By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
A proposed roundabout at the intersection of FM 1010 and Old Plum Grove Road could alleviate traffic and improve safety, so Liberty County Commissioners Court on March 12 authorized County Attorney Matthew Poston to enter into negotiations with the landowners for rights-of-way.
“There are some interested parties who are willing to donate property to the state for the purpose of a roundabout. We’ve spoken to some of the landowners there. There is one particular landowner who does not want to sell even though the offer has been exceedingly generous, in my opinion,” said Poston.
According to Poston, Colony Ridge developer Trey Harris has offered to pay for the rights-of-way needed for the roundabout as it would take traffic off of Old Plum Grove and Paul Campbell Loop, the result of the thousands of new residents moving into the Colony Ridge communities south of Plum Grove.
“We are in a situation where we can use our eminent domain power to purchase the property and compensate the owner. We would be purchasing just the first 150 feet,” Poston said. “The property owner was offered quite a bit of money for it but has refused. If he is thinking about it commercially, he still has all this other land to develop. This property will only increase in value.”
Eminent domain is a tactic used by state and government entities to create or build a project that benefits the greater good of a community. In this case, the community of Plum Grove would likely benefit from the roundabout as it is considered a safer alternative to intersections.
The proposed roundabout, also called a traffic circle, would have four entrance points – Old Plum Grove Road, FM 1010 (Plum Grove Road), FM 2090 and a thoroughfare on the east side being developed by Colony Ridge. All the traffic on the roundabout would move in a counterclockwise fashion, entering and exiting as needed.
Colony Ridge developer Trey Harris said Wednesday that the Texas Department of Transportation appears to be on board with the plans.
“They say if we get all the rights-of-way to let them know. They are coming out on March 20 to look at the location,” Harris said.
As for who would pay for the construction of the roundabout, Harris said that will be up to TxDOT.
“I am not sure if TxDOT will want me to pay for some of it or if they are willing to assist,” he said. “We are willing to work with the county, city of Plum Grove, TxDOT and the property owners to make this a safer intersection.”
According to the Liberty County Central Appraisal District, Poston said, the 150 feet of the property needed for the rights-of-way is valued at $15,000.
Commissioners voted 4-0 to allowing Poston to continue with negotiations.
In other business, the county is nearly ready to pull the plug on its former data management software, NetData, and switch over entirely to the new provider, Tyler Technologies. April 23’s payment will be the last to NetData, County Auditor Dwayne Gott said.
“At the end of April, we will be running a dual payroll with Tyler and NetData to work out any kinks,” Gott said. “By the May 14 court, we will be all swapped over. There will be a lot of stuff to do to bring everyone on gradually.”
The switch to Tyler Technologies has caused commissioners to pump the brakes on contracting for bank services until they can be sure there are no problems with the software. Every four years, the county contracts with a local bank based on the most favorable rates. Currently the county’s contract is with Prosperity Bank, but the contract is set to expire on May 31.
The commissioners agreed to accept bids, due by April 2, and postpone a decision if it proves to be necessary as a result of the software switch.
In other business, the county made changes to its employee handbook to reduce personal leave time for employees. Prior to Tuesday, the handbook allowed employees to take as long as six months of personal leave time.
“Six months is a very long time to not have an employee in a position,” said County Treasurer Kim Harris, who also is the county’s human resources director.
Commissioners agreed and voted to reduce the leave time to 12 weeks.
The court also approved an agreement with the City of Kenefick for repairs to CR 643. Pct. 4 Commissioner Leon Wilson, in whose precinct the county road falls, explained that CR 643 is a very short road in poor condition that runs behind the old Simmons Store.
The commissioners also accepted a $75,000 grant for an airboat that could be used in swift-water rescues. The boat will be housed in buildings operated by Pct. 3 Road and Bridge.
Commissioners approved preliminary and final plats for two residential developments. One plat by B.J. Johnson is for three residential lots on FM 163, also known as Tarkington School Road. Each of the three properties will be approximately five acres with 200 feet of frontage road.
Pct. 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur said the development on CR 163 will be brick-and-stick homes.
The second plat is for three lots on CR 2009 in Hardin. Commissioners were unaware of the type of development being planned for those lots but the plat met all of the county’s development requirements and was approved.