Somervell County Judge Walter Maynard announced the county is one step closer to avoiding a Priority Groundwater Management Area (PGMA) with McLennan County after Texas Senate Bill 1544 passed the Senate committee just before the Legislature adjourned at midnight May 31.

SB 1544 would allow Somervell, Johnson, Ellis and Hill counties to create the Prairieland Groundwater Conservation District.

Senator Kip Averitt authored and filed the bill in March and has helped the county avoid being forced into a mandated PGMA with larger cities such as Waco.

Establishing the new district with counties more similar to Somervell, commissioners hope to maintain equal representation for residents.

Commissioners began working in October 2008 to develop a back-up plan after learning they would not be able to join the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.

The Texas House also passed the companion HB 3335. The new legislation must be signed by Governor Rick Perry before becoming effective.

In other business, the Commissioners Court tackled a parking situation downtown. The situation became a bit more precarious after the Riverhouse Grill opened its doors in May. The popular restaurant has attracted patrons every day it is open - sometimes causing parking overflow issues at the Somervell County Citizen’s Center across the street.

Pam Baker from the center spoke to the court about possible solutions.

“I certainly don’t mind them using it (the parking lot) when it is not being utilized,” Baker said.

She also said she would encourage renters to use a rear parking area that often goes unused during events to help unclog the troublesome street.

But the problem arises when the center has been reserved for an event.

Commissioners agreed that renters should be able to use the full lot when they reserve the Citizen’s Center. But they also don’t want to see the parking lot blocked off if it is not being used for an event.

City Superintendent Ronald Bruce said he has spoken with the restaurant managers, Milan Olejnik, Sr. and his son Milan Olejnik, Jr., and they do have tentative plans to put in an on site parking lot.

But Milan Jr. feels it is unfair to point the finger only at their business and feels the parking on the street has been an issue before the restaurant ever opened for business.

“I know it’s an issue and we’re trying to find a solution,” Milan, Jr. said. “I’m open for suggestion.”