Court hears about Blum, Covington area solar farm

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

March 22, 2023

The Hill County Commissioners Court met in a regular session Tuesday, March 14, and heard a presentation from a solar company that is planning a project in the northwestern portion of the county.

Midpoint Solar obtained Chapter 313 Value Limitation Agreements with both Blum and Covington school districts prior to the state program’s expiration in December. The plan involves 600 acres being leased from residents with property in both Blum and Covington ISDs.

The company anticipates constructing a solar photovoltaic electric generating facility with an operating capacity of approximately 150 MWac, and the project’s total local investment is expected to be around $150 million.

Representatives of the company asked the court for permission to submit an application for a county tax abatement agreement.

Hill County Judge Justin Lewis told the court that he had explained to the company that the county’s goal is not to give a big tax abatement, but to lock them into a road use agreement to ensure that they take care of any damage to county roads.

The court agreed to accept the application and begin negotiations.

Commissioners also accepted a bid for the sale of the county’s annex at 200 East Franklin Street to Waco Housing Authority/Hill County Section 8. The buyer was the lone bidder at $772,000.

The county had previously approved the sale, but the buyer requested that it be put out for bid again to include additional addresses that could identify the property.

The county is working to move its offices out of the building when the Covington Street annex is renovated. Until that project is finished, the county will lease office space at the Franklin Street annex from the buyer.

Judge Lewis updated the court on legislative action that could have a negative impact on counties. One such proposal would prevent counties from paying dues to the Texas Association of Counties (TAC), which coordinates training for elected officials, allows the county to access better rates on insurance and helps counties keep up with legislative proposals and changes, among other services.

“They call it the anti-lobbying bill,” Lewis said. “We’ve never spent a dollar on lobbying, and we don’t spend public money on lobbying.”

The judge explained the importance of TAC membership for counties and encouraged rural residents to pay attention to the legislative session and question their representatives. “Don’t believe everything you see coming out of Austin,” he said.

“We’re seeing a serious number of bills filed that are going to have a drastic impact on your taxes at a local level because of more unfunded mandates,” the judge said.

In other action at the meeting, the court set public hearings on proposals to place a 30 mph speed limit on HCR 1353 and to place yield signs on HCR 1439 at the intersection of HCR 1432. The hearings were scheduled during the court’s regular meeting Tuesday, April 25.

Commissioners approved a request from Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Holcomb to hire another full-time equipment operator in his precinct, and a request to trade in a smaller roller and purchase a 2020 Sakai Roller was approved for Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Crumpton.

The court modified the request for proposals for bank depository contracts to extend the deadline. Bids will now be due by 3 p.m. Monday, April 3.

The outside audit for the Community Supervision and Corrections Department was observed and recorded, and Lewis noted that the department ended the year in the black and did a good job while working within their budget.

The annual lake patrol contract was approved between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the sheriff’s office to provide law enforcement patrols of parks during peak use times.

Commissioners also approved applying for Crime Victim Services grant that funds that department’s salary if it is received and approved applying for additional opioid settlement funds from the Office of the Attorney General.

The court’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 28, at 8:30 a.m. in the Hill County Courtroom at the courthouse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s