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One eye on future, one on past

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 15 December 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 766

Aerial view of Round Rock. As Williamson County cities, such as Round Rock, and their extraterritorial jurisdictions continue to grow, it brings more demands for services and infrastructure from county and city leaders. Courtesy city of Round Rock

With 2023 a few weeks away, what will it hold for Williamson County? Well, let me shake my snow globe crystal ball for a preview.

The guarantees

The 88th Texas legislative session will begin in January, resulting in information overload with bills that hurt us and bills that help us. The part-time status of our Legislature runs at such a quick clip every two years that many bills are not thoroughly vetted prior to becoming law. It would be so nice to have a full-time Legislature allowing more appropriate time to thoroughly vet proposed bills.

In the last session, legislators attempted to prevent local county governments from having “hired guns” at the Lege each day watching for negative bills and speaking up for local governments to help us at the county level. Our Texas Association of Counties is magnificent in lobbying and educating those willing to listen in the Legislature. What goes on at the capital is a major time drain for us in local government. 

Water shortages abound and wastewater treatment plants are expanding across the county to appropriately handle the volume from all our growth. Vigilance on the part of our water plant managers has provided for clear streams despite reduced volume of water flow and increased output from wastewater plants — not perfectly, but with intense scrutiny and vigilant teams. Our past has relied on municipalities to acquire water and rural areas to drill wells. 

Our present population means scarce availability of both surface and ground water. The Brazos River Authority, serving most of Wilco, reports 99.9% of its water is spoken for. As for underground water, we do have the Edwards Aquifer in the narrow Balcones Fault area in Wilco, but the vast majority of our county and wells are in the expansive Trinity Aquifer zone, which lacks the support of limestone to rapidly catch and carry water. The Trinity only recharges with 4% of the rainfall as it has layers of clay for water to pass through and needs underground fault lines for storage.

In an Oct. 27, 2017, San Antonio Express News article, Robert R. Puente, San Antonio’s Water System’s president and CEO since May 2008, the longest-serving leader of one of the nation's largest utilities delivering water and wastewater services to more than 1.8 million customers, said, “Buyer, beware, because that Trinity (Aquifer) is very unpredictable. Well, actually it is predictable. In a drought, you can’t rely on it.”

That easterly moving major drought line has now come to roost in Williamson County. That and the additional wells being drilled are wreaking havoc for existing well users in Wilco.

Housing shortages abound, whether affordable houses or apartment units, especially more affordable rental units. We have limited infrastructure in place, primarily within municipal city limits. 

The overlooked truths of county government

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 17 November 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 842


Photo shows voters at a polling site with a sign that reads: Vote (Aqui) Here --Among the state-mandated responsibilities is to process and maintain voter registration and conduct elections. Jay Janner/American Statesman

In Texas, county government is “an arm of the state.” We have 254 counties, and each is charged with carrying out state-decreed administrative and judicial responsibilities, some of which include actual funding.  

Go back 200 years. What did every county have? A sheriff, a traveling judge and someone to record legal documents such as marriages, divorces, land sales and lawsuits. Well, it’s bigger, better and much more expensive now. 

Let’s look at state-mandated responsibilities of counties. Nearly all are poorly funded by the state: 

  •  Process and maintain voter registration and conduct elections. All entities on a ballot contribute to the cost of running that election, such as cities, school districts, water control and improvement districts and community colleges. These entities contract with county elections departments to conduct their elections but don’t have to; they can run their own elections. It’s cheaper for each entity to join others, with the county conducting the elections. 

Election Day: Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022 - Joint, General & Special Elections

Information is from the Wilco Elections Office and the League of Women Voters.

  • 12 September 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1082

Voter Registration Deadline: Tuesday, October 11Eclectic/artistic  red, white & blue images with three stars and the word VOTE in large print. Pixaby.com

Early Voting Period: Monday, October 24 to Friday, November 4

Last Day to Apply for Ballot by Mail: Friday, October 28 (Received, not postmarked)

Wilco Elections Office: Elections (wilco.org)  --  512-943-1630


Dates and Times for Full-Time  and Limited Ballot Voting

Monday, Oct. 24 - Saturday, Oct. 29:  7 am to 7 pm
Sunday, Oct. 3012 pm to 6 pm
Monday, Oct. 31 - Friday, Nov. 4: 7 am to 7 pm

Election information: VOTE411

Annual vacations are time well spent

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 18 August 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1092

Williamson Co. Commissioner Terry Cook: Annual vacations are time well spent (statesman.com)

The view of people enjoying Carolina Beach in North Carolina as Commissioner Cook and her sister relaxed and read good books.

Fresh back from my annual one-week vacation to a North Carolina beach just in time to be consumed by our annual budget planning and voting. 

Roll back the clock. I lounged with feet in the water. The melodic, recurrent, gentle pounding of the surf drowning out all other sounds just clears your head and soothes the spirit. I got a week clear of Atlantic storms with mild breezes, lower temperatures (91° rather than 104°) and no public information requests. 

I grew up near the coast and miss the ocean and its mysteries terribly. The rhythm of the wave action as each rushes the shore to deposit its slim edge of foam lulls one into such relaxation unknown to those who vacation elsewhere – especially not staycations where all you seem to do is repeat the home-routines in your life and just look at all the work needed done around your home.

What happens when the unexpected does?

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 21 July 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1553

Commissioner Cook, right, hands out water bottle cases along with two other volunteers shown at the Kelly-Reeves  Athletic Field to residents during a boil water notice issued on Feb. 5 by Austin Water.

In an episode of “I Love Lucy”, how did Lucy respond in the chocolate factory when the chocolates came faster than she could box them? She gained 20 pounds.

Seldom does life follow our plans, hence contingency planning.

How we react shows our character and perhaps its flaws. Those who weather those changes tend to show creativity and resilience, not resignation and despair.

In my second year as commissioner in 2018, I participated in a “table-top disaster exercise.” This is a scripted disaster with all the normal players participating as though in their official roles. In this case, the scenario was a major 5K race planned in Twin


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