After several days of rain in Central Texas, the Bastrop County Commissioners Court discussed flood safety and communication procedures during future flood events on Monday.
At the beginning of the meeting, County Judge Paul Pape read proclamation from Texas Governor Greg Abbott designating May 20-24 as Flood Awareness Week. The letter explained the importance of Texans preparing for floods and being safe during flood events.
“We had people actually drive through flooded water crossings, and we had to rescue some people, and it put our first responders at risk,” Pape said.
Later that morning, the court discussed the protocol for flood notifications with Brad Ellis, deputy director of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Last week’s flooding gave OEM a chance to test the new protocols.
Ellis mentioned a phone app that would more accurately send latitude and longitude coordinates by sending a photograph. Pape said it might be difficult to use for those who are unfamiliar with using an iPhone.
Pape added there are other ways to find exact locations, and the commissioners know where many of the worst flooding spots are. He asked Ellis to log the trouble spots and gather feedback from the commissioners on improving the procedures.
Precinct 2 commissioner Clara Beckett gave Ellis critiques of the communication system in place and the use of a phone app to transmit coordinates in remote areas of the county with little cell service.
“This needs a lot of work,” she said.
NEW EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT BUILDING NEARLY COMPLETE
The court voted to accept the newly-built Mike Fisher building as substantially complete.
During Monday’s meeting, county engineer Carolyn Dill said they are currently gathering the paperwork for the certificate of substantial completion, which includes quantifying the value of the remaining items needed.
Pape invited county staff and the public to attend a ribbon cutting and open house for the building on Wednesday at 4 p.m. The ceremony will include speakers to talk about Mike Fisher, followed by an opportunity for everyone to see the facilities before operations begin.
BID REQUEST APPROVED FOR ELGIN-AREA ROADS
The court approved soliciting bids for contractors to repair two miles of Littig Road near Elgin.
The project was requested by Precinct 4 commissioner Donna Snowden. Due to a shortage of current county staff and an eagerness to get the road fixed, she wanted to see what the cost would be to hire out the project. She said the road is in disrepair and is located in an area where development is expected.
PROPOSED REPTILE PARK REQUESTS EXCEPTION TO COUNTY ORDINANCE
Quetzal Dwyer, the owner of a reptile park in Costa Rica, asked the court to consider a variance to the county’s animal ordinance as he considers bringing a reptile park to Bastrop County.
Pape questioned Dwyer about the estimated number of non-indigenous venomous snakes that would live in his facility. Between 35 and 100 total venomous snakes would be at the zoo, some of which would be from South and Central America.
Dwyer personally guaranteed no escapes would happen on his watch, and said most snake escapes happen as a result of pet owners, not zoos. He added he has access to anti-venom, which he would make available to paramedics.
Precinct 1 commissioner Mel Hamner recalled encountering the biggest snake he had ever seen during a trip to a zoo in his childhood.
“That’s education,” he said. “I don’t have a fear of snakes. I have a respect for snakes. If (the reptile park) was managed and inspected, I’d feel more comfortable.”
Pape said the county’s list of restricted animals includes all non-indigenous snakes and reptiles, probably to prevent citizens from being exposed to animals that they are not familiar with and where there is no readily-available anti-venom.
“Stepping back and taking a larger picture of it, the reason we have an ordinance that prohibits this kind of activity is the health and safety of our citizens,” Pape said.
He suggested the county hold public hearings to give citizens a chance to express their concerns about waiving the ordinance for non-indigenous venomous animals.