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Hays County accepts strategic policy plan

Thursday, July 8, 2010 by Michael Kanin

The Hays County Commissioners Court has unanimously acted to accept a wide-ranging strategic policy plan for that region. The move, however, stops short of a wholesale adoption of the document’s recommendations.


The document includes demographic projections that predict an 18 percent rate of growth for the county through 2014. That figure, which comes on top of an estimated 127 percent growth rate for the years 1990-2009, puts Hays County’s total population at 182,620 in four years.


“Cities and the County are struggling to manage this growth as demand for services, traffic, etc. surge,” write the plan’s authors. “This plan is an effort to effectively address these key issues moving forward.” 


The plan was prepared by several regional entities, including the Lower Colorado River Authority, with local input.


County Judge Liz Sumter told In Fact Daily that the strategies outlined in the plan would be used as guidance by county policy makers and department heads. “I think it was really a great exercise,” she said.


Sumter said, as she had from the dais, that the public-participation portion of the effort revealed that her court was in step with the goals of county residents. “Citizens were commenting on things that we were already doing in terms of where they felt we should be going,” she said. “So I felt it was a real … positive stroke for the commissioners court, (evidence) that we were heading in the right direction.”


Still, at least one Hays commissioner told In Fact Daily that he has reservations about some of the plan’s suggestions. Republican Will Conley, who occupies the court’s Precinct 3 seat, cited two specific objections. “Consolidation of (the county’s) fleet services … I think that’s a bad idea,” he said. “I don’t think people from Dripping Springs need to be bringing fleets to San Marcos to be worked on.”


Instead, he suggested that the county should “put that money out into the private sector,” adding that such an action would be “great for small businesses.”


Conley was also not too fond of the recommended creation of a county ombudsman’s office. That office, according to the plan, would “be that one point of contact where people can get started (in their business with county government) or where concerns can be addressed.”


“Well, that’s what we do,” Conley said. “Our citizens are supposed to call any elected official in the county … for that information. That’s what our assistants do; that’s what we do. That is a primary responsibility of the people … (that) they elect, and I wouldn’t want to delegate that to an employee when it’s directly our responsibility.


“The county’s real strategic plan is our budget planning that we go through every summer,” he told In Fact Daily.


The plan is a 71-page document that organizes specific recommendations into six basic categories: internal objectives, water and wastewater, transportation, growth management, economic development, and quality of life. In addition to fleet service coordination and the ombudsman’s office, it includes calls for the coordination of a host of already extant county and local plans, a future water summit, the exploration of a potential public transportation connection to Austin, the establishment of a “county-wide” economic development policy, and the development and implementation of a “Conservation and Development Plan” to be used as the county continues to grow.


The Lower Colorado River Authority, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Bluebonnet Electric, and local stakeholders all made contributions to the plan, which took 16 months to complete.

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