The past several weeks have been busy around Mason and throughout the community. The on-going concerns about the possibilities of a large electric transmission line through Mason County continues to generate much anxiety, with about 200 people showing up last week for the first meeting of the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association. There was much enthusiasm for the need to stop the study of Mason County for a transmission line route, and the information and contacts shared was beneficial to everyone. In addition, the Sub-regional Planning Commission that has been formed between the City and the County will be meeting with representatives of LCRA and the Public Utilities Commission to express our concerns about the thoroughness of the planning process, to be sure that all important factors are considered in studying the Mason County route, and to be certain that the authorities coordinate with the local representatives in the early stages of the planning. Everyone I have talked to is certain that we do not want transmission lines and the incumbent right of ways spoiling the beauty of our hill country, and if we continue to work together and in a wise manner we can prevent this challenge to our community.
We have also been working around the City to take care of several special projects. The Electric Department has been spending time getting the lights around the square and on the other special buildings along the highways serviced as well as putting up the "light tree" in Heritage Park before the "Light up the Town" activities this weekend. The Wastewater crew has been working hard to resolve some problems at the sewer plant that have recently been brought to our attention. The street crew, with some help, has been putting up street signs that have been missing as well as starting this week on the fall leaf pickup. The Landfill has been busy working to modify the venting structures to resolve some methane issues, and we have been adding some other vents that will allow us to better monitor any problems in the future. The Recycle crew has been working to keep up with the increasing volume of materials, and the Park is getting some additional attention to keep it clean and ready for the visitors that come to town.
I have been working with the City staff recently to submit several grant applications. The City has received one "grant" from stimulus money that is to be used for upgrading energy efficiency is some specific manner. I am expecting to receive $20,000 and use it to upgrade our street lighting to higher efficiency fixtures that will direct light at the street surfaces rather than general lighting throughout the neighborhood. I have also been told that we will be receiving money to help pay for a reverse osmosis station to be available to our citizens as part of the city services we provide. We expect that this will be built on the grounds of the Eckert Civic Center, and the general plans have been presented to the Commission with more specific plans to be drawn up once we have confirmation. There may not be much to be seen before the first of the year on this project, but I have looked forward to this for several years and am ready to provide this for our community as soon as reasonable. The other grant that is being submitted this week is a request for additional recycling trailers that would be located around town to provide everyday opportunities to drop off materials that can be recycled instead of disposed of in the landfill.
The other major project that I am working on to receive state funding for our local needs is the application for sidewalks, steps and access ramps around the Square. Three years ago I worked on a grant for this project only to have the Texas Department of Transportation cancel the entire program without funding any projects. I was told at that time that it would have been very likely Mason would have received funding, and just last month TxDOT reintroduced this Transportation Enhancement Program. I have brought out my previous paperwork, begun to revise it and update the information, and fully expect to get the application completed for the December 11 deadline. This has been a problem area for our community for many years, and many of us have fallen and been hurt on the uneven walkway or steps, so I am eager to complete this and hope that the state will work with us to tackle a project that is larger than what we can do without assistance in our day to day work. We may not know the results of these grant applications for some time, but I am confident that Mason is on the move to improve our community and provide a better place for all of us to live, work and provide for our visitors.
During this holiday time as we see many people come to town to visit and share the beauty of our hometown, we need to work together to keep our community clean and neighborly. Mason is a great place to live and call home, and the best part is that we can fully share that with others and continue to enjoy the best hometown in Texas for ourselves.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley