San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

by ANDY SEVILA

Hays County is expected to take in $5.7 million of the more than $100 million the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization will dole out in federal funding for transportation projects over the next four years.

CAMPO will allocate 50 percent of the organization’s federal funding for years 2014 through 2018 to regional projects in its six-county area and the remaining 50 percent is to be divided between the six counties – Bastrop, Burnett, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties – for local projects.

“I was in the finance committee (which recommend this funding framework) and I think that good point that the chairman made was that it enables us to get moving on the local projects that are important to us… and we can continue to figure out the best criteria method of allocating the other 50 percent on a regional basis,” said Bastrop County Commissioner Clara Beckett, who also sits on CAMPO’s policy board and the organization’s finance committee, during the Jan. 13 meeting.

Eight percent of the nearly $104 million funding available will be shaved off the top and divided by six, affording each county a minimum allocation of a $1.38 million – a baseline amount. The remaining $95.5 million will then be halved, with $47.77 million going to regional transportation projects and the remaining $47.77 million allocated to local projects.

All in all, $56.08 million will be available for local projects in the six-county region – $8.3 million to cover baseline figures for each county and the remaining $47.77 million to be divided by population.

“The bigger challenge came to be how do you look at the 50 percent … for the projects that we would consider regional, or board voted on kinds of projects, that affect far more than [a single city] — bigger picture kinds of projects,” said Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long, who sits on the CAMPO policy board and chairs the organization’s finance committee, during Jan. 13 deliberations.

Ultimately, CAMPO board members decided to have at least two workshops, with the first scheduled for Feb. 10, to discuss the allocation of $47.77 million for regional projects.

Members also decided that each county should present how they will expend their portion of funding for local projects at the April CAMPO meeting.

For the $5.7 million available to Hays County for local projects, Hays County Commissioner and CAMPO Policy Board Chair Will Conley said the process to determine what projects will receive funding will be similar to the 2011 process—cities will submit their lists of projects and the county will create a funding strategy.

“First, we would analyze what total amount of money we’re looking at, of course, see if there are any specific restrictions on any of those dollars, identify those restrictions…and then put a call out to our cities and see what projects, if any, they have ready to go – shovel ready projects would be preferred in order to stay on good schedule,” Conley said on Monday.

“It worked really well last time,” he said. “Both the cities and the county were pretty happy. We’re going to try and replicate that.”

Conley said the county will review the federal dollars available and “put a call out to the cities” asking them to submit their projects for consideration within the next 30 days.

“These are predominantly federal dollars that we have all contributed to, and these are federal funds coming back into our local community,” Conley said. “And our supplying local dollars, along with other state and federal dollars, to get the biggest bang for our buck – best leverage – and to address the many issues that we have in regards to transportation in the third-fastest growing county in the nation.”

ANDY SEVILA reports for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.

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