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Keeping Williamson County’s History Alive and Recorded

by Commissioner Cook

  • 18 October 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3424

If you’re curious about anything historical regarding Wilco, just check with the Williamson County Historical Commission.

State law directs county historical commissions to initiate and manage preservation programs for their counties. CHCs must also follow recommendations of their County Commissioners Court and the Texas Historical Commission. 

According to the THC, in 1953, the legislature created the Texas State Historical Survey Commission and in 1973 changed the agency’s name to the Texas Historical Commission. Most counties, including Wilco, also called their organizations historical survey commissions and removed “survey” from their designations after the THC did.

This year, to increase geographic diversity on the WCHC, we appointed 10 new members, and I was privileged to select two highly qualified people from several—also highly qualified—applicants to represent Precinct 1. I want to thank all who showed an interest in serving and encourage them to volunteer with the WCHC.

Commissioner Cook and the WCHC Board members are pictured at the front of the Williamson County Historic Courthouse at one of their meetings.

My two recommendations were Round Rock resident Jane Digesualdo, historian, author, community volunteer and a former member of the WCHC. The other Round Rock resident and native I recommended, Tina Steiner-Johnson, is a middle and high school teacher, and has been involved with the Round Rock Preservation Committee, as well as numerous other community organizations.

Formerly nine Georgetown residents, two from Taylor and one from Cedar Park comprised the WCHC. Now nine are from Georgetown, four from Round Rock, one from Leander, two from Cedar Park, three from Taylor, one from Hutto and one from Circleville for a total membership of 21 and one ad hoc member.

Texas law requires that at least seven residents on a CHC be from the county, and currently all 21 members are. It also requires that members of a CHC be individuals who broadly reflect the age, ethnic and geographic diversity of the county, and we’ve broadened this diversity!

Eloise Brackenridge from Taylor, originally appointed to the WCHC by Commissioner Larry Madsen of Precinct 4 in 2015, was elected chair by the WCHC members this past February and approved by the Commissioners Court. She hit the ground running.

She immediately garnered every member’s support in selecting two primary goals for the WCHC to address, in addition to several ongoing projects. One was to identify the most significant historical sites in Williamson.

The sites they’ll consider currently may not bear historical markers (or plaques) but they will also include those already marked.  Buildings, cemeteries or even empty fields can be considered historical sites. Sometimes fields were sites of significant battles or other human events. Once these sites are all identified, the WCHC will publish this information and post it on their website at http://tinyurl.com/yclbej8m.

Commissioner Cook attends FM 734 (Parmer Lane) Proposed Expansion Open House on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018

The expansion would be from RM 1431 to SH 45

  • 27 September 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 4511

FM 734, more commonly known as Parmer Lane, is a heavily traveled roadway, serving as a major thoroughfare between RM 1431 and SH 45. The puropse of the proposed expansion project is to reduce congestion and improve mobility by providing additional roadway capacity to meet future traffic demands from population growth and increased traffic volumes.

Commissioner Cook studies a chart with the proposed expansion from Avery Ranch to SH 45.The Texas Department of Transportation Austin District is proposing these improvements to a 4.4-mile segment of Parmer Lane in northwest Austin and Cedar Park.

Commissioner Cook studies schematic drawings on a long table depicting the entire Parmer Lane expansion project proposal.The proposed project would:

1. Expand Parmer Lane from four travel lanes to six travel lanes, three in each direction within the existing right of way.

2. Improve intersections with additional turn lanes, where necessary.

3. In cooperation with the city of Austin, improve water quality for stormwater runoff.

4. Provide sidewalks throughout the corridor and a dedicated bicycle/pedestrian path connecting Parmer Lane to the Brushy Creek Regional Trai.

For more information, visit http://www.txdot.gov and enter the search keywords FM 734 from Rm 1431.


Op-Ed by Commissioner cook

  • 26 September 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3113

An aerial view taken from a drone of the homes and the sectioned-off area around the Cambria Cave excavation.

The Texas Historical Association claims that Texas has at least 3,000 caves. Make that at least 3,001.

A cave—first incorrectly called a sinkhole—was discovered underneath Cambria Drive in the Woods of Brushy Creek neighborhood on Feb. 8, 2018.

While it was reported initially that a broken water pipe contributed to the collapse of the cave roof, there is no evidence of that. There was, however, a relatively thin cave roof under Cambria Drive where the water line trench had been dug.

Caves can be fun and mysterious, but they can be a bit disturbing when they’re right smack in the middle of a subdivision and reach underneath the yards of three homes.

Chief Appraiser of the Williamson Central Appraisal District (not part of county government) Alvin Lankford said the homes’ values will be impacted, but we may not know how much until and if the homes are sold. 

Mr. Lankford worked mightily helping these homeowners by discussing their valuations over the past several months. His decisions on values are restricted by the property tax code.

Cambria Cave was thought to consist of four chambers, but in early August, when the cave floor was cleared of debris, a fifth chamber extending into Ephraim Drive was discovered.

Cambrian Environmental (company name coincidental) geoscientists mapped the cave in February and measured it as approximately 230 feet long by 40 feet wide, with a maximum floor-to-ceiling height of about 23 feet in the largest chamber.

Only about 10 percent of the cave was affected by the collapse that occurred in the early morning hours. Neighbors said it sounded like a bomb blast.

Cave experts said that the closed cave is prehistoric, close to 40 million years old. When authorized personnel entered the cave, they found no evidence of previous human entry. They were the first!

The Texas State Historical Association reports that caves and sinkholes are distributed in karst areas covering about 20 percent of the state. Karst is terrain formed by the dissolution of bedrock.

After county and outside experts started entering the cave, sections of asphalt roadway and concrete curb on Cambria Drive began moving downward, and the sides to the entrance of the cave began crumbling. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved a request from the county to allow our contractors to open the cave entrance 20 feet longer, making the entrance more stable for workers going inside.

The neighborhood where the cave is located was developed between 1986 and 1990, and there are other caves in this area. In 1986, during development of Ephraim Drive, which runs perpendicular to Cambria Drive, a cave was discovered but at the time, TCEQ didn’t exist and the developer just dynamited and filled the void, and then completed the road.

However, no previous knowledge of a cave at the Cambria location was known until now.

It required five months to conduct evaluations and pass TCEQ approvals to fill the cave per the designed plan. We now know about preservation of cave critters and water flow to the Edwards Aquifer – gone are the days of bomb-fill-go.<

Balancing Williamson County Needs with Mandates

Oped by Commissioner Cook

  • 15 August 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3220

Commissioner Cook Cook sits at her office desk in front of her laptop with magnifying glass in one hand and pen in the other as she reviews and analyzes budget requests from county departments

August brings on the hard work of refining a county’s budget as the beginning of the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. So, what does a county government need to spend taxpayers’ hard-earned cash on?

Your taxes pay for infrastructure, such as buildings to house county offices, county equipment, maybe utilities, airports, parks and museums; elections support so each of us can exercise our right to vote; and a court system with county attorneys, prosecutors, courtrooms, court administrative support, judges and juvenile justice services.

Other services you pay for include public safety, requiring fire stations, emergency medical services, law enforcement, jails, probation services and justices of the peace. A sizable portion of funds for transportation support — building and maintaining roads and bridges, drainage, on-site septic system planning and approvals and long-range highway planning — are also on the taxpayer.

Emergency management with hazardous materials mitigation, swift-water rescue, emergency conditions planning and response teams — including our 911 emergency network — is funded by taxpayers.

Your tax dollars also pay for public health, especially provisions for indigent and emergency conditions, solid waste management and social services.

And finally, you help fund community oversight with tax assessing and collecting, vehicle registrations, and recording and records retention of births, deaths, marriages, divorces, real estate property, contracts and real estate platting.

But beneath all this are support functions to keep a county running, such as facilities and fleet management and technical services for computers, radios, cameras and other electronic equipment and data.

Then there’s the landshark at the door — unfunded legislative mandates — requiring more people, more equipment, more work and more room but no funding to help counties do what the law requires.

The Texas Association of Counties conducts a biannual survey of county spending specific to those functions dictated by statutes but not funded by the state Legislature. They show that the costs to cover these between fiscal years 2011 and 2016 rose 20.9 percent.

One classic example of an unfunded mandate is the Michael Morton Act. Morton, who was found guilty of killing his wife in 1987, spent 25 years in prison until it was revealed that evidence corroborating his innocence had been suppressed.

The Michael Morton Act requires all evidence — including police reports and witness statements, regardless of whether the evidence is material to guilt or punishment — to be available at any time to the accused and all defense teams.

Two Precinct 1 Constituents Appointed to Williamson County Historical Commission

The Williamson County Commissioners Court voted July 10,2018, to approve the nominees

  • 24 July 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3395

Photo shows Jane DiGesualdo seated.Longtime community volunteer Jane DiGuesaldo has served on numerous organizations from PTA when her children were in school to the Chamber of Commerce. Her interest in history has led to the establishment of an Oral History and Archives collection at the Round Rock Public LIbrary. She has been a member of the Williamson County Historical Commission and the Williamson County Sesquicentennial Commission.

She's a member of the Daniel Coleman Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Described as a wealth of information, Jane has participated in historical groups and organizes excellent field trips to various historical sites. The Tonkawa Springs HOA Board member can be seen around town almost daily visiting multiple nursing homes and assisting seniors with transportation and other needs. The wife, grandmother, gardener and caregiver once owned and operated an automatic repair and body shop. As an Indiana transplant, Jane has been in the Round Rock area since 1974

Some of her biggest contributions to the area's history are a book she authored on Round Rock and numerous history columns she has written through the year for various publications, along with recording interviews of historically interesting people.

Jane looks forward to serving on the Williamson County Historical Commission once again and will be a tremendous asset to preserving and restoring the area's history. 


Photo of Tina Steiner-Johnson with a nature backdrop.

Tina Steiner-Johnson has an impressive genealogical background as a descendant of Wade Sauls, Sr., an African American landowner at the turn of the century renowned locally for his successful farming techniques. Tina is an active member of the Round Rock Black History Organization and the Round Rock Preservation Committee.

Her interests and community support are varied. She is also a volunteer with the Ambassador and Operations Committee of Rodeo Austin.

The middle and high school teacher holds a Master's degree. Her combined interests, activities and talents will serve Wilco highly as a new member of the Williamson County Historical Commission. 

NOTE: The Williamson County Historical Commission is dedicated to the preservation of the history of the county. For more information, please visit http://www.williamson-county-historical-commission.org/default.htm


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