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FM1626 presentation raises questions in Hays County Court
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham
Confusion over who has the authority to spend $25,000 in funds earmarked for the Transportation Advisory Board led to some tense exchanges at last week’s Hays County Commissioner’s Court meeting. Pct 3 Commissioner Will Conley and Judge Liz Sumter clashed over whether she acted outside of her authority in approving the hiring of a consultant for a presentation to the board.
At issue was an approval by the Judge’s office for the board to directly hire a consultant from Carter Burgess to discuss proposed changes to FM 1626. A Dec. 14 email from the Judge’s office to Carter Burgess representative Jose Rodriguez approved a presentation to the board set for Dec. 20.
However, an earlier email from Road Superintendent Jerry Borcherding had earlier indicated that the board had “kicked the pass-through question back to the Commissioners Court.”
Judge Sumter called the language of the board’s resolution “confusing,” saying board members are involved, “but are not the decision-makers.” However, Commissioners Debbie Ingalsbe and Jeff Barton agreed with Conley that they had authority over funds for FM 1626, FM110 and RR12, and that board members should go through consultant Prime Strategies to spend any of the $25,000.
Commissioners approved a $25,000 allocation for the transportation board in August 2007, but complicating the matter is that the recording of that session has apparently been lost.
Another complicating factor is that TAB Chair Steve Klepfer, a Democrat, is running against Republican Conley for Precinct 3 Commissioner in the November general election. Judge Sumter appointed Klepfer to the panel. The board has 20 members whose job is to “Identify and review potential funding mechanisms and projects for state roads including but not limited to: FM1626, RR12, FM110 and SH21 and make recommendations to the Commissioners Court.”
Klepfer said, “There’s no specific stipulation on what we could use (the money) on, for whatever consulting for whatever duties we deemed necessary.” However, “We did go through Prime Strategies to set up the different consultants that we needed.”
Commissioner Karen Ford said she wanted the board to be independent. “Part of my support for this committee in the first place was to have them look at all the transportation issues in the short term and long term,” she said. “They have every right to ask anyone to come before them to give the information they want.”
There was also apparent confusion among the various consultants as to who had the authority to pay for their services. Carter Burgess’ Rodriguez said he was not aware of Prime Strategies’ involvement when he received a request from Klepfer, via Borcherding, for their presentation at the Dec. 20 meeting.
Rodriguez said that subsequent to the court’s action, Carter Burgess offered to waive the $2,300 fee for the presentation, “but more importantly they need to develop how to handle where these charges come from in the future.” For Rodriguez, “who has control of the development of the projects” and who directs them until completion is an issue the Court needs to resolve. Judge Sumter told In Fact Daily that she is going to organize a meeting amongst all the commissioners to resolve related issues.
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