2018 a year of yes, no, ups and downpours

The pasture west of Madisonville has become a lake as saturated ground could not absorb the more than 7 inches of rain that was dumped in the area.
The pasture west of Madisonville has become a lake as saturated ground could not absorb the more than 7 inches of rain that was dumped in the area.
Meteor photo by Tony Farkas

The year that was 2018 was a wet one, and it even went out with a storm.

Last week’s downpour dropped a little more than 5 inches, and it put the month at 8 3/4 inches of rain for December, which normally averages just under 4 inches.

That storm was indicative of the year, as several times Madison County was pummeled by the elements.

In March, which normally averages about 3.26 inches of precipitation, a storm on the 27th and 28th dumped right at 8 inches of rain in the area. Additionally, lightning strikes started fires throughout the county, including one at an oil well site.

Then in October, the skies opened again, this time pouring 15 inches on the saturated ground.

All this water left roads damaged, culverts washed out, creeks and rivers full to overflowing and, in both cases, the county was declared a disaster area.

Here are some other significant stories from 2018.

The festival that almost wasn’t

The annual Texas Mushroom Festival, which has run for 18 years, almost didn’t make it.

The newly elected governing board for the festival on March 6 voted to put the event on hiatus for a year, citing a lack of volunteers.

However, once word got out that the festival was cancelled, townspeople stepped up en masse and filled most all of the necessary positions.

One week later, on March 13, the board came together again, and voted to put the festival back on track.

So on Oct. 13, Madisonville celebrated all things mushroom, and put the fun back in fungi.

County hopes TSR becomes TSR not

In February, the Federal Rail Administration held a public hearing regarding a proposed high-speed train that will ferry passengers between Houston and Dallas, the route of which will come through the heart of Madison County.

Most hands were raised by Madison County residents when asked who opposed a high-speed rail bisecting the county, and residents spoke overwhelmingly against the Texas Central plan to build a rail connecting Dallas and Houston, the route of which comes through several counties, including Grimes, Madison and Leon.

The objections covered a variety of topics, such as uprooting historical cemeteries, environmental damage, loss of income, health and even property values.

For hours, residents questioned the FRA about the financing of the project, passenger estimates and the overall feasibility of the project.

Two county commissioners, Thomas Collard and Carl Cannon, expressed their opposition to the rail.

Collard said, "It sucks what you're going to do to these people. You're going to destroy a lot of lives."

He said the county passed a resolution several years ago against the project, and will stand behind it to the end.

Carl Cannon said he was extremely concerned about property taxes in the county.

"For the last three years, we did not raise taxes, but I feel this will cost a lot of money and will force us to raise taxes in the future," he said. "I'm against this."

Kyle Workman, president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail, said people just are not for this project, which is evident by the turnout at meetings in numerous counties.

"It doesn't matter if you're in Madison County, or Leon County, or Grimes or Dallas, the impact is the same: you get no benefit, and you get your land and your life decimated," Workman said.

While the hearing dealt mostly with a draft environmental impact study that has been performed, negative comments attacked the economics, routing and most importantly, land acquisition through eminent domain.

Travis Kelly, vice president of external affairs for Texas Central, said the turnout in Madisonville has been strong, as it has been in other meetings scheduled in the area, and provides his company with an opportunity to listen to the people the rail would affect.

"That's the nature of these meetings; these comments are for the FRA to listen to and respond to," he said. "Through this kind of public input, it better informs the planning process, and makes us aware of the many concerns."

The FRA, while it showed support for a particular route, could tweak the plans based on feedback received at meetings like this, he said. FRA representatives did not answer any questions posed at the meeting; Kelly said that the questions will be answered only in the final draft of the environmental study.

Election reversal

While the country, and to a lesser extent the state, was at odds during the election season, locally, things were decided early, and all in the Republican Party.

Many of the races were decided in the February 2018 primary election; however, because candidates in the county judge, Precinct 4 county commissioner and Justice of the Peace Position 1 did not garner 50.1 percent of the vote, runoffs were scheduled for May.

In the primary election, incumbent County Judge C.E. “Butch” McDaniel led the six candidates with 586 votes. He was followed by Midway Mayor Tony Leago with 452 votes. The two were to face off in the May 22 runoff.

When the votes were tallied, the tables had turned. Leago ended up with 690 votes, while McDaniel managed only 525.

In the other runoff elections, David Pohorelsky became the new Precinct 4 county commissioner, and Steven Cole became the Position 1 JP.