"We do not understand the necessity of such an immense project that would so negatively impact the most precious resource that this State has."
By BARRY HALVORSON
After an extended debate, Wharton County Commissioners decided to go "old school" in passing an updated resolution opposing the construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor.
The resolution passed during Friday's special called meeting of the court ended up being a clarified and more concise version of the resolution passed by the commissioners at their Sept. 13, 2004 meeting.
The commissioners eliminated one of the "whereas" paragraphs dealing with "outmoded technology" that even the resolution's original author, Precinct 2 Commissioner Chris King, could not explain. The resolution also added wording saying the corridor would "destroy local historical sites " and "increase pollution" and stated the cost would now be "in excess of 184 billion dollars."
The revamped resolution was passed instead of a new resolution prepared by King for the meeting. While covering some of the same topics, other members of the court opposed some of the new wording, including a specific reference to "Chinese imported goods" and a statement that the concerns and opinions of many Texans have been ignored by "the governor, his hand picked Transportation Commissioners and TxDOT officials," thus creating an atmosphere of public distrust.
Commissioner Mickey Reynolds offered the strongest objection to the proposed resolution, saying the county still needs to work with the state and other transportation groups.
"I've been at the table with these guys for the past 11 years fighting this," he said. "And we still need to have a solution. If we don't stay at the table, we won't have any say in this and they'll put it where they want it."
He added that local resistance along with negative commentary has resulted in "the Wharton County Commissioners becoming a laughing-stock around the state."
Precinct 3 Commissioner Philip Miller also objected to some of the more inflammatory wording. He favored something less aggressive that could be passed to other counties, in hopes of "every county in the state passing a resolution" opposing the corridor.
Several members of the audience along with King cited problems with a resolution passed by the city of El Campo and a proposed resolution that will be before the Wharton City Council this coming Monday night, which make reference to the I-69 initiative. Cedric Popp of the El Campo area and Glen Flora/Spanish Camp area resident Garland Berry both said wording that supports the I-69 project could be used by lawyers to indicate local support for the TTC because it has become so closely identified I-69.
"They don't know our dissatisfaction," Berry said. "Anything other than 'We oppose it' can be construed as support … I don't want to give them that."
The revised resolution, as approved, now states:
Whereas, House Bill 3588 was passed which gave the Transportation Commission the authority to create the Trans-Texas Corridor, and
Whereas the Trans-Texas Corridor is the Governor's vision of interstate transportation corridors which would traverse Texas, and
Whereas, each corridor could be as much as a quarter mile wide with multiple vehicle lanes and train transportation and right-of-way property within the corridor, and
Whereas, if the Trans-Texas Corridor was built it would negatively affect rural Texas, splitting farms and ranches, uproot wildlife, destroy local historical sites, have a negative impact on the local economy and would increase pollution, and
Whereas the placement of concentrated resource conveyances in the corridor will better enable terrorists to attack these resources and disable them, especially in remote areas, and
Whereas the entire cost of the project is estimated to be in excess of 184 billion dollars, and
Whereas, we do not understand the necessity of such an immense project that would so negatively impact the most precious resource that this State has, Therefore, be it resolved that the Wharton County Commissioners Court goes on record in opposition to the building of the Trans-Texas Corridor.