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Fannin County Commissioners Court approves funding for Hwy. 121 TxDOT Improvement Project
By Allen Rich
Nov 16, 2023
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Fannin County, Texas -- Fannin County Judge Newt Cunningham presided over a regular meeting of Fannin County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, with Pct. 1 Commissioner Dale McQueen, Pct. 2 Commissioner A.J. Self and Pct. 4 Commissioner Doug Kopf present; Pct. 3 Commissioner Jerry Magness was absent.

The meeting opened with an invocation by Bob Williams, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Trenton, and pledges were led by USMC veteran Rebecca Crowley.

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Judge Cunningham introduced Daniel Perry, an area engineer with Texas  Department of Transportation.

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In public forum, Cindy Godbey addressed the court to create awareness of a remarkable local program called Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World, an eye-opening, 16-week workshop that takes the classmates -- called "investigators" -- on a problem solving, step-by-step discovery process of self-reflection and path to a better future.

Ms. Godbey said that, since its inception in 2019, the program has 55 graduates to its credit and nine new graduates will be recognized December 10, 2023.

Godbey said graduates are reporting better employment and improved credit scores.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved payment of bills totaling $317,308.17; payroll was $298,106.59.

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Commissioners Court approved minutes from a regular meeting held August 8, 2023 and a special meeting on August 8, 2023.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court approved the Auditor Monthly Reports for October 2023.

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Report of monies received by the District Clerk’s Office for October 2023: $23,547.61.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court recognized Continuing Education hours for District Clerk April Gibbs per Government Code, §51.605; 20 hours required, 46 hours completed. 

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Discussion, consideration and action items

Fannin County Commissioners Court canvassed results of the November 7, 2023 election.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted 4-0 to approve a resolution regarding Fannin County’s intent to provide 1% of the funding needed for the Highway 121 TxDOT Improvement Project.

The City of Bonham has also announced its intent to provide 1% of the funding for a project estimated to cost $155 million if it was started now.

"Hwy. 121 is going to be the primary lifeline for our county," Judge Cunningham stated, calling the county's eventual contribution, estimated at $1.55 million in today's dollars, an "investment and not an extravagance."

Pct. 2 Commissioner A.J. Self said improving safety on Hwy 121 is his primary concern. 

Due to the competitive nature of the TxDOT bidding process, Judge Cunningham said it is imperative that Fannin County's representatives in Austin get behind this project.

This resolution to participate does not guarantee this project become a higher priority, but TxDOT currently has this penciled in for eight years from now -- January 2032 -- and contributions from Fannin County and the City of Bonham could significantly speed up the timeline.

This project will be voted on in August 2024 by Texas Transportation Commission, and it will likely be years before contracts are let, but Commissioner Dale McQueen discussed the process to budget $400,00 annually for the next four years in order to have funds available when the  project eventually gets the green light.

Cunningham believes it will be years before the city and county have to write this check, and that amount of time should allow the entities to prepare.

When questioned about how this could affect the county tax rate, Judge Cunningham predicted that revenue coming from new growth in the county would cover this disbursement.

Of the ever-increasing traffic on Hwy. 121, the county's primary artery into the metroplex, Cunningham said, "We've got a problem there and we need a solution." 

The county judge called the highway "dangerous."

Grayson County resident Jerry Chapman once remarked that if you are in Melissa, Texas at 7:00 a.m., the traffic pouring onto U.S. looks like they are evacuating Fannin County.

Daniel Perry, an area engineer with Texas Department of Transportation and Jay Hodge, presiding officer of the Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority attended the regular meeting of Fannin County Commissioners Court.

Mr. Hodge called this a textbook project for a Regional Mobility Authority, TxDOT,  and the primary city and county. The county/city contributions tells TxDOT that this is an important project, Hodge added.

"No decisions have been made about design," Mr. Perry noted, pointing out a critical need to improve traffic flow in Trenton and also study the safest and most expeditious flow for traffic coming into Bonham on Hwy. 121 to get to U.S.  82.

TxDOT will put together options and present those to stakeholders at future meetings.

"That's going to be part of the process," Perry told the court.

One resident said he hoped TxDOT will ensure that proper construction will result in a better highway than U.S. 82 between Bonham and Sherman; another resident urged commissioners to be wary of the final financial commitment associated with this project; a third resident expressed concern about appropriate compensation when right-of-way is purchased.

"Right now, I think it is the right thing to do," Judge Cunningham opined. "It is an investment, not an expenditure. I think it will save lives." 

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted 4-0 to approve Recreational Vehicle (RV) Park Regulations for Fannin County, Texas .

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted 4-0 to update RV Regulations; (a) correct spelling and grammatical errors (b) under Section 6, Fees, add Application fee of $150.00 plus $20.00 per lot, change $40.00 inspection fee to $80.00 and add $4.00 per additional page for filing the Certificate of Compliance with the County Clerk.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted 4-0 to approve Regulations for Sexually Oriented Businesses in the Unincorporated Areas of Fannin County, Texas

One resident told the court she feels the regulations have a "ton of loopholes" and asked about the procedure to get this issue on the ballot.

The county judge said that procedure generally requires accumulating the appropriate number of registered voters' signatures on petitions.

"I have tried to come up with regulations that are enforceable and won't get blown up in court," Judge Cunningham stated. 

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted 4-0 to update Regulations for Sexually Oriented Businesses in the Unincorporated Areas of Fannin County; (a) correct spelling and grammatical errors (b) under Section IV(y), change 2,000 feet to two (2) miles and under Section VIII(b)(11) change 2,000 feet to two (2) miles. 

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Fannin County Commissioners Court renewed the Case Logging Enforcement and Activity Reporting (CLEAR) 36-month contract with Thomson Reuters for the district attorney office; $439.11 for first year, 461.07 for the second year and 484.12 for the third year.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted to set a speed limit of 30 m.p.h. on CR 2520 in the unincorporated area of Bonham.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court voted to move $471.67 from CARES funding (413-413-3160) to Employee Banquet Awards (100-510-3160).

Commissioner Self noted that the banquet will be catered by Luna Azul and hoped to advertise this event earlier next year in order to allow more local businesses to bid.

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Discussion items

Judge Cunningham said details are still being ironed out as Fannin County and the cities of Bonham and Leonard devise Interlocal Agreements related to development and implementation of regulations in Extraterritorial Jurisdictions (ETJ).

Open discussion items

(Open discussion items will be passed on unless discussion requested by a member of the court or a citizen.)

Regarding courthouse repairs, the county judge said, "We're making progress."

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Regarding the Justice Center, Cunningham said it will cost somewhere between $290,000 - $410,000 to demolish the old strip center and do limited demolition in the building that will house the justice center.

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Regarding the county budget and revenue sources, Cunningham reported that the Hotel Occupancy Tax may not be functional until the end of the year, but the county may be able to recoup some of that lost revenue.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court entered into executive session at 11:01 a.m. to consult with their attorney and/or to discuss personnel issues.

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Fannin County Commissioners Court reconvened in regular session to announce that no action was taken in executive session.