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Hays to consider policy on incorporating county roads

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham

After rescinding an earlier vote, Hays County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to hold a public hearing to determine guidelines for deciding whether to take over maintenance of previously private roads.


The agenda item to “accept Oak Branch (Road) into the county maintenance system if residents bring the road up to accepted standards,” started as a routine item.  The road is located in Commissioner Karen Ford’s Precinct 4 and she brought the item to the court. The cost of repairs is estimated at $230,000.


It wasn’t until later in the meeting that Commissioner Will Conley took issue with providing the bulk of that money up-front. He said that could mean the county might be providing an interest free loan.


The Oak Run West Homeowners Association and Ford had proposed using her precinct’s allocated funds to offset the cost of the repairs, with the homeowner’s group chipping in $60,000 initially. The ORWHA would then have 10 years to pay back the rest of the money.


Citing “basic philosophical differences” with this proposal — albeit some hours later — Conley requested that commissioners vote again on the issue or that he be able to switch his vote to a “nay.” After a break to consult Robert’s Rules of Order, the court learned that proper procedure was to rescind the initial vote, and simply vote on the item again.


The court then rescinded its earlier vote, with Conley stating his intent to vote against it on the next round. With debate reopened, Conley warned of a “slippery slope to offering free money to home owners associations simply for convenience,” as opposed to public safety. He said that while he has no problem with the county taking over the road, he was opposed to the idea that the county would not collect interest.


Stating that “public safety there doesn’t seem to be an issue,” he said the property owners group could get a bank loan for these improvements, just as his very own neighborhood group had just done. If this action passed, Conley warned, it would give other groups an incentive to ask for the same sort of deal. Commissioner Jeff Barton of Precinct 2 seemed to waver in his earlier support, acknowledging the “difficult” questions Conley was raising.


County Judge Liz Sumter pointed out that traditionally it has been each Commissioner’s judgment how to use their own allocated funds. Ford said that this road would be acceptable under the “welfare and public safety, especially if it hadn’t been maintained in the past.”


She told In Fact Daily she “favors preventative-wise” support. When questioned whether Conley’s proposal for specific public safety guidelines could encourage residents to let their roads fall into a state of disrepair in order to collect some county assistance, Ford said that the home owners associations would still have to repay those escalating costs, discouraging such behavior.


In the end, the court voted to run a notice in the newspaper as required by law, 35 days ahead of a public hearing on the matter.

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