County judge details potential bond measures

During last week’s meeting of the Kaufman County commissioners court, County Judge Hal Richards detailed two separate bond measures that will likely be decided by voters in a November election.

In response to concerns from many county citizens along with the obvious signs of disrepair on many roads throughout Kaufman County, Richards explained how he, the commissioners and other county officials have been working to address these issues.

“For some months now, we have gathered together a Kaufman County Transportation Coalition,” Richards said. “The purpose was to identify through the commissioners what their primary transportation projects are. I think it was a great process. What we have arrived with now is a list of projects. The commissioners wanted to put a lot of focus on county roads in this list.”

The coalition’s list includes 71 road projects across the county, 36 of which are county roads specifically maintained directly by the county, that need significant construction work. While some would be smaller projects, Richards explained that many would require full road reconstruction, which can be a lengthy and expensive process.

“I think all of the commissioners would agree that we have a lot of county roads that haven’t seen any sort of reconstruction for decades,” Richards said. “We’ll never be able to cash flow our way to reconstruct those roads and that’s one of the big deliverables out of this proposed list. We’ve identified roads that need to be reconstructed, not just resurfaced or paved. There needs to be some serious, and expensive, work done on them. We’re hoping for the same sort of support from TxDot and the Resource Transportation Council. From the 2013 bond election, almost all of those projects are either finished or funded and we’ve gotten roughly seven dollars of other money to go into those projects for every dollar that we’ve spent. That’s a pretty high bar. We think we can go higher; we’re expecting a lot of support.”

In total, Richards estimates that the 71 projects would cost roughly $100 million.

Kaufman City Manager Mike Slye, Kaufman mayor Jeff Jordan and Mesquite Mayor Stan Pickett were all on hand at the commissioners court meeting to express their support for a bond measure to help the county finance these projects. Representatives from Talty and Crandall were also on-hand to give their support, though none took the stand to speak formally.

Judge Richards also presented a separate bond measure that would be related to building construction and renovation across the county. The majority of this bond would go toward the construction of a new justice center that would, in essence, replace the current county courthouse.

“We are badly in need of a justice center,” Richards said. “I think most of you understand the safety and efficiency concerns that we have with our current courthouse. They are substantial.”

Richards explained that the remainder of these funds raised from this second bond would go toward a law enforcement substation at Forney ISD and renovations in each of the precinct facilities.

Regarding the substation at Forney ISD, Richards said “We have some opportunities there, we think, for career and tech education. They have a criminal justice program and maybe even other emergency services where we can partner with them if we built a facility next to the high school.”

Regarding the precinct facility renovations, Richards said “We need to do something with them. They’ve languished pretty bad and they’re highly disorganized. And way too crowded in some cases.”

In addition, Richards noted that some of the funding might also go toward the creation of a regional animal shelter, which has been in the planning stages for months.

In total, Richards estimates the total cost of these various projects would be $50 million.

The court is scheduled to vote on whether to formally announce a bond election for these two items in this week’s commissioners court meeting.

During last week’s meeting, the commissioners also rejected a variance request from Abner Farms, a subdivision located in precinct 1. 

The commissioners heard from Bob Rocket, an attorney representing the owners of the subdivision, who requested a waiver for platting requirements for 26 properties within Abner Farms that had already been sold. However, a consulting engineer that reviewed the subdivision’s plan recommended that the commissioners deny the request. 

The consultant and the commissioners identified a number of issues with the plan including a pipeline easement taking over the majority of an entire lot, and the plan’s general lack of accuracy regarding the subdivision’s current state. One road in the plan labeled as Abner Farms Road doesn’t even currently exist, as noted by precinct 4 commissioner Ken Cates.

“So really, this plat is not a current rendition of the property in addition to all of the discrepancies that our consulting engineer has identified,” Cates said. 

“I think you’ve got some issues to resolve in just this preliminary drawing you’ve been using,” precinct 1 commissioner Mike Hunt echoed.

The commissioners also approved the commissioners court meeting minutes for July 29 and July 31, approved deputation of Carla Cook for the Kaufman County Treasurer’s Office, approved permission to solicit for an annual contract for trucking and hauling road materials for various precincts, approved the purchase of a 2012 Komatsu D31EX-22 in the amount of $43,000 from Kirby-Smith Machinery, approved the purchase of a 2020 KW T370 dump truck in the amount of $91,428.32 from MHC Kenworth, approved indigent healthcare procedures for processing resources and income of applicants who are sponsored aliens, approved setting the public hearing date for the proposed budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 for Aug. 21, 2019, and approved line item transfers and claims for payment.

The commissioners entered into executive session to discuss pending or contemplated litigation subjects or settlement offers regarding the Abner Farms subdivision after denying their variance request earlier in the meeting and to discuss county department organization. No action was taking upon returning from the closed session.

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