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Hays County endorses San Marcos’ push for a quicker FM110

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 by Michael Kanin

The Hays County Commissioners Court has voted to lend its support to a road construction project initiated by the City of San Marcos. In so doing, the county may end up spending more of local taxpayers’ money. That’s because it could lose a portion of the reimbursements it would otherwise be eligible for from the Texas Department of Transportation.


In addition to those concerns, members of the court expressed some nervousness over the location of traffic counters that would be used to determine the rate at which the county receives its money from the state. The placement of those devices could be negatively affected by the city’s efforts, a development that would result in a significant delay for county payback.


The 3-2 vote came after a morning and an afternoon session of court debate on the matter. In between those discussions, Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe placed an emergency phone call that brought San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz and the city’s acting City Manager Laurie Moyer in to answer questions from commissioners and Judge Liz Sumter.


Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford and Sumter cast the dissenting votes.


The construction in question is for a future stretch of FM110 that San Marcos calls McCarty Lane. As In Fact Daily (see In Fact Daily, June 22) has previously reported, by pushing forward without a completed environmental assessment of the project, the city may be proceeding without the federal approval that must accompany road work for a municipality to receive reimbursement funds from the State of Texas. That fact has brought on some interregional political squabbling.


San Marcos and Hays County have an agreement in place that divides each region’s responsibilities for the construction along FM110. As part of that agreement, San Marcos promised to let the county claim the entire project in its calculations for pass-through financing.


Though no formal call for reconfiguring the county’s $133 million dollars worth of 2008 voter-approved bonds made during the court’s action, Ingalsbe suggested to her colleagues that the county explore the possibility of seeking less from investors. “I…believe that if, in fact, our reimbursement is reduced, I am still willing to reduce our issuance by that amount of money,” she said. “(San Marcos) is investing over $9 million into this project (and) that certainly would account for much more than we would be possibly using.”


Indeed, for Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton, the possible loss of a portion of the county’s reimbursement was mitigated by the San Marcos’ contributions to the FM110 project and the responsibility with which Hays’ has used its other bond funds.


“It seems to me it’s how good a deal is it? Is it an extremely good deal for the county or is it merely a very good deal for the county?” he said. “If we can get all of our reimbursement it is an extremely good deal…(because) we will be far, far under budget on our overall bond projects. If we aren’t able to qualify at all, because of the city’s partnership with us it is still a very good deal and we will still be far under budget—maybe not far far under budget.”   


On top of the other issues that Sumter has with the city’s work, she reiterated her concern over what the action might mean for the process by which the city and the county interact. “Any single member (of the court) can’t just arbitrarily waive a portion of an agreement, that has to be done by the court,” she said. “We…believe (the work is) not being done in accordance with the agreement (we have with San Marcos), so the court has a decision to make: It can waive that portion and move forward or it can not waive and enforce or invoke whatever that agreement is.


“This court continually doesn’t want to address that issue,” she continued, “and so, by not addressing the issue, they have basically given up their rights to enforce an agreement, I think.”


The measure the commissioners voted on was a document that will change a relatively small portion of San Marcos’ project. However, because of the city’s need to move forward expeditiously with its efforts to avoid the higher costs that might be associated with a delay, the court’s endorsement of it amounts to a thumbs-up for the entire project.

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