County approves funding of road project right-of-way costs

Posted 10/29/19

Madison County Commissioners took advantage of a steep discount Monday, voting to approve the county’s share of right-of-way costs for the planned expansion of State Highway 21.

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County approves funding of road project right-of-way costs

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Madison County Commissioners took advantage of a steep discount Monday, voting to approve the county’s share of right-of-way costs for the planned expansion of State Highway 21.

As reported earlier this month, the Texas Transportation Committee declared the county qualifies under the agency’s Economically Disadvantaged County Program, which steeply reduces the county’s financial obligations for state road projects.

The county was originally responsible for $1.45 million for the Highway 21 widening, but the final figure approved by commissioners Monday totaled $566,943. The funds will be paid over a five-year period with no interest.

Texas counties normally pay for 10% of right-of-way acquisition costs, but the TTC reduced Madison County’s share for all fiscal year 2020 projects by 61%, leaving the county with a 3.9% effective rate.

Madison County had already seen the discount in action, with funds for a right-of-way acquisition for a bridge replacement on SH 21 at the Trinity River, where the county abuts Houston County. Instead of the $5,462 the county would have paid under the old structure, it fulfilled it’s financial share for around $2,100.

The planned widening of Highway 21 from the Navasota River to just Trinity St. is a priority project for the Texas Department of Transportation. The construction is slated to begin in 2021.

TxDOT also has plans to build a loop around the south side of the city – from FM 1452, circling around to rejoin 21 400-500 yards past Buc-Ee’s -- but that project will not begin until after completion of the Highway 21 project, or around 2025.

TxDOT will hold a public meeting Nov. 12 at the Truman Kimbro Convention Center in Madisonville to get public input on the southern relief route.

According to a legal notice this week from TxDOT, the proposed project would provide two 12-foot wide travel lanes in each direction separated by a grassy median.

Travel lanes would be bounded by four-foot wide inside and 10-foot wide outside shoulders, creating a proposed right-of-way along the route between 250 and 500 feet wide.

The loop would have ramps to access SH 90 and SH75, and a new bridge over Interstate 45.

In other moves Monday, commissioners renewed an inter local agreement to provide a regional public defender for capital cases at a cost of $14,830. The program, which provides many counties access to a public defender for such cases, has been part of the county’s operations for five or six years, according to County Judge Tony Leago.

“This is like an insurance policy,” Leago said. “Frankly, a capital case in this county could bankrupt us.

“This is kind of like a storm shelter; you pray you never have to use it.”

Commissioners also requested that bidders for two water heaters at the county jail be re-approached for more detailed quotes after a large disparity in the bids caused doubt that all bids were equal in scope.

Capt. Larry Shiver told commissioners that three bidding companies walked through the facility to gauge needs, but the difference in resulting quotes was staggering. Bids ranged from $11,000 to $27,000.

“We were surprised by the disparity of bids,” Shiver said. The highest bid, from Affordable Plumbing Co. specified commercial grade water heaters, a detail absent from lower bids.

“One thing I might suggest is maybe get ‘apples for apples’ quotes,” Leago told Shiver.

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