At Thursday’s meeting of the Middle Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (MTGCD), the board approved a per diem allowance for the directors to compensate for their time and fuel costs when attending both regular monthly meetings and travel to conferences and events outside of the district.

As explained by MTGCD Administrative Assistant Sharon Mainord, law allows for a per diem reimbursement of up to $150 per day and not to exceed $9,000 per year. Mainord also explained that the board could vote to require directors to track mileage or give a flat allowance per day spent representing the district.

Manager Joe Copper added that he felt it was only fair to consider the compensation at a time when fuel prices are on a steady incline.

While two of the directors, George Bingham and Jerry Hinshaw, both said they would not ask for compensation of expenses accumulated while representing the district, Hinshaw voted in favor of reimbursement and Bingham sustained.

“I realize that I don’t travel as far as some of the rest of you, but I am not interested in getting paid,” Hinshaw said. “I didn’t join the board to get paid, this is a service we are providing to the taxpayers.”

Each of the directors, with the exception of Bingham, voted to approve a flat rate reimbursement of $75 per day for regular monthly board meetings and special meetings held within the district, and $150 per day for travel outside of the district.

Meanwhile, in his report Cooper said he had recently ordered water education packets to be delivered to nine independent school districts and one private school within the MTGCD for the 2008-09 school year. The program, which has been educating local third and fourth graders on the importance of protecting the water supply, is geared at developing water consciousness at a time when children’s minds are ripe for learning about environmental issues.

In his field report, Field Technician Wes Burris said progress is ongoing on the plugging of unused wells that pose potential threats to aquifer and groundwater supplies.

“I just plugged six wells south of DeLeon,” Burris said. “ The material cost to the district was $336.” It was said that the cost was slight when compared to the cost of contaminating area waterways.

In addition, Burris said that the monitoring of local test wells showed water levels have remained fairly static. He said that a couple of wells showed a drastic decrease but attributed one to the altering of the well and the other to irrigation. To get a better reading of those sites, Burris said he would return to each well for an updated reading.

In the office report, Mainord said entry of registered wells into the district’s database continues to progress at a rate of about 1,000 well per month with 10,950 now being logged. She also said that more hours would be put into the process in order to expedite the completion of the database. In addition, Mainord said that 88 wells have been registered in 2008 with 21 of those registrations being filed this month.

Burris also said that he is currently working to organize a public forum to inform area residents on the potential dangers of injection wells. His announcement echoed the concern of local Wes Bigland who addressed the board referencing an Empire-Tribune article, which was published Tuesday and detailed a fire that consumed an injection site located near Alexander and operated by Infinity Oil and Gas.

“A lot of people don’t see the incident as a wake-up call,” Bigland said. “I do. I see the loss of property, the threat posed to neighbors and their property and the potential loss of life.”

Finally, an update from the real estate committee showed that the only progress being made is the elimination of potential properties. Cooper said that the old Star Arms Store, located on US Hwy. 377, was taken off the list of prospects due to the investment it would require to make needed additions and renovations. So, the search goes on for a suitable property for the relocation of the district’s offices and the board agreed that it might be necessary to expand the search area to allow for great options.

For further information on Thursday’s meeting, see Sunday’s edition of the Empire-Tribune.