It's nearly time for Brown County to welcome this year's installment of the Central Texas Wildfire Academy.
There will likely be large clouds of smoke visible over a portion of Camp Bowie during portion of the Feb. 13-17 wildfire academy as firefighters from around the state receive training. The academy, which will be at the Camp Bowie Training Site, is sponsored by the Dam Volunteer Fire Department and Texas A&M Forest Service.
Dam Fire Chief Chris Weber made a presentation to Brown County Commissioners Monday. About 80 firefighters participated in last year's academy, which included about 60 staff members, Weber told commissioners.
Even a fire academy must adhere to a burn ban or receive a permit that will allow it to burn. Earlier Monday, commissioners decided to leave the burn ban which they enacted last month in effect, but indicated they will grant a permit at their Feb. 10 meeting.
Merkel firefighters are bringing in bulldozers so there will be "containment lines" for the training fires, Weber said.
"This is not something that is done willy-nilly," Weber said.
A live fire exercise is scheduled for Feb. 17.
In other business Monday, commissioners agreed to create a 10-year County Energy Transportation Reinvestment Zone (CETRZ) in a small section of northwest Brown County.
Creating a CETRZ allows the county to apply for a Texas Department of Transportation grant of $303,000 to repair roads damaged by oil field traffic. The grant requires a countky match of 20 percent.
Commissioners designated the first project on which they would send the money: improvements to portions of county roads 120 and 411. That area is where the majority of the oil and natural gas production in the county takes place and is known as the Cross Cut field, County Judge Ray West said.
The CETRZ is on 21 separate tracts of property, and 11 of the 21 are oil and gas leases, West said.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Joel Kelton said based on formula TxDOT uses, the total cost of the road repairs would be about $3.7 million. Kelton said he believes the actual cost would be far less.
According to TxDOT"s website, a CETRZ is a tool created by 2007 legislation for developing and financing transportation projects.
Increases in the appraised value of property in a CETRZ would generate an increase in property taxes, and the increased revenue would go into an infrastructure fund, commissioners have said.