Williamson County will house an officer with the Texas Department of Emergency Management at a county facility to operate from during emergency situations, after the Williamson County Commissioners Court approved an agreement with the state Feb. 28.

A county liaison officer for TDEM will coordinate state emergency response, recovery, preparedness and mitigation efforts out of the Emergency Medical Services building in Georgetown, free of charge. The agreement will remain in effect until Sept. 30.

This comes after the court voted Feb. 7 to extend a location disaster declaration—stemming from the Jan. 31-Feb. 2 winter storm—an additional 30 days. The action coincided with a state disaster declaration by Gov. Greg Abbott.

“The reason why I want a full-time employee in our building is because when we do have to declare a disaster, we don’t have to run down to Austin, we don’t have to try to reach somebody on the phone,” County Judge Bill Gravell said. “That individual is in the same building with us and can escalate those needs up the ladder.”

In the last update to the court Feb. 14, Williamson County had assessed around $11 million in total damage from the most recent event, surpassing the county’s minimum threshold to be eligible for financial assistance. It was also TDEM that brought incinerator boxes to Williamson County to allow municipalities and haulers to dispose of their debris and fallen limbs, Gravell said, adding that the state has created similar agreements with counties throughout Texas.

“So I like having someone from the state in our facility,” he said. “It just streamlines the communication and creates a really strong partnership.”