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

April 9th, 2010
Commissioners vote to lose CAMPO seat

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Hays County Commissioner Will Conley, right, talks about the county’s representation on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, while County Judge Liz Sumter, right, listens. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

Hays County is set to lose a seat on the board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), which dispenses millions in federal and state dollars for local transportation-related projects.

The Hays County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 this week to support a proposal calling for the loss of one CAMPO board seat each for Hays, Williamson and Travis Counties, and the addition of one seat each for Bastrop and Caldwell Counties, for a total of 19 seats.

CAMPO’s board is being reconfigured to accommodate the addition of Bastrop and Caldwell Counties. The 19-seat proposal to reconfigure the board and accommodate incoming Bastrop and Caldwell Counties calls for the elimination of small-city representatives from the board. Wimberley is currently Hays County’s small city representative on CAMPO.

The CAMPO board currently has 20 seats. Ten seats are held by elected officials from Travis County. Three seats and five seats are held by officials from Hays County and Williamson County, respectively. One seat is held by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and another is reserved for Capital Metro.

The 19-seat proposal would eliminate the reservation of seats for one state senator and two state representatives.

Williamson and Travis Counties would have lost more seats as a result of the elimination of small city representatives, but the 19-seat proposal calls for the addition of one Travis County commissioners court seat (to reach population proportionality), one seat for Pflugerville in Williamson County and one seat for Georgetown in Travis County.

Pflugerville and Georgetown are being added to CAMPO’s board because the JPA specifies that one seat must be added to the board for each city that reaches 50,000 people or more according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

Immediately after the agenda item to endorse the 19-seat configuration was announced at this week’s meeting of the Hays County Commissioners Court, Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-Wimberley) made a motion in support.

“I think a lot of time and thought went into this process,” Conley said. “This recommendation has been approved throughout the region by all participating entities. I’ve had conversations with Williamson County, the City of Austin, Bastrop, Caldwell and with some of my colleagues here in Hays, and everybody felt that this is the best situation in that it’s fair and nobody felt like they were over-represented or under-represented, and felt like the issues of taking the state officials off the board was a positive thing and bringing Bastrop and Caldwell in … was fundamental and extremely important to regional transportation planning, and that there was still plenty of representation for all local entities that were involved. So I appreciate the board taking time on this issue — this is an important issue — (and for) giving us the opportunity to discuss this with other colleagues in the region, and that’s why I feel comfortable with moving forward with my motion today.”

Hays County Judge Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley), who represents the county on the CAMPO board, replied that the feedback she got via letters “from mayors and other folks” is indicative of their opposition to the elimination of small city representation on the CAMPO board.

“I also have concerns with the census coming,” Sumter said. “If the City of San Marcos does not reach 50,000 people, for one reason or another, we’re down to one representative. And so, I think that’s a concern for me. Of course, the other entities who approved this, they didn’t lose any representation. This is the only county that lost any representation on that board.”

Conley said there are “well over” 50,000 people living in San Marcos. Conley accused Sumter of alarming mayors and councilmembers in Hays County with an email, which, he said, misrepresented the CAMPO board composition issue.

Conley said some of the elected officials in Hays County with whom he had “long conversations” were fine with the 19-seat option after he explained the complexities of the issue to them. Conley said it is important that Bastrop and Caldwell have a voice on the CAMPO board as early as possible.

“Many people feel like the addition of Bastrop and Caldwell, by its very nature, will bring much better representation of local issues, rural issues, to (CAMPO) that may not exist today,” Conley said.

Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) supported the 19-seat option, saying all CAMPO members have given up something and made compromises regarding the board reconfiguration issue.

Hays County Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs) voiced her support for a 22-seat board composition option considered and rejected by a 14-5 vote of CAMPO Policy Board Composition Committee members on Feb. 8.

The 22-seat option would preserve the current board configuration except for the addition of one seat each for Bastrop and Caldwell Counties and a population-based formula to calculate the allocation of seats to “other elected representatives,” of whom two can be from the state legislature.

“What we’re voting on right now is the difference between Hays County having a small cities vote and Hays County not having a small cities vote,” Ford said.

Ford supported refraining from putting the matter to a vote until support could be built among CAMPO members for the 22-seat option. The Joint Powers Agreement (JPA), created last time CAMPO reconfigured its board in 2007, established Hays County as one of six CAMPO members with absolute veto power over board composition changes.

“I continue to believe that with the inclusion of Bastrop and Caldwell County, and certainly with the inclusion of the (Hays County) county judge on the board also, I just truly believe that we are going to have that participation for our smaller communities,” said Hays County Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos).

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