Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"I challenge anyone to show how the possible benefits of the TTC can offset the losses that we will certainly see."

County backs community efforts against Trans-Texas Corridor

February 26, 2008

The Daily Sentinel
Nacodoches Daily Sentinel
Copyright 2008

The Nacogdoches County commissioners court voted Tuesday to support numerous community members who have recently turned out in droves opposing the proposed I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor by adopting a resolution against the project.

The resolution is expected to be sent to the Texas Department of Transportation and to the governor's office. (See the resolution against TTC-69 here)

Precinct 4 Commissioner Tom Strickland said that it's apparent most people in Nacogdoches County approved of the original project — a standard Interstate roadway. But now most are opposed to the large TTC structure.

145th District Court Judge Campbell Cox II submitted a map that showed several oil and gas wells that would have to be capped off, should the corridor be built.

"Should the TTC be built along the 'recommended preferred corridor,' then some or all of the 13 oil and gas wells in Nacogdoches County that lie in its path will need to be plugged and paved over," Cox said. "In 2007, (according to Sonara Resources, a local oil and gas company) the 13 wells produced a substantial amount of oil and gas. The royalty owners who own the mineral interest in those wells ... received $1.5 million in 2007 alone."

Cox said not only do the owners receive the benefits, but so do the local businesses who sell products and services to the oil and gas companies.

"This money is deposited in our banks and spent at our stores and businesses," Cox said. "This generates sales tax revenues four our city. If these wells are paved over by this super highway, the money they produce evaporates."

He also addressed the ad valorem taxes the wells generate, adding that the money provides revenue for the Woden, Martinsville and Nacogdoches school districts and the county as a whole. Cox pointed out that the wells produced almost $200,000 in ad valorem taxes in 2007, which does not include the taxes paid on the land the wells are on.

"If this part of the tax base is confiscated for the TTC, the only way to make up for it will be to raise tax rates for everyone," Cox said.

"This will hurt, not help, the economy of Nacogdoches County," he added. "I challenge anyone to show how the possible benefits of the TTC can offset the losses that we will certainly see."

Two other members of the community addressed the commissioners court on the TTC project.

Nolan Alders said he recently traveled the roads to see how he could get his timber products to a mill should the TTC be built.

"I will have to take my timber 7 miles out of the way to get there and 7 miles out of the way back," Alders said. "So my added expense to take my timber to market is $56 a load."

He said he has taken it upon himself to research information on the proposed corridor, and he's talked to several people about the project.

"I've asked several people to give me one economic benefit for the corridor. So far, I have not gotten one suggestion (that shows) in any way it will help us," Alders said. "I was born and raised in Nacogdoches, so it's my intent to be helpful to my city and county."

Alders said that Texas is the only state who has this "monstrosity" planned, and the rail lines planned to run along the Interstate may not even be needed, because upgrades to current railroad lines are being planned so more truck traffic and tankers can be taken off the roads and transported by the railroads.

"I do feel like we are going to have to upgrade some of the roads we have," Alders said. "But we don't need the Trans-Texas Corridor."

Property-owner Larry Shelton said he has a strong interest in the TTC project and has attended some of the town hall meetings held recently regarding the super highway.

"My property is located in the preferred corridor route, so I am a stakeholder in this project and certainly stand to lose all that I have as my personal property and home," Shelton said. "There are two issues to discuss here. One is the TTC, and the other is the upgrade of (U.S.) 59 to an interstate. Either way, it's pretty certain something is going to happen."

Shelton suggested the court appoint a person in a local leadership role to be a sort of "local expert" to gather information. He also suggested that someone be involved at the state level to research the state mandates, which authorize the TTC, and to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect Nacogdoches County's interests.

"We need to be proactive and say what our interests are and what is a good outcome for us," Shelton said

The commissioners court approved the resolution unanimously, and Strickland commended "those in the community who have dedicated the time and effort to take a stand on this."

For more information, blog updates, stories and maps about the TTC, visit www.dailysentinel.com/ttc.

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