by JACOB COTTINGHAM
After four nights of public meetings, the Hays County Transportation Bond Advisory Committee (BAC) presented a workshop to the County Commissioners on Tuesday detailing the feedback they have received from citizens and getting some feedback from the court as to how they should proceed crafting their final report.
About 200 people showed up at the public meetings to rate the 44 different projects based upon the following eight criteria: improve operational safety; improve infrastructure safety; improve mobility; address capacity problems; protect environment; support community economic objectives; preserve community quality of life; and making the roadway bike and pedestrian friendly. Chairman Chuck Nash was surprised at the low turnout, saying he had expected between 400-500 to show.
Survey respondents also ranked the criteria in the following order of descending importance: Operational safety, improved mobility, infrastructure, capacity, bike and pedestrian access, quality of life, and economic. Consultant Jim Harvey of Alliance Transportation delivered the report and told the court, “[citizens] feel like the county is moving in the right direction economically, but are trying to deal with some of the spinoff problems from that growth.”
Although the rankings for the projects will likely be weighted based upon the relative importance, Harvey did not release the rankings to the media, saying “it would be misleading to publish the list until the committee has at least decided on a methodology for ranking the projects.” Do we want to take the weight in the formula that Alliance used?” Nash asked rhetorically, “That will be our guide but not necessarily 100 percent.”
Nash told the Mercury that the final report would likely have three or four levels, ranging from below $200 million up to $250 million. This was more in line with the idea that Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton floated when he spoke about progressive bonds. Although the idea had merit, Nash said, “I don’t think that’s what you’ll see in this November election.” The committee’s goal will be to, “Give the commissioners that 90 percent lockdown but give them that ten percent wiggle room if they want to expand on the call.”
The commissioners struck seven projects from the list, because other sources of funding would be used on them, negating their inclusion in the bond election.
Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley indicated he would be interested in partially funding some of the roads in order to seek out further matching funds from the state. Judge Liz Sumter disagreed, “if you put the road in the bond package and you don’t put the adequate funding to do the road, … politically you put yourself in a position where it makes it much more difficult to come back later to your constituents and say ‘we didn’t put the whole amount in there, now we have to come back and get the rest of it.”
Nash said the BAC would keep in mind not only the population’s need for roads but also the political need. “If we don’t give precinct four to vote for them, they’re more likely to vote against them,” he said. Although Kyle and Buda’s population explosion will tilt the road projects toward Precinct 2, Nash said, “I don’t want to penalize precinct four or three or one just because Kyle or Buda happens to be on a roll right now.”
Harvey had told the court that of all those who gathered at the public meetings, only two had any objections to the bond. Nash agreed with the upbeat mood of the citizens, “I’d say at least my sense is the people who have attended feel very positive about the road bond.” The BAC will meet for the last time Thursday at 6 p.m. at the San Marcos Courthouse and present their final report on August 12.“I think Thursday night’s going to be a long night,” Nash said.