Commissioners will consider tax abatement for Williams Company gas processing plant

Before addressing the first agenda item on Monday evening, commissioners were entertained by former El Paso Mayor John Cook, who is running for Texas Land Commissioner.  Mr. Cook is known for carrying his guitar with him everywhere he goes, and he is not shy about singing to an audience, regardless of size.

Commissioners then heard a sobering presentation from Monica O’Kane, TxDOT Traffic Safety Specialist and Chris Weber, TxDOT area engineer.  The two presented information and alarming statistics on traffic deaths in Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth and El Paso counties. According to Ms. O’Kane and Mr. Weber, many of these are caused by the failure of the occupants to wear seatbelts.

Ms. O’Kane and Mr. Weber explained the rationale behind cable barriers that are being installed throughout Texas as a means to prevent more accidents resulting from cars crossing the medians onto oncoming traffic.  Hudspeth County led the other small counties in traffic deaths with 13 in 2013 and already 10 to this point in 2014.  By comparison, Culberson County had three traffic deaths in 2013 and two this year.

Commissioners next listened to a presentation from Williams Company representatives who informed commissioners that the company is looking at a location in northern Culberson County as a potential site for a $200 million dollar cryogenic plant which processes natural gas into liquid gas.

The representatives told commissioners that they were also considering two other sites in the same general area around Orla, one in Reeves County, and the other in Eddy County in New Mexico.  The site that is eventually chosen will depend largely on tax incentives and abatements offered by each county.  The court voted unanimously to proceed with the process of establishing Guideline and Criteria, establishing a Reinvestment Zone and then entering into negotiations to place Culberson County in the running for the project.

If chosen, the plant would initially provide 150 construction jobs lasting from six months to 18 months, and at completion, 12-plus permanent jobs.  The deadline for submitting Culberson County’s proposal is the end of August, and commissioners reassured the representatives that the proposal would be ready by that time.

Joe Grimes, Grimes & Associates, architect for Phase II of the Fire Station, was present to ask commissioners to approve the final plans for the build-out and paving of the driveway to the fire station.  Commissioners approved the plans, but not without pressing him about costs and previous construction errors with Phase I.

The court tabled submission and payment of draw number 2 for the grant because the grant administrator was not present to give figures or report on the project. Commissioners asked Mr. Grimes to provide information about where the project was going to be advertised.  In addition, commissioners in no uncertain terms made it clear that they were very unsatisfied with the work done by the construction company that was hired for Phase 1 of the fire station project.

Commissioners complained that high construction costs created by the lack of competitive bidding could lead to a potential “Phase 3” for what should have been completed during the initial construction, and that they would consider advertising beyond the usual areas to get a competent and competitive construction bid.

In other action, commissioners voted unanimously to sell three properties located on Broadway, west of what was the old Bud’s Diesel, to place the properties back on the tax rolls.  The City has voted to approve the bids and the properties will now go before CCAISD trustees for approval.

Commissioners also heard about continued problems at the cemetery caused by residents who leave water running unattended for hours, leading to a consumption of more than 650,000 gallons in June alone.

The Town of Van Horn has been assisting the county by charging a flat fee; however, that courtesy will change after September, when the county will have to pay by the number of gallons used. Because the budget year will soon expire, commissioners agreed to restrict watering at the cemetery to only the evenings from 6 9 p.m.


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