• 73°

Cities, County differ status of 299 Loop

By Dawn Burleigh

dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com

 

Building the 299 Loop is not the issue, but instead who is to pay for the project.

Vidor Mayor Robert Viator said he does not feel the county should fund the project if TxDOT wants to proceed forward with construction.

“Citizens within incorporated areas are seeing diminishing services provided by the county,” Viator said during the Tuesday morning Orange City Council meeting. “”Citizens are being asked to pay twice for services.”

Viator used the county jail as an example.

“Citizens pay taxes for the jail and if a person is housed there for a municipal warrant, the entity has to pay $50 a day,” Viator said. “The County’s policies are part of the reason we are seeing blighter areas in the cities as viable residents are moving to unincorporated areas.”

Orange City Council in a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Wayne Guidry abstaining from the vote, passed a resolution opposing Orange County, Texas financing, either in part or in full, the roadway at the present time.

“I feel we are getting into someone else’s business,” Guidry said prior to the vote. “I elect my commissioner to represent me and to make those tough decisions.”

Orange County Commissioner Barry Burton also attended the city council meeting.

“We are two months away from an economic study,” Burton said when concerns were mentioned the county could make a decision before the council would meet again.

During Orange County Commissioners Tuesday afternoon meeting, the Loop was on the agenda.

Strategic Planning and Program Development, Inc. A. Scott Young J.D., P.E. spoke before the court concerning how the project became available at this time.

“In 2011, there was a call for projects for funding,” Young said. “There was an alternate list if and when there were available funds. TxDOT has moved to the alternate list.”

The next step of the project is to go before TxDOT Commission to authorize to move forward on the project.

Moving forward would create the information needed to make a decision as to build or not to build as the cost of the roadway could then be generated.

“This will give us the funding numbers without obligation to the project, correct,” Burton asked Young.

Young said the responsibility would come back to the county to decide.

“If you decide you don’t want to do it the project does not go forward,” Young said. “After the pass thru agreement, then you will have the information to make a decision.”

Crump also asked for conformation the agreement was not binding at this stage.

The court approved the pass thru agreement for the 299 Loop.

While officials seek further information concerning funding of the roadway, citizens had mixed opinions on the project.

“The road is in the flood plan,” President, Big Thicket Natural Heritage Trust Ellen Buchanan told the court during citizens comments. “Do some homework. Look at Hayes County. The taxes went up and the TxDOT payment is not enough to pay the loan. Look in depth at other roadways, not just one or two.”

Gene Smith of Vidor believes the road will have a positive economical impact in Vidor.

“It is not going to cost us any money,” Smith said. “In five years, there will be 50 new businesses. There is more traffic on 105 than on Hwy. 87 or 62. The schools will benefit. I thank you for finally having the guts to vote for that end of the county.”

A Vidor business owner said an increase in taxes would force him to close his business.

“I am for the loop but not for more taxes,” the business owner said. “We are watching our wallets and need you to watch our wallets too.”

Shawn Sparrow said he was concerned with business retention.

“How many cars will the Loop take off the main street,” Sparrow said. “This could kill Vidor.”

The roadway could impact wetlands and wildlife in the area.

Sharon Odegar said the funds were not feasible for the roadway.

“The roadway would create a levy bringing equal opportunity for all to flood,” Odegar said. “If the county can’t take care of employees, how can it take care of this?”