UPDATE: After this story posted, Bluebonnet News was notified that CR 5000 also was opened Tuesday evening.
County workers for Pct. 3 made a surprise trip to Plum Grove Tuesday afternoon to remove barricades that blocked access to CR 3479 and CR 5017, both off of Paul Campbell Loop, after the County received a legal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton authorizing the removal of the barricades and the mounds of aggregate that were placed in the intersections by contract workers for the City of Plum Grove.
On Aug. 17, Plum Grove City Council unanimously approved closing the two intersections, which blocked traffic from the Colony Ridge subdivisions south of the city, while the City purportedly made repairs to city streets. City leaders, led by Mayor Lee Ann Penton Walker, contended that the intersections were never authorized by Council prior to being built by the developer, Colony Ridge.
“The Attorney General told the County that we have the authority and duty to remove any obstructions on county roads. We have determined that the obstructions were clearly outside of city limits and were county roads that had been accepted previously by the County,” said County Attorney Matthew Poston.
The AG opinion prepared by Ryan M. Vassar, Deputy Attorney General for Legal Counsel, cites Chapter 251 of the Texas Transportation Code, and states that Plum Grove lacks jurisdiction over the property on which the obstructions were located.
“Accordingly, insofar as these two county roads are public roads subject to Chapter 251, the County must remove any obstructions on the roads,” Vassar wrote.
The removal of the barricades came after an emergency meeting by Liberty County Commissioners Court on Tuesday morning during which commissioners discussed legal remedies for the barricaded county roads.
While tensions have been steadily building in the Plum Grove community and the neighboring Colony Ridge communities, the situation came to a head on Sunday after three people were arrested – one for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon – following a confrontation over the barricaded roads.
“The County is very concerned about the volatility of the situation. We want to see peace,” said Poston.
One barricaded road – CR 5000 – remains closed for now, and Poston said it will likely involve litigation with the City of Plum Grove. Commissioners on Tuesday authorized Poston to secure legal counsel to represent the County.
When asked how much the legal battle will cost the County, Poston said any estimate would be pure speculation.
“It will not come cheap. We could be spending money more productively to find a solution, but instead the County is having to hire an attorney,” he said.
The reopening of CR 5000 is different from the other two roads because it has not been formally accepted by county commissioners as a county road.
While not specifically discussing CR 5000, Poston said the process for the County accepting a road first requires the county’s engineering firm, LJA, to first pass inspection on the construction of a road. Once engineers sign off on it, county commissioners must agree to oversee maintenance of the road.
CONDITION OF PLUM GROVE STREETS CAUSE CONCERN FOR CLEVELAND ISD
Cleveland ISD Superintendent Chris Trotter spent several hours on Labor Day going over the logistics of new bus routes that were the result of the closure the three intersections in Plum Grove.
There are 20 school buses running four routes per day to serve the families of Plum Grove. While the two now-opened intersections will make it somewhat easier to bus children to and from school, Trotter is concerned about the additional wear and tear on the school buses as they are still being forced to detour around CR 5000, a wide boulevard that leads east and then south into the Colony Ridge communities. Taking CR 5000, located at the beginning of Plum Grove Road, allows the buses to miss some of the most heavily-damaged part of Plum Grove streets, some of which were significant damage caused by recent floods and a lack of maintenance.
“There’s about a one-mile stretch here where it tears up springs, front ends, back ends and tires, so we are struggling with that,” Trotter said. “So now we have to divert all the buses that would have taken CR 5000, which the City closed over the weekend, down Plum Grove Road. This is going to increase bus travel, which will increase mileage, which will increase fuel consumption, and then there is the potential for kids getting home from school late.”