After much discussion at the regular scheduled meeting March 22, 2011, Chambers County Commissioners approved entering into a Pass-Through Toll Project with TxDOT for the extension of FM1409. The 50 million dollar project will open vacant land for development from Old River to Cove. Precinct 2 Commissioner Gary Nelson explained that the north side of the road and a bridge are included in the first phase and 13 pipelines are in the second phase.

TxDOT will pay the cost of labor on the project and reimburse approximately 20 million dollars to Chambers County. Construction schedules indicate completion in the first quarter of 2013 with construction to begin in 2011. Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia noted that borrowing is inevitable for the county, but interest rates are low right now.

Chambers County Auditor Jerry Sparks discussed concerns over borrowing over 30 million dollars. Sparks explained that he would recommend the loan be made in phases as the need for the funds by the project arise. Sparks also reminded the court that Chambers County had over 30 million in debt when he became County Auditor. The current debt is approximately 6 million. There was considerable discussion regarding debt payments in tiers to better manage the County budget.

The toll road will pay back 25 cents per vehicle on the first section. The County will actually receive more funds from tolls per car if only the first section is constructed because more sections reduce the amount received per car.

Also was discussed was the possibility of the County building the road and not entering into the toll project. Chambers County Engineer Don Brandon stated that County roads are built as two lane, with no shoulder and the cost for the same road would be approximately 20 million dollars to the County. There would be no overpasses included. The TxDOT road will have shoulders and overpasses.

Although 85% of the tax base of the county is on the west side there are not many county roads on the west side. Precinct 1 Commissioner Rusty Senac stated that there should be no doubt that the project is good for Chambers County, but he wants more information on the how the financial picture is affected over the next 20 years.

 

Judge Sylvia summed up all the discussion in one statement, “We never want to increase our taxes one penny, but as the County grows, we have to grow with it.”