Ennis Ford Perfect Drive
Ennis Daily News

Citizens attend Ellis County Day in Austin

Ellis County officials and business leaders joined together in Austin Tuesday for what the Texas House of Representatives labeled House Bill 536, otherwise known as Ellis County Day.
More than a dozen Ennis residents loaded a bus early Tuesday morning and met with fellow Ellis County citizens at the State Capitol for a special day of meetings with Senator Kip Averitt and the Chief of Staff from Representative Jim Pitts’ office, along with tours of the Capitol and programs with officials from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Texas Lakes Trail and Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).
“We are glad to give them this opportunity to visit and tour the building,” said Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Patsy Grider about those who had not seen the Capitol. “We’ve got a real good group with us. I’m interested to see them get to ask the questions they have.”
The group from Ennis included city officials, industry representatives, individuals in the entertainment industry and representatives from banks and retail businesses.
The most anticipated event for Janice Calhoun, the Chamber of Commerce administrative assistant, was meeting Senate and House Representatives Kip Averitt and Jim Pitts. Unfortunately, she would only get half her wish. The group was informed upon arrival that Pitts was ill and would not be in attendance.
After arriving in Austin, the group was recognized in the House of Representatives Gallery and during the adoption of HR 536 was described as representing an “outstanding community.” During the presentation, 11 city and county officials of Ellis County, including Ennis Mayor Russell Thomas, Ennis Mayor Pro-tem Bob Taylor and County Judge Chad Adams, were recognized on the house floor as their neighbors and fellow residents watched from above in the gallery.
Although gathering in the Senate Gallery was scheduled next, the stop was cancelled because the group was running late and the buses were boarded again for lunch. Following lunch, the buses returned to the Capitol for a meeting with Averitt.
“I think it’s admirable you would take time out of your busy schedule to come down to the Capitol and see how things work,” said Averitt.
Averitt recapped some of the issues tackled in the last two sessions, including re-districting and revamping school finance.
“It’s an exciting process, but sometimes it is an ugly process,” said Averitt about the Senate procedure.
He called the Senate focused and hard working and said he believes this session will close with much achieved.
Despite reports stating the state government has an additional $15 billion of new revenue from the business tax, Averitt claimed that “just isn’t true.”
In reality, Averitt said, a portion of the money would be used to replace the loss of money that is a result of lowering the property tax last year. Averitt went on to explain that the state would get about $6 billion in surplus funds to use this coming year and about $3 billion of it would be put away in a “rainy day fund.”
“Three billion is a lot of money, but it doesn’t go very far for a state this big,” said Averitt in regards to the remaining money.
Following his introduction and brief talk, he opened the floor to questions. The first issue addressed why the Senate only convenes for 140 days. Averitt explained that when Texas set up the government it was still a rural, agricultural state and the Senators chose a time period to work around that would get them back home for their crops.
“It’s not a part-time job though,” said Averitt. “We work full time. We meet with people and must do our homework.”
Another concern was giving more money to state park budgets, which Averitt indicated is a “strong possibility” because of the surplus funds available.
Averitt said he had submitted Senate Bill 12, which focuses on getting older vehicles off the road in order to clear Texas air. Averitt explained that a 2000 model car gives off 30 percent more emissions than a 2009 model will.
In addressing the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor, Averitt said he expects to see some significant legislation in regards to the super-highway that is threatening to split Ellis County.
“We in the Senate feel like (the highway department is) a rogue agency,” said Averitt. “I think we are all a little put off by the Trans-Texas Corridor.”
Pitts’ Chief of Staff, who was a last-minute stand-in for the sick congressman, quickly went through a presentation highlighting what Pitts plans on doing this year. He said Pitts and his office have gotten off to a rocky start so far because of Pitts’ attempt to oust embattled Speaker of the House Craddick, but, he said, it’s been a busy session and they plan to clean up the business tax. He also addressed a question regarding the governor wanting to sell the state lottery.
“We think the lottery is doing just fine and brings in plenty of money for the state,” he said.
Following these two presentations, Ed Serna, assistant executive director of support operations for TxDOT, approached the crowd and mainly talked about the responsibilities of his organization.
Serna said besides improving and building roadways throughout the state, TxDOT provides funding to 250 community airports for runway construction and maintenance, operates two ferries, is responsible for intercoastal waterways, oversees certain billboards along right-of-ways and operates the travel centers at the state’s borders.
According to Serna, there is currently $265 million in roadway construction going on right now in Ellis County.
As payment for the brief program, Serna provided a public service announcement pleading for drivers to slow down in construction zones not just for the safety of drivers but also for the protection of TxDOT employees.
“If I could impose upon you to slow down in a construction zone, it will be safe for you and safe for our employees,” said Serna.
The only question asked of Serna was where would the route go for the Trans-Texas Corridor. Serna explained that an Environment Impact Study narrowed the route to travel east of I-35 and I-35E where it would possibly link with a loop for the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, which is labeled Loop 9.
Serna contradicted published reports saying foreign companies would not own the highway or right-of-way for the Trans-Texas Corridor. He said the company out of Spain and another out of San Antonio are presenting bids for construction that on some parts of the corridor would work together to build, and in other parts are directly competing for the project. He also said a company out of Australia might also present a bid.
“Keep in mind the right-of-ways would be owned by TxDOT and the asphalt would be made at TxDOT’s high standards,” said Serna.
Janie Headrick of the Texas Historical Commission and Jill Campbell of the Texas Lakes Trail presented the next program. The two women discussed what their organizations carry out, which includes promoting tourism through programs at events throughout the state and their website that consists of book listings, an event calendar and city and county web pages.
Headrick said Ellis County is a great county in terms of historic preservation with the courthouse and other notable elements.
The final program of the day was from David Meesey, regional water planning team leader for the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB.)
Meesey indicated Ellis County currently has a water supply of 30,000 acre-feet and if population projections for the county are correct, by 2060 we would need 80,000 acre-feet of water if something isn’t done to compensate.
Besides the threat of water demands exceeding supplies for Ellis County, he also touched on the Barnett Shale Groundwater Study that showed a rapid increase in natural gas production due to prices and improvements in hydraulic fracturing technologies. Meesey said 19 counties, including Ellis County, were studied and the water levels could drop in certain areas where drilling is taking place, but said it would be primarily in the northwest area of the state and “shouldn’t be a huge factor.”
Reactions to the day were very positive from Ennis residents. Thomas said he had a “great day” and felt it was important to show a presence and demonstrate their appreciation to Averitt and Pitts for the hard work they do.
“TxDOT touched on issues we were very concerned about,” said Thomas. “I was interested in the Texas Lakes Trail presentation as it includes a market for Ennis. They impact us very positively.”
Jess Haupt was pleased to finally see an open session of the House of Representatives.
“I thought that was very interesting,” Haupt said. “It was nice to have Senator Averitt talk to us. He seemed very concerned with our needs. TxDOT was cordial and made us feel like a part of the government process.”
“It’s important for us to show up and critique in a positive way,” said Thomas. “I love going to see the Capitol. It’s a beautiful building. I am appreciative of the business people who took off and came down here.”

Post to Twitter




Posted by on Feb 28 2007. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed

Featured Links

    Search Archive

    Search by Date
    Search by Category
    Search with Google

    Photo Gallery

    Log in


    Copyright: All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of Ennis Daily News content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Ennis Daily News. Ennis Daily News and its logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Ellis County Newspapers, Inc.

    © Ellis County Newspapers, Inc. 2019