Sunday, November 30, 2008

"It’s beneficial to be informed of things before they become a done deal.”

County joining planning group


By Ron Maloney
The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise

SEGUIN — County commissioners voted unanimously this week to join a group they hope will gain them access to state officials planning State Highway 130 and the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Kathy Palmer, a St. Hedwig city planner and at-large member of the South Central Texas Sub-regional Planning Commission, Tuesday extended an offer to Guadalupe County that it join the group, which was established last July and so far includes as members representatives of her city, Marion and Wilson County.

Chapter 391 of the Texas Local Government Code provides cities and counties with access to state and federal planners on projects that could affect “the health, safety and general welfare” of the member communities, Palmer told commissioners.

“It allows each entity to bring its concerns or the concerns of its citizens directly to the table,” Palmer said. “This gives your community and other members of the commission the ability to coordinate with members of those government agencies.”

So far, nine of the “391 commissions” have been established around Texas. St. Hedwig decided to meet with its neighbors to try to form one when it realized state officials were planning for a Trans-Texas Corridor route that could bisect their city — and nobody at the state level had contacted St. Hedwig to discuss it.

“By law, they were supposed to come to each municipality and county government, sit down with all of us and tell us how it affected us,” Palmer said. “We’re the second-largest city in Bexar County, and TxDOT had no knowledge of that. They didn’t know who we were.”

St. Hedwig is concerned the state could take new right-of-way for the Trans-Texas Corridor, and the city wants the state to use existing rights-of-way such as Interstate 10 or Loop 1604, she said. Guadalupe County, she noted, had previously passed a resolution of concern about the Trans-Texas Corridor, which could cross the southern reaches of this county or Wilson County.

County Judge Mike Wiggins said his understanding was that the concept behind the “391 commissions” was to provide a pipeline for communication on the Trans-Texas Corridor, but the underlying legislation applied to any state or federal project with local impact. He has discussed the idea with his counterparts in other communities, he added.

“I spoke with Judge (Marvin) Quinney from Wilson County, and his belief is it’s beneficial to be informed of things before they become a done deal,” Wiggins said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Cesareo Guadarrama III asked if Staples, the county’s newest city which incorporated earlier this year over concerns about State Highway 130’s effect on their northeast Guadalupe County community, shouldn’t consider participation, as well.

Wiggins noted he’d recently attended Staples’ first city council meeting and swore in its mayor and aldermen.

“They’re going to be impacted by State Highway 130, and I think they might be able to benefit from this,” Wiggins said.

Palmer said she’d be happy to talk to Staples Mayor Eddie Daffern and the city’s aldermen.

“They can contact us,” she said. “If any entity in the region wants a place at the table, all they have to do is talk to us.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Roger Baenziger made the motion to support the planning group — and join it.

“I think this is a really good organization,” Baenziger said. Guadarrama seconded the motion and it passed 4-0, with Precinct 4 Commissioner Judy Cope absent.

Palmer recommended that, like in Wilson County, officials in Seguin consider appointing members of the court or other elected officials to lend the group a little clout.

“What we have found, particularly in the beginning, is that TxDOT tends to ignore you, if you’re not an elected official,” Palmer said.

Wiggins said commissioners would be asked to choose the county’s representatives at a future meeting.

© 2008 The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise

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