The day that this paper comes out, Wednesday, July 28 will be the same day that LCRA presents their preferred route for the transmission lines through this part of the Hill Country to the PUC Commissioners. Until then we will not know just how their decision will affect Mason County, but there are many citizens that are anxious about this and have been doing all they can and generously donating their hard earned money to protect our scenic beauty. Many of you in our community are probably tired of hearing so much about this issue, that has sprung upon us in the past ten months, but we are concerned and working to avoid a situation that will have a negative impact for generations to come. Last week this paper, along with a large number of other papers in Central and West Texas, published a long "editorial" article that I wrote about the issues and our commitment to fight the big bureaucracies if they choose to deface our landscape.
Understanding the complexity of actions and decisions that the Public Utility Commission goes through has confused most of us locally, but generally speaking they have six months from the LCRA presentation to arrive at a final decision. During the next 30 days, a number of land owners and affected groups will file to intervene and present additional information to an Administrative Court Judge who will give recommendations to the PUC. This is another distinct step in their decision process, and volumes of information that we have already presented to LCRA will need to be presented again in a different format to be taken into consideration. In January of 2011 the PUC will make a final determination of which route will be ordered to be built, and during this entire process LCRA with their consultants will be gathering and writing their environmental information to support their route decisions.
This is a summary of the "regular" process, and we will continue to monitor and provide input at all steps; however, as I stated in my article last week, there are a number of other options that we are pursuing as well. A number of people have suggested, and I certainly support, the PUC not make any firm decision without returning to the State Legislature during the next session for additional clarification and direction, and this would leave new avenues to apply political pressure to encourage some common sense into the process. Locally we have also discussed in some depth the option to file a federal lawsuit questioning the environmental impact information and analysis and asking to put a hold on any construction until all issues are resolved. One point I want to make every citizen aware of is that while Judge Bearden and I are working hard along with other elected officials and many affected landowners, we are not spending any public funds and have committed not to spend tax payer money from our regular budget to fight these power lines in Mason. The funding to pursue the several avenues of this fight are coming from our citizens that feel this is vitally important today and for future generations, and it is with their help that we are making a reasonable challenge to anyone who wants to work in a big city and make decisions that will negatively impact our scenic portion of the Hill Country.
The other process we are involved with in the City offices is the preparation of our annual budget. This is a major job that we have to deal with every summer, and the City staff has worked hard to make reasonable and valid recommendations. We will be discussing this for a few more weeks with the City Commission, and I will file a final draft on August 20 with the City Secretary, and the Commission will adopt a budget in September. If you have any ideas or suggestions that would improve our community that should be proposed for the coming year, now is the time to let your elected officials know. I am always willing to listen to any citizen’s ideas, and one of the primary goals of our municipal government is to be open and transparent with all that we do. If you have any concerns, suggestions or just want some clarification about some issue, please let me know and we will work hard to make sure that your issues are addressed. Mason is the best hometown in the Hill Country, and whether it is locally or on a state wide basis, I am committed to providing the best service I can for our community and our citizens.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley