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Updated ice storm aftermath information for Williamson County residents

By Commissioner Terry Cook

  • 7 February 2023
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2178

Williamson County does not have a storm debris collection program. Williamson County is not a refuse provider, unlike cities who do provide these services, often thru contract negotiated with a 3rd party. The majority of the county budget goes toward public safety and the judicial system at 72%. Cities provide a number of additional services that counties do not provide, including utilities, water and refuse services.

If you are inside city limits, please check to see if your city is supplying debris removal. You can check if you are inside city limits on the county map here www.wilco.org/GIS

Waste Management is offering a special price for brush and limbs at the Williamson County Landfill, 600 Landfill Road in Hutto. The reduced fee is $10 per covered pickup truckload of limbs and brush now through Feb. 19. This payment scale is for non-commercial vehicles and excludes trailers. PICKUP TRUCKS ONLY. The county is waving its 6.5% tipping fee, too, so $10 per pickup truck load and no sales tax is the price you pay. The normal charge for clean brush/wood is $8.64 per cubic yard. Trash/debris is $46.90 per ton.  You must wear a safety vest (usually orange or yellow) and a hard hat.

Those who are physically or financially limited can check with Austin Disaster Relief Network to apply for assistance. Austin Disaster Relief Network

If you live in the unincorporated area and it is not against your deed restrictions, you may burn brush as there is not a burn ban. Also, check with your Emergency Service District (ESD) to see if you need a permit. Please call and report your control burn to Williamson County Communications at (512) 864-8282.  Williamson County Communications should be able to inform you of any burning restrictions that Williamson County Communications has been made aware of and that may exist.  

Ice storm aftermath information for Williamson County residents

by Commissioner Terry Cook

  • 6 February 2023
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1771

The destruction to our trees is unprecedented, and no area in Williamson County was spared.This is a very difficult time for our residents.

The county has been working overtime to clear streets in the unincorporated parts of Wilco by doing the only thing they legally do - moving the limbs and debris to the sides of the roads. Unfortunately, the county cannot do anything to improve your property, and that includes limb and debris removal.

If your tree limbs or trees fell into the roadway and were chopped up by the County’s Road and Bridge Crews, they will be stacking the wood back in your yard. THE TREE DEBRIS IS YOUR PROPERTY AND YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO REMOVE; TAKE IT TO THE COUNTY LANDFILL IF YOU LIVE OUTSIDE OF A CITY’S LIMITS. I encourage you to band with your neighbors and hire a hauler to remove the debris if you are not a city resident.

Your first call should be to your home insurance provider.

However, because a local disaster declaration was put out last week, you, as a homeowner and/or business owner, can also report damage to your home or business (not landscape) via the Individual State of Texas Assessment Tool, or iSTAT. Explanation of the iSTAT process can be found HERE. The link to the actual survey is HERE. To be clear, this is a process to assist with damages to your house, not your fence or yard, including the trees.

A disaster declaration could also allow for people with home damage to get some financial assistance, such as low interest loans, for people who are uninsured or underinsured. In order to be eligible, the county must meet a minimum threshold for damage and the state must have a disaster declaration and must meet a minimum threshold for damage.That minimum threshold is being determined as quickly as possible.

To be clear, FEMA is not on the way.  County residents are on their own for the cleanup from the ice no matter what you hear from neighbors or read on social media.

It's 2023 and our resolutions are …

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 19 January 2023
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1958

Williamson County Commissioner Terry Cook fully supports the City of Round Rock, the Texas Department of Transportation and Williamson County partnering on a project on RM 620 to add overpasses at Chisholm Trail and Lake Creek Drive, a roundabout at RM 620 and Chisholm Trail beneath the new overpass (partially completed), widened lanes, new frontage roads and improved bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. The overpasses will separate local traffic from through traffic, allowing through traffic to pass over the railroad tracks. Texas Department of Transportation

We’ve rung in the new year – 2022 left us tired, ragged, but hopeful that the worst is behind us. This is the time of year when many become introspective – who are we? Who do we want to be? Stronger, leaner, more resilient, more learned individuals perhaps? How long does that last? What are our values?

Mahatma Ghandi once stated that “we should watch our thoughts for they become our words, manage and watch our words for they become our actions. Consider and judge our actions for they become our habits. Acknowledge and watch our habits for they shall become our values. Understand and embrace our values, for they become our destiny.”

Williamson County is doing just that in developing a strategic plan, with the guidance of SBrand Solutions consultants, not to establish goals for just one year, but to establish and implement strategies to accomplish them over one, five, 10 years or longer. In Ghandi’s observations, values drive destinies. We will be developing the framework to hone our vision, mission and values supported by strategies to reach measurable results for short-, medium- and long-term goals.

One eye on future, one on past

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 15 December 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1672

Aerial view of Round Rock. As Williamson County cities, such as Round Rock, and their extraterritorial jurisdictions continue to grow, it brings more demands for services and infrastructure from county and city leaders. Courtesy city of Round Rock

With 2023 a few weeks away, what will it hold for Williamson County? Well, let me shake my snow globe crystal ball for a preview.

The guarantees

The 88th Texas legislative session will begin in January, resulting in information overload with bills that hurt us and bills that help us. The part-time status of our Legislature runs at such a quick clip every two years that many bills are not thoroughly vetted prior to becoming law. It would be so nice to have a full-time Legislature allowing more appropriate time to thoroughly vet proposed bills.

In the last session, legislators attempted to prevent local county governments from having “hired guns” at the Lege each day watching for negative bills and speaking up for local governments to help us at the county level. Our Texas Association of Counties is magnificent in lobbying and educating those willing to listen in the Legislature. What goes on at the capital is a major time drain for us in local government. 

Water shortages abound and wastewater treatment plants are expanding across the county to appropriately handle the volume from all our growth. Vigilance on the part of our water plant managers has provided for clear streams despite reduced volume of water flow and increased output from wastewater plants — not perfectly, but with intense scrutiny and vigilant teams. Our past has relied on municipalities to acquire water and rural areas to drill wells. 

Our present population means scarce availability of both surface and ground water. The Brazos River Authority, serving most of Wilco, reports 99.9% of its water is spoken for. As for underground water, we do have the Edwards Aquifer in the narrow Balcones Fault area in Wilco, but the vast majority of our county and wells are in the expansive Trinity Aquifer zone, which lacks the support of limestone to rapidly catch and carry water. The Trinity only recharges with 4% of the rainfall as it has layers of clay for water to pass through and needs underground fault lines for storage.

In an Oct. 27, 2017, San Antonio Express News article, Robert R. Puente, San Antonio’s Water System’s president and CEO since May 2008, the longest-serving leader of one of the nation's largest utilities delivering water and wastewater services to more than 1.8 million customers, said, “Buyer, beware, because that Trinity (Aquifer) is very unpredictable. Well, actually it is predictable. In a drought, you can’t rely on it.”

That easterly moving major drought line has now come to roost in Williamson County. That and the additional wells being drilled are wreaking havoc for existing well users in Wilco.

Housing shortages abound, whether affordable houses or apartment units, especially more affordable rental units. We have limited infrastructure in place, primarily within municipal city limits. 

The overlooked truths of county government

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 17 November 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1787


Photo shows voters at a polling site with a sign that reads: Vote (Aqui) Here --Among the state-mandated responsibilities is to process and maintain voter registration and conduct elections. Jay Janner/American Statesman

In Texas, county government is “an arm of the state.” We have 254 counties, and each is charged with carrying out state-decreed administrative and judicial responsibilities, some of which include actual funding.  

Go back 200 years. What did every county have? A sheriff, a traveling judge and someone to record legal documents such as marriages, divorces, land sales and lawsuits. Well, it’s bigger, better and much more expensive now. 

Let’s look at state-mandated responsibilities of counties. Nearly all are poorly funded by the state: 

  •  Process and maintain voter registration and conduct elections. All entities on a ballot contribute to the cost of running that election, such as cities, school districts, water control and improvement districts and community colleges. These entities contract with county elections departments to conduct their elections but don’t have to; they can run their own elections. It’s cheaper for each entity to join others, with the county conducting the elections. 


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