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Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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FM110 start stirs up Hays County politics
With access to a local high school at stake, the City of San Marcos has pushed ahead with the initial stages of construction along its section of FM 110 without a complete federally mandated environmental assessment. That early action could cost Hays County at least a part of $5 million in state pass-through financing reimbursements for the project.
That loss, if it’s actually recorded, may turn out to represent a relatively small portion of the total $133 million Hays County is expecting for all of its pass-through projects. Still, the project has managed to cause something of a political stir in and around San Marcos.
Indeed, Hays County Judge Liz Sumter was concerned enough about the situation to add it to her Commissioners’ Court agenda last week. There, she asked her colleagues to call for San Marcos to “cease construction activities until they come into compliance.” In the end, however, the court decided on a 4-1 vote that it was best to leave the issue alone, at least until negotiations among Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, the City of San Marcos, and the Texas Department of Transportation could be completed.
Sumter offered the only tally against holding off on action. After the hearing, she told In Fact Daily that any formal resolution of the situation that included a change in the underlying interlocal deal that exists between Hays County and San Marcos would be subject to Court approval.
“I think what’s really important, and what I wanted the court to understand is that not one single commissioner can alter an agreement that the court approves with the city,” she said. “And so, if there’s been an agreement, that needs to come back to this court – if there was any agreement between the county and the city to go ahead and move forward without the federal environmental.”
When asked who might have made such a commitment, Sumter responded that she didn’t know. “I have two commissioners who are very active in the City of San Marcos. But the commissioner that is over this road is Commissioner Ingalsbe.”
Sumter added that the City of San Marcos had been told for as long as two years “if they took this step that they could lose funding.” Still, she said, “the city for one reason or another felt it was okay to move forward without a federally qualified road.”
For her part, Ingalsbe acknowledged that, should the reimbursement be reduced, it might have to come back before the court.
San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz confirmed that she, Ingalsbe, San Marcos City Manager Rick Manchaca, and their respective staffs have been in discussions with TxDOT over the project. As for the pass through financing, she noted that the city’s portion of the road, which is known as McCarty Lane, may one day be counted as part of the overall $133 million that Hays County has designated for that program.
FM110 is one of a number of projects that were approved as part of a 2008 “road safety and mobility” bond election. All told, its construction may cost as much as $30 million, of which $15 million could be reimbursed through TxDOT’s pass through financing program. As part of the agreement that provides for its construction, the City of San Marcos has agreed to turn over reimbursements that it might otherwise be eligible for to Hays County.
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