San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 17th, 2008
Too many cooks

Editor at Large

Your correspondent was up all Monday night doing back-end work on this web site, so he missed commissioners court Tuesday morning and can only guess that the proceedings were every bit as confusing as the published accounts have illustrated.

Evidently, the Hays County judge wanted the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) to receive a presentation from a consulting firm regarding the design of FM 1626. Problem was that the consulting firm was not the consulting firm designated and funded by the court to deal with roads named on the much mangled pass-through financing agreement with the state.

The court passed a motion last August putting Prime Strategies to work with the TAB at a cost of $25,000. So, when the judge wanted Jacobs Carter Burgess to make a presentation to the TAB, Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley raised an objection.

Where are we?

The judge’s office sets up a TAB presentation with the unauthorized consultant about a pass-through road project that the TAB has kicked back to the court, anyway. Meanwhile, the court negotiates with TxDOT about which state roads will be funded by the pass-through agreement. So, if the court and TxDOT come to agreement, while the unauthorized consultant talks the citizens committee into a different scenario concerning roads the committee has kicked back to the court … Where are we?

The details grow more convoluted, and clarity does not appear as we go deeper into the water.

The TAB and the court both appear to be confused about the advisory board’s involvement with the pass-through roads (FM 1626, SH 110, SH 21 and RR 12). The TAB and the court appear to be confused about why the county hired Prime Strategies as a consultant on the pass-through roads. The court appears to be confused about who is responsible for moving the roads issue.

It all goes back to last February. Until then, Conley was the court’s point man on countywide road projects. But the new court, on which Conley is the only Republican, decided to strip Conley of the responsibility, opting for each commissioner to handle the roads in their precincts. Only Conley and Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton opposed the change.

So, on one hand, you have commissioners developing local ideas about roads in their own precincts, perhaps with local committee input. On the other hand, you have a countywide citizens committee developing countywide road plans. But when that committee is ready with recommendations, it will go to a court on which no member has administrative authority and responsibility, while every member has localized responsibility with no real authority. The process is designed for conflict and confusion.

It certainly isn’t designed for creating a coherent road plan. Nor does it stand to be very efficient. Without knowing how the consultants meter their work, it stands to reason that phone calls from four different commissioners are more expensive than one phone call from one commissioner. If you were to design a process to waste time and money without progressing on roads, this is the process you would design.

We mentioned here before that the county needs to get clear with its Citizens Parks Advisory Team (CPAT) on how decisions will be made about parks funding. On the roads issue, it appears the commissioners need to clarify among themselves how the court will operate, then seek clarity with the TAB.

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