Grayson County Commissioners recently spent some time meeting with representatives from the Texas Department of Transportation and the county’s financial experts to discuss items on the county’s thoroughfare plan and the possibility of issuing debt to get county projects started.
By the time the 45-minute meeting ended, commissioners had talked about a number of different ways the county could contribute to needed road projects in the area, including those related to U.S. Highway 75. County Judge Bill Magers solicited information from TxDot Paris District Engineer Noel Paramanantham that showed the agency responsible for highways in Texas has more than $105 billion worth of work to do, but only around $70 billion in funds to pay for it all.
Asked how Grayson County could get its projects moved up on the list of items that need to be done, Paramanantham said TxDOT is looking for communities that can help pay for the projects that they want to see done.
Magers reminded the group that TxDOT has dedicated $161 million to making improvements to a stretch of U.S. Highway 75 from FM 1417 to State Highway 91, known as the GAP and the Highway 75/82 interchange. However, he said, that money comes with a catch in the form of a $12.75 million match.
Magers said the county’s thoroughfare plan is in the process of being considered by the local cities and towns.
“TxDOT and state money are going to flow to those areas that have plans,” Magers said, explaining it is critical that the communities can show their plans and a method for paying for them to TxDOT.
Magers showed the commissioners a list of projects from the county’s plan, including the GAP and the Hwy. 75/82 interchange and said that they would, all together, cost $194,623,360. He said $127,919,560 or 68 percent of that money could come from TxDOT and another $35,349,462 or 18 percent can come from the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization. The county would pay $21,623,170 and the rest of the cities and towns would be asked to pay $9,731,168 or 5 percent.
Magers said TxDOT is going to require advanced funding agreements to be in place before the projects can begin.
“One of the things that we need to do is align our funding with the TxDOT levies,” Magers said.
He said the county must also get the cooperation of all of the area’s smaller cities so they can secure right of way properties. Magers said the county is in good financial shape and proposed that it take on a little bit of debt to get those projects under way.
He said one cent of property tax at 3 percent interest rate over 20 years will finance $10 million. Magers proposed that the commissioners break the bond purchase up into two phases to take advantage of some costs savings.
The plans proposed Tuesday did not call for the county to have a bond election. Rather, Dave Gordon of Estrada Hinojosa, said the county could issue certificates of obligation. He suggested that commissioners do two issuances, one with $10 million and then another near the same amount.
“In terms of the financial impact to the county, it is negligible,” Magers said.
While Grayson County Auditor Richey Rivers said the county is certainly in healthy enough financial shape to be able to handle such a plan, not everyone was immediately on board.
Grayson County Commissioner Phyllis James said the people in her precinct are likely to look at that list and say there isn’t a lot on there for them. She said those folks are more likely to drive to other counties to shop than they are to come into Sherman where they would drive on the improved roads.
Those people, James said, look at all of the white-rock roads in her precinct and think if the county is going to take on debt to fix roads, it ought to be theirs.
Others in the meeting pointed out that improving the roads in Sherman and Denison makes the county a stronger contender for new businesses and for the expansion of current businesses. That, they reasoned, means a broad tax base for everyone.
Commissioners did not reach a consensus about what they are going to do at the meeting and will discuss the matter further in the future.