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Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran, shown at a Smith County Commissioners Court meeting earlier this year. (Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph/File)

The Smith County Judge is planning to brief the Commissioners Court on a federal grant application for revitalizing downtown Tyler.

The item is on the agenda for Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting, at 9:30 a.m. at the Smith County Courthouse Annex, 200 E. Ferguson St.

The move comes a week after the executive director of Grassroots America-We The People political action committee questioned the grant application.

JoAnn Fleming questioned County Judge Nathaniel Moran’s involvement in a federal grant, which used words like “commitment” to refer to county funds.

Fleming said she interprets “commit” as a legal term, and said that the Commissioners Court has not held a public discussion or vote.

The application is for a federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The city of Tyler applied for a grant alone in 2018 and did not receive it. The 2019 grant, which will be decided at the end of the year, includes the county.

The county’s portion of the 2019 grant is for a $15 million parking garage, a $1.7 million renovation of the downtown square and surrounding streets, and a $2 million trailhead.

According to the application, the county would pay about $3.7 million of the total grant, equal to about 15 percent of the total. The city would pay 5 percent, and the federal government would pay 80 percent.

Moran said in a statement last week he did not intend to bind the Commissioners Court to the funding by submitting the grant application.

In an emailed statement on Monday, he said he put this item on the agenda because he wants to make sure the court fully understands the nature of the grant application and “understands that no county appropriation has occurred and the county is not bound in any manner with respect to the city’s application.”

Moran said thus far he has shown his individual support for the city’s application through a letter of support to the Department of Transportation.

“If, per chance, the portion of the grant involving the county is approved by the USDOT, the Commissioners Court can then decide whether to accept the award or simply pass on the opportunity for an 80% matching grant to build a parking structure closer to the square for the benefit of jurors and county employees,” he said.

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

Government Reporter

Erin came to Tyler from Vermont, where she worked for VTDigger.org and previously the Rutland Herald. She received her B.A. in Economics and Spanish from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she also attended journalism school.

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