County commissioners handled routine business Tuesday, including receipt of money for damaged roads, and an update of the district line drawing process for two local emergency districts.
TransCanada, the Canadian-based company that built the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project through East Texas, including eastern portions of Smith County, cut an $18,000 check to pay for construction-related road damages.
On Tuesday, county commissioners approved acceptance of $18,678 from the company as part of a pre-construction agreement that TransCanada would be assessed costs associated with damages from heavy equipment and the path of the pipeline itself.
Road and Bridge Administrator Doug Nicholson said he assessed roads in the area before the company began construction and after the project’s completion. Nicholson said damages were limited to 10 county roads north of Texas Highway 64 in eastern portions of the county, including County Road 246. Around 200 feet of roadway was damaged from boring crews or heavy equipment crossing county roads to access easements.
The recouped money will go into the county’s Road and Bridge Fund as revenue.
“It appears TransCanada is doing its best to be a good neighbor,” he said. “From my part, I always appreciate industries who come into the county to do business and pay for any associated costs to do their business.”
County Commissioners also briefly discussed the district mapping process for Emergency Services Districts No. 1 and No. 2 to hold elections in November. State legislators passed a local bill creating single-member districts for the two ESDs that provide countywide fire protection for municipalities and unincorporated areas of Smith County.
The five-member board has been appointed by Smith County Commissioners since 2007.
ESD No. 1 includes Lindale Fire Department and collected less than 6 cents per $100 valuation, or $639,000, in 2012. Mendez said the 19,129 voting-age population would be divided into 3,826-person districts.
ESD No. 2 includes Arp, Bullard, Chapel Hill, Dixie, Flint-Gresham, Jackson Heights, Noonday, Red Springs, Troup, Whitehouse and Winona volunteer fire departments and collected more than $4 million from taxpayers in 2012 based on a property tax rate of 8.46 cents per $100 valuation. The district’s 82,897 voting-age population would mean 16,579-person voting districts.
Board members would be elected to four-year terms.
At a December 2013 presentation, David Mendez, an attorney for the firm hired to guide the county through the process, said drawing district lines for ESD No. 2 was easier because of the larger population numbers and that each single-member districts would not split voter precincts and follow existing political subdivisions and geographical markers closely.
Mendez said maps would also distribute fire departments and stations in a way that is representative of the district’s makeup. Drawing ESD No. 1 lines was more difficult because of the small geographical area and population, he said. An initial plan gave the city of Lindale three of the five member districts, but concerns about a city-dominated board led to a change prior to the presentation.
Resident and former ESD No. 2 board member Sharon Guthrie addressed the court Tuesday and applauded the effort to make the ESDs accountable to voters. However, she hoped district lines would reflect fair representation of constituents within the ESD boundaries.
Judge Baker said the court would hold a public hearing to receive public comment on two proposed maps in early May.
“We want to make sure the public, the firefighters and the people interested in the ESDs have an opportunity for input,” he said. “We’ll make our decision based on that input and the recommendations of outside counsel who are experienced in these processes.”