By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The filing of the City of Grapeland’s application for a Texas Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Texas Department of Agriculture was unanimously approved by the members of the Grapeland City Council during its regularly scheduled monthly meeting held Tuesday, March 13.

“We’re required by the state to have a plan and a map of our water and sewer system,” explained Grapeland Mayor Balis E. Dailey. “And in addition to that, there are other things that are coming along that you need to have planned and mapped out.

According to Dailey, the aforementioned mapping – required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) – posed an estimated total cost of $36,000 to the city. Through the grant, the cost would drop to between four and five thousand dollars and provide roughly $44,000 in additional funding.

Also planned for the city is a study of the street conditions.

“They would go down the streets and, for example, say, ‘At this area, it’s 46 feet wide.’ The next area, it may be 50 feet. As you probably know, a lot of our streets are like that – they’re 48 feet, they’re 46 feet,” Dailey said. “And so, that gives us a good idea on how to then begin to figure out what we need to do and how much money we need to repair our streets.”

The second study Dailey spoke of was a study of the city’s water system.

“That’s mapping our lines, mapping all of the things we’ve got – the wells and the systems that we have; the chemical systems that we have,” he explained. “We have both surface water, which is from the lake, and we also have well water; we have two wells.”

According to Dailey, both studies are critical to the city remaining compliant with state requirements.

“The next area is on the storm draining system study,” Dailey continued. “We have issues with the drainage from the streets and the properties behind the school and the school properties, and (the study will tell us) how we can handle those things and try to figure out what our exact numbers are concerning that.”

Dailey also provided information on capital improvement programs.

“Capital improvements are exactly that – that’s where we need infrastructure, lift stations, or some other areas,” he explained.

Other areas in which the city is seeking improvement opportunities are the central business district, parks and recreation and economic development.

“We want to move to a municipal development district versus the EDC (economic development corporation), which is a shift that would give us a much better development and access as far as rules and regulations and development,” explained Dailey of the latter category.

According to Dailey, such a change would result in increased sales tax revenue from the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).

“There’s about nine areas or so where you can match these things up, and in each area, a multiple municipal district – called an MDD – is much more advantageous to a community than an EDC is,” Dailey pointed out. “Part of that is (because) if you operate under the municipal district, you’re under general law. When you operate under the EDC, you’re under 501(c), so you have a lot more regulations that are outside that.”

Also discussed was the city’s future need for zoning.

“We do not have any zoning right now, but we certainly are going to need to have zoning,” Dailey said. “So, we’ll want to look at that and see where it would be recommended. Our city has grown up without zoning, so we have a hodgepodge of things around. If we get that organized, we will be able to build for the future.

“We certainly are improving in our city,” Dailey pointed out. “And our plans are to grow and to have growth.”

The category of subdivision ordinances was also brought up.

“We do not have really any subdivision ordinances, so we want to start looking at those and being able to plan those appropriately,” Dailey said.

Kelly Odom of Grantworks, Inc. provided information on the funds provided through CDBG grants.

“Congress appropriates CDBG funds to HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), and then, HUD sends them down to the state through the Texas Department of Agriculture,” she explained. “They can be used, overall, for many different things. Planning and capacity building is just one of the many things that those funds can be used for. That just happens to be the open grant right now.”

As Odom pointed out, the City of Grapeland has previously obtained grants for economic development funds, disaster relief funds and water/sewer grants.

“So, this is just one pot of money that’s open right now,” she explained. “I think there was some confusion; they received a notice about a grant, so they were hoping maybe it could be used for the library or things like that. But this is for planning and capacity building.”

Odom said cities have the opportunity to receive a maximum of $55,000 through the CDBG grant, although Grapeland was given only $44,000.

“That’s based on our population and some other census stuff,” explained Dailey.

According to Dailey, the city will be applying for additional grants in the future.

“We’re looking at the long term, and we’re planning way out now,” he said. “We’re planning a year and a half to two years on our grants.”

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.