Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Personalized paver installation at Coupland Depot

Coupland Civic Organization directors take a break: Seated, left to right, Dottie Hahn, President Barbara Piper, Barbara Franklin. Back row, Ruby Wabbel, Susan Garry, Bradley Nelson.
Hunter Matysek and the parents of Taylor Boy Scout Troop 167.

Hunter Matysek discusses the paver project with CCO paver committee chair Barbara Franklin.

Bradley Nelson and helpers install his working crossing signal in front of the Depot.
Saturday, June 5, was paver installation day in front of the Depot. As part of his work to become an Eagle Scout, Hunter Matysek of Boy Scout Troop 167 of Taylor, took on the project of removing the old sidewalk pavers, cleaning them, leveling the ground, and reinstalling the old pavers, along with the new personalized ones. His fellow scouts, along with parents and siblings, also worked on the project.
The CCO board members provided a lunch for the scouts and their families. Special thanks to Walter Hahn who barbecued the brisket.
Reporter Lauren Chiodo covered the event for the Taylor Daily Press. Her article, along with a color photo of the project, was on the front page of the June 8 issue.
Coupland resident Rebecca Newman and her three sons were all helping with the pavers. Her oldest son Jared, now a junior at A&M, became an Eagle Scout with Troop 167. Jake, 15, and Jordan, 12, are members of the troop. Rebecca explained that many of the parents have science and technology backgrounds, so they are able to teach the scouts to do their projects in a professional manner.
While the scouts were working on the pavers, CCO board member Bradley Nelson installed authentic signal lights and bell at the Depot. The working lights and bell are from his private railroad memorabilia collection.
The redone sidewalk with the new personalized pavers looks great! The paver project will continue as a long-term fundraiser for the Depot facilities. You can still order pavers for a donation of $35 each. Adding a train logo is an additional $10. The sidewalk is designed so that new pavers can be added in the future. To order pavers, please call fundraising chair Barbara Franklin at 856-0039 or CCO President Barbara Piper at 856-2635.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Coupland area to be site of largest solar farm in U.S.

When we envision hundreds of acres of solar panels, we may think of an unpopulated area that is not good farmland. We probably don’t envision hundreds of acres of solar panels covering up our valuable Blackland Prairie. However, the Blackland Prairie Concerned Citizens Association (BPCCA), at their June 14 meeting, heard from a group who plans to put a solar farm on 550-600 acres on the west side of Manda-Carlson Road at Felder Lane, about 3-1/2 miles west/southwest of Coupland.

Over 70 attendees filled the New Sweden Lutheran Parish Hall to hear the group describe what they called “the largest solar plant in this country . . . one of the largest in the world.”

Marilyn Samuelson, BPCCA Vice President, moderated the meeting about the “City of Pflugerville Solar Farm Energy Project,” a project of RRE Austin Solar. In attendance was Victor Gonzales, the mayor pro tem of Pflugerville--the site is in the Pflugerville ETJ. The site also is in the Elgin ISD (EISD), but an EISD representative did not come. A representative came from the office of Travis County Commissioner Ron Davis.

Angelou introduced the people from the companies that are behind RRE: NEPC India Ltd. (Chennai, India), and Power Tech Pvt. Ltd. (Jamnagar, India). Raj Kumar Khemka is Vice Chairman of NEPC India. He was accompanied by two directors, Mr. Mehta and one other.

Angelou explained that the $240 million project will be built over a period of 2-1/2 years. He said, “This is going to be the largest project in the state of Texas. At 60 megawatts, it will be the largest in the U.S. There will be four to five permanent employees, with three to four hundred during the construction phase.” Construction could begin in January, 2011. The solar farm will connect to the nearby LCRA electric transmission line.

Elgin ISD and the City of Pflugerville have approved the project and will give it tax benefits. RRE is expecting the support of Travis County in the near future. The project has a letter of support from the State of Texas and will receive federal incentives. Angelou said, “Governments have to incentivize or the project can’t happen.”

Mehta mentioned that the project also would benefit from the carbon tax credits that will go into effect if a cap-and-trade system passes the Congress.

The RRE presentation referred to approval from and benefits for Elgin schools and Pflugerville, although the project is several miles from Elgin schools and Pflugerville. The people who are actually next to the plant have no authority or recourse. However, some attendees, realizing that this large site is available for any type of project, think that a solar plant is not the worst project that could be placed here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Coupland Civic Organization to hold Depot Dedication on June 19

The Coupland Civic Organization (CCO) will dedicate its newly restored historic Depot on Saturday, June 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Long-time Coupland residents will talk about the history of the Depot and its significance to the community.
Before being moved to the center of the community where it is today, the Depot had been moved from its original location next to the tracks and placed on a farm. Ruth Thiele will speak about the Depot being moved from her uncle’s farm and being restored for the first time in 1976, as Coupland’s project for the United States Bicentennial.
Irene Florida will discuss the beginning of the planning for the current restoration, which took place while she was CCO president. Loretta Patschke will talk about the experience of growing up in Coupland and what the Depot means to the community.
Beginning at 11 a.m., the CCO will host a picnic-style lunch, and the Dedication presentation will begin at noon. The Depot will be open so that residents and visitors can view the CCO’s restoration work and the historic pictures and artifacts that are on display. A horse-drawn wagon will provide rides through the community.
CCO board member Bradley Nelson will demonstrate authentic train-crossing lights and bell that he has installed at the Depot. The lights and bell are from his private railroad memorabilia collection.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

BPCCA June 14 meeting on large solar farm for NE Travis County

The Blackland Prairie Concerned Citizens Association is the rural community group in NE Travis County. They cover the New Sweden/Lund/Manda/Carlson areas. A very large (500-1,000 acre) solar farm is being proposed for Manda-Carlson. The BPCCA has arranged a meeting about this project for June 14. The public is welcome. The BPCCA release:

"The Blackland Prairie Concerned Citizens Association (BPCCA) will meet Monday, June 14, 7:00 pm. at the New Sweden Lutheran Parish Hall, 12809 New Sweden Church Road. Guest speaker will be Angelos G. Angelou of Angelou Economics and will bring information to the group concerning the proposed solar farm in the Manda-Carlson area. The public is welcome to attend.
"BPCCA was organized in 2001 with the mission statement 'To ensure the beautiful, endangered, and historic Blackland Prairie of northeast Travis County is preserved. To ensure progressive economic growth meets the requirements of this rural environment and proud heritage. To ensure our elected and appointed officials understand the citizens of northeast Travis County will not allow the Blackland Prairie to become the dumping ground for Central Texas and other counties.' BPCCA’s boundaries in northeast Travis County are: Manor City Limits and/or FM 973 on the west, Travis County/Williamson Country Line on the north, Travis County/Bastrop County line or Elgin City Limits on the east and Highway 290 on the south between the city limits of Elgin and Manor."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

SH 130 in the red--taxpayers making up the difference

The Statesman’s Ben Wear reports that the Texas Transportation Commission may be considering lowering tolls for trucks on SH 130 in order to lure more trucks from I-35. The article has an interesting discussion on what level of tolling would result in more trucks taking 130 at what result to overall toll revenues.

Wear notes that financially 130 is in the red. He reports, “The 2002 financial prospectus for investors who put $2.2 billion into Texas 130, Loop 1 and Texas 45 North showed initial toll rates unchanged until 2015, when a 50 percent increase was scheduled. Transportation commissioners have the power to raise rates before then, but they aren't talking publicly about doing so. But they might be considering it privately. According to figures from TxDOT Chief Financial Officer James Bass, the three-road system has required $68 million in tax money to balance the books over the first three years.”

So why is it a good idea to continue to build toll roads where taxpayers will be paying the investors? By the way, ground has been broken on the tolled interchange at 290 East and 183—a tolled interchange being paid for by taxpayer stimulus money.