Commissioners discuss economic development, reinstate burn ban
Milam County’s efforts at improving economic development will soon get a little easier with the addition of a grant that could be used to hire a full-time economic development coordinator for the county.
Economic development was a main topic of the Milam County Commissioners meeting on Aug. 12 along with several other actions and reinstating the burn ban across the county due to dry conditions.
The grant is in the amount of $212,000. The county has to put up a 20 percent match.
“Back in the spring we applied with some help from CTCOG and Ginger Watkins,” Young said. “They did all the paper work. The idea here is that we can do a lot of things with this.”
Young said he would like to see that money go towards hiring someone full-time to work on economic development in the county.
“We need someone to go to out-of-the-county workshops and trade shows and be talking about this all the time,” Young said. “I am thankful to get it and this will go a long way for us.”
Young said for the first time in the history of the county the groups from Cameron and Rockdale got together to see what they could do to help themselves and that partnership has been great for the county.
Commissioner Opey Watkins also discussed his trip to Osage County, Oklahoma, to visit and see some of the things they are doing to revitalize their downtown. Cameron Industrial Foundation Executive Director Ginger Watkins also went on the trip.
The town is the location of Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s Mercantile business and Watkins said that everyone had shopping bags and it was very interesting to see how they have revitalized the area.
He said that this could be easily done in downtown Cameron if we find the right businesses to take the chance.
“The only thing keeping us from doing this is us,” County Judge Steve Young said.
Young also discussed what is going on at Bitmain in Rockdale.
“I wish everyone could see how wonderful this is for the county,” Young said. “They have been installing the ant-miners and getting them online. This is a money-making endeavor. That money will be funneled through this county. We are just so fortunate that they are here. They are here in part due to the electricity we have.”
Young said the other reason they came is because they liked the friendly economic environment in the county.
He said they are still in the testing stages and once they are fully revved up new support businesses will be headed to the county.
“The technology is there,” Young said. “They are talking about using these things for artificial intelligence. This is huge for us.”
He said Winestone is also looking at doing the same thing. There are currently 30 people working for Bitmain and there could be up to 300 jobs with Winestone in the next three years.
“Economic development is a big things,” he said. “It isn’t just flipping a switch. It is all day every day and we need to keep on it.”
Young also reviewed the Cameron-Rockdale Football Banquet and its success saying there were 350 in attendance at the event.
He also updated the court on the move to the old hospital building. He said finalization is three to four months out and that Stan Graves is currently working on the working plans for the renovation.
Young said the renovation will likely cost around $80 per square foot as opposed to the cost of building a new building which would be around $250 a square foot. He also said the county is looking at buying four acres adjoining the hospital property for future growth and that the Health Department and WIC office will stay downtown for the time being.
“This county is going to grow,” he said. “We know that. People are getting here as quick as they can from Williamson and Bell Counties. We did some rough studies here recently. From 1977 for 1997 land prices went up in the county 30 percent. From 1997 to 2017 land prices in the county went up 300 percent.”
He said people are coming here so the county will grow and there needs to be room for expansion in the future.
Commissioners also set Public Hearings for the 2020 budget for Aug. 23 and 27. The tax rate will stay at 73 cents per $100 valuation.
In other business commissioners: approved the adoption of countywide mobile home rental park regulations; approved a resolution authorizing the county grant for 2020 to Hill Country Community Action for $1,570 for Meals On Wheels; approved the resolution authorizing submission of the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recover Application to the General Land Office to Provide Acquisition and Drainage/Street Improvements; approved utility line request for a water line on CR 418; approved new Private Road 3400A in Precinct 3; and approved reinstating the burn ban for the county.