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Still Standing After All These Years:

The Saga of the Brushy Creek Water Control and Improvement District Dams

  • 19 April 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3384
  • 0 Comments

A view of Coupland dam and land surrounding it.

Floods and droughts are the bane of Central Texas. Seems to be either too much water or not enough. Today, we have a series of dams across the southern region of Williamson County in the Brushy Creek Watershed. How did they come to be?

Historical records show that in 1921, a serious storm hit central Texas and the town of Thrall that received over 38 inches of rain in 24 hours. A worst-case storm would rain 44 inches in 24 hours. Of course, there was no warning. About half of Williamson County and western Milam County were under significant amounts of water.

In Milam County the flooding washed out approximately one mile of the International and Great Northern train tracks, including a trestle 20 feet high. A lake about 10 miles wide formed in the area where the Brushy Creek and San Gabriel River converge. Over 200 fatalities were reported.

(Picture of the Coupland Dam)

In 1955, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service (now the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service) conducted a comprehensive study of the Brushy Creek watershed and recommended that 56 dams be constructed, which they would design and pay for. However, they needed a local entity to be the owner/operator of the dams and reservoirs.

The Texas Housing Foundation

FAQs

  • 16 April 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3796
  • 0 Comments

Is it true the THF could exercise its eminent domain authority in Williamson County even though the the county does not join the THF? 

Answer:  Yes

By joining the THF, can the county forbid the THF from using its eminent domain authority?

Answer:  Yes, because the resolution agreement being considered on April 17, 2018 to join the THF at the Williamson County Commissioners Court hearing expressly denies THF the ability to use eminent domain to acquire property for the purpose of developing workforce housing.      

The Commissioners Court currently has authority to contract (or not) in relation to a project that would be proposed outside of a municipality.  Would the court lose that authority once it joins the THF and appoints a commissioner?

Answer:  The Court would not be subject to "THF's approval" for any future contracts, and would not somehow be subject to additional state or federal regulation by virtue of its participation within THF. The Williamson County Commissioners Court would not lose any level of authority by virtue of joining the THF and appointing a commissioner. 

Round Rock Clubhouse Offers People with Mental Illness Hope and Opportunities

Commissioner Cook's Oped

  • 22 March 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3767
  • 0 Comments

Living in Texas is no blessing for those struggling with mental illness or substance abuse. We’re rated 49th in the nation for mental health spending, and almost all those dollars support crisis, short-term care.

The mental health system in its current form is a revolving door of stabilization and relapse because of a lack of state funding, hospitals and community based-treatment centers. Mental health providers can stabilize clients but not provide the ongoing care necessary to maintain their stability.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 22 percent of American adults—one in five—will suffer a diagnosable mental disorder in a year. This means 95,000 residents in Williamson County alone and 27,000 of those in Round Rock who need mental health services.

Round Rock now has a “clubhouse” that offers hope and opportunities to people with mental illness and substance abuse, and to their families. Pavilion is part of Clubhouse International, an organization supporting over 300 clubhouses worldwide where people with mental illness can thrive.

Pavilion can help reduce the lost wages and productivity, expensive hospitalizations, homelessness and criminal justice system involvement from people with mental illness that amounts to an estimated $240 million annual economic impact for Williamson County alone.

We help people move from the isolating tendencies of mental illness and substance abuse into a sense of community with people who are going through things very similar to what they’re going through as well, and people who’ve been down that road before,” said Gordon Butler, executive director of Pavilion (pictured with Commissioner Cook).

The clubhouse provides structure, routine and consistency. Members engage in four stages of work development. The pre-vocational day program helps members develop behavioral and work skills that promote overall wellness and stability, while increasing confidence and stamina.

The clubhouse is designed around an eight-hour day in which members work with staff to develop work-related interests and skills, improve and expand education, return to paid work in the community, participate in meaningful social experiences, and cultivate and contribute individual talents.

In the transitional employment phase, the clubhouse partners with employers to provide members with work opportunities in the community for real pay. These positions usually last six to nine months. The next step is supported employment where the clubhouse still develops and maintains a relationship with the employer. Lastly, with independent employment the clubhouse doesn’t have a formal relationship with an employer, but assists the member with career development, job search assistance and ongoing support.

Unemployed clubhouse members often can return to work within about 60 days compared to the 700 days it takes other individuals assisted by a state agency. Pavilion additionally offers supportive services in education, life skills, housing and wellness.

Clubhouse members on average see health care costs decrease $10,000 a year. Fifty members participating in Pavilion can mean a potential savings of half a million dollars in healthcare costs to

Visit DEA Exhibit Drugs: Costs and Consequences Before Museum Closes

Opinion Editorial by Commissioner Cook

  • 23 February 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3937
  • 0 Comments

Commissioner Cook is talking with Angie Long, educator with the DEA exhibit.

Recently while touring the exhibit, Drugs: Costs and Consequences, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum at the Texas Museum of Science and Technology in Cedar Park, I felt like a DEA agent entering a world of misery and crime that most of us never experience.

Led on this tour by Angie Long, DEA educator with the exhibit, I saw lifelike displays of the human cost of illegal drugs. Unfortunately, Ms. Long said the DEA Museum is searching for another place in the area that could house this 5,000 square-feet DEA exhibit until its departure for its next tour on July 1. TXMOST is closing on March 19 for financial reasons.

(Photo: Angie Long, Educator with the DEA Exhibit, is talking with Commissioner Cook about the serious consequences of illegal drugs on everyone.)

The exhibit, on national tour since 2002, is a must hurry and go see. Ms. Long said, “Education is powerful. One of the most powerful things we can do is take the time to educate our young ones about the costs and consequences of drugs. It is a must see for our middle and high school kids." 

Williamson County TX-PACE Program Facilitates Private Funding Option for Property Upgrades

  • 8 February 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 4093
  • 0 Comments

The Williamson County TX-PACE program enables property upgrades, while creating jobs and improving the environment.  To date, the County’s TX-PACE program facilitated $1.77 million in new investment, saving two properties more than 1.9 million kWh in electricity and 1.7 million gallons of water per year.  More businesses and nonprofits should analyze how the Williamson County TX-PACE program can benefit properties.

Consider how Houston’s TX-PACE program recently impacted an 11-story office building in Houston:  $1.3 million in property improvements – two new chillers, a building automation system, and a complete LED fixture upgrade – financed over 20 years with no capital outlay.  Utility consumption reductions of 38% will provide $3.66 million in savings over the 20-year term.  As the table shows, these savings exceed the cost of the improvements.  In Corsicana, the program was used to upgrade an empty factory, resulting in the creation of between 60 and 80 new, permanent manufacturing jobs.

Click on Read More for rest of article that includes chart showing comparison of investments financing. 

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