by BRAD ROLLINS
A conciliatory Kyle City Council on Tuesday acknowledged that it owes Hays County as much as $2 million for an ongoing widening of Dacy Lane but asked for a payment plan to meet its share of the project cost.
Council members said they hoped the move would be enough to convince Hays County officials to keep working on the road, which was imperiled this week along with other projects in an ongoing dispute about how much the municipal government owes the county. County Judge Bert Cobb said on Monday that he would move to abandon both the partially completed Dacy Lane and a planned rerouting of FM 150 East unless the cash-strapped city agreed to pay money it owes the county.
On a motion from council member Russ Huebner, the council voted 5-1 to execute the Dacy Lane contract, which allows the city to share in any cost savings if the project costs less than the estimated $8.2 million pricetag. But since the city does not have the money budgeted or readily available, Huebner’s motion included a provision that the city ask the county for a loan with payments not being due until at least October next year.
Commissioners Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe and Will Conley “both told me that unfortunately the judge’s comments looked bad but assured me that the commissioners court does want to work with the city of Kyle,” Huebner said. “They seemed to understand the financial straits we’re in and seemed to realize we don’t have $2 million today to give them.”
Jaime Sanchez, the only council member to vote against the contract, said Hays County would be solely responsible if it pulled its contractor off the job. He said cancel ling the project would put Hays County in breach of contract with Austin-based Capital Excavation, the company contracted to build the road.
“If they stop work, it’s not Kyle that is stopping work, it’s Hays County. It is their decision,” Sanchez said.
Mayor Lucy Johnson told her colleagues it would be unproductive to dwell on whether Hays County was justified in its hardline stance.
“I don’t want to discuss the merits of Hays County’s decision to stop this project. As the city, we have no control over county’s decision to stop that contract other to say, as soon as possible, Yes, we are willing to work with you on Dacy Lane,” Johnson said.
Johnson said county officials told her the city’s share will likely actually be only $1.3 million since the construction bid came in considerably less than the estimate worked up in 2007 when construction costs were generally higher than they are today.
The council did not, however, take action on the amended agreement with the county on a project to reroute FM 150 East so that it intersects the interstate at the Center Street overpass.
The city and county already have an agreement in place on FM 150 East but the council was considering changes favorable to the city’s position by allowing it to share in cost savings. Kyle has committed to pay $3 million for FM 150 East plus the cost of buying right-of-way for the project.
Council members said they still have questions about the arrangement and voted to ask the county for a joint meeting to talk about the road projects and the city-county relationship in general.
“I would like some thoughtful, intelligent discussion about how we can participate in the process and be real partners. I think this may be the beginning of us getting back together and having the quality relationship we have enjoyed over the years between our county and our city,” said council member David Wilson.
Johnson suggested she was skeptical about Cobb’s and Jones’ position that the county could walk away from the FM 150 East project. She noted the rerouted road is one component of a $29.6 million package of improvements the Texas Department of Transportation and Hays County plan along Interstate 35 in Kyle including the construction of a new frontage road and making frontage roads one-way.
“I don’t know how plausibly we can take that as a threat. … It is unclear if TxDOT will allow the frontage road project to be let out without the FM 150” rerouting, Johnson said.
Despite the generally appeasing tone of Tuesday’s discussion, there were still flashes of resentment.
At one point, council member Becky Selberra said she thought the city got the “short end of the stick” in the proposed amended FM 150 East agreement. Then City Manager Lanny Lambert tactfully reminded her that the proposed amended agreement under consideration would save the city significantly over the form of the agreement the council approved in August 2009.
Said Lambert, “If we got the short end of the stick, we got it in August 2009, not today.”
Johnson said county officials told her, if the issues are not resolved, that they might start charging for housing Kyle inmates in the county jail and for septic system and health inspections currently conducted by the county on behalf of the city at no charge.Email | Print