knowlton then followed this up by explaining the BHFSA’s history with the county and what led them to eventually giving out the award.
“… that award typically goes to an organization or individual who’s improving the health of our community but it typically goes to one group, one individual,” Knowlton said. “This year our board chose to give that award to each of our eight counties and so we’ve been going around making this presentation to each of our counties and are honored to finally be here today to give the Spirit Of Health Award to Medina County.”
Knowlton said that in the past the BHFSA has given over 8.6 million dollars in grant money to the eight counties to give to their various non-profits.
“And one of those was right here in Medina County, the Medina Healthcare fund, which received from us a $125,000 grant for extra equipment.”
Knowlton said that he’d just learned that day that since 2006, Medina has received over 1.4 million dollars from their foundation and given it to their fund, just adding to the reasons the foundation had to present the council, one behalf of Medina County, with their award.
County asks TxDot for route around town due to traffic from new subdivisions
The Medina County Commissioner’s Court discussed the need for traffic alleviation due to the booming subdivisions in the Castroville area where subdivisions cropped up on most of the farm land.
At the last meeting, the court moved to approve the action of making a request for TXDOT to make a study of an alternative route or bypass around Castroville to help alleviate traffic problems.
“… just something to get around Castroville to alleviate traffic problems. I mean the whole county drives through Castroville on any given day, and runs into a traffic problem and it’s only going to get worse,” Judge Schuchart said.
Commissioner Sittre closed the short discussion as he made his urgency on the need for this potential traffic solution clear.
“I don’t care if I’ve got to go around it over it, it’s got to get done,” Sittre said.
By Christian Toler