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County bond passes by slim margin

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Commissioners Court prepares for next step
ERIC CORNELISON
Editor
ELLIS COUNTY - After all the bickering between supporters and opponents of the $53.875 million bond package, the Ellis County voters finally got their chance to speak by saying yes to the bond.

With almost 7,000 votes cast across the county, the bond narrowly passed with 3,682 (53.2 percent) for and 3,245 (46.8 percent) against.

This vote finally closes this chapter on the future of the courts, administrative and jail buildings along with where they will be located.

It also provides the commissioners with a vote of confidence after so many difficulties in the past.

'I am really humbled by the trust that the citizens have placed in us and I am sure the commissioners feel the same way,' said County Judge Chad Adams. 'We are committed to upholding that trust.

'We will continue to build on that trust throughout this process by working to be as transparent as we can be and to encourage public input in the decisions that have to be made along the way.'

One commissioner shared a similar statement.

'The next step will be for us to make the process as transparent as possible,' said Dennis Robinson, Commissioner Ellis County, Pct. 1. 'Prior to the election the court voted to form an oversight committee that will keep the citizens informed of the progress of the project.

'We will be meeting with the Staubach Company to discuss the planning and design phase of the project.'

There are many things which now have to be done in order to move forward on the project and Adams reiterated the work needing to be done with the Staubach Company, who seems to be playing an important role in the decisions of the court.

'The next step in the process is to issue a request for proposal for design services in order to choose an architect and get on the design,' Adams said.

'The Staubach Company is developing a detailed timeline for us which will need to be approved by the commissioners' court.'

According to Adams, there was no date set to break ground on the new buildings but said, 'In general, we hope to begin construction in 2008 with the court's building being completed late in 2009 and the jail being completed early in 2010.'

Along with the project were some financial promises the City of Waxahachie made during the decision making process.

Waxahachie promised to put up several million dollars in land, parking and road improvements depending of the passage of the bond.

'It is my hope that the City's work on its commitments will be running on a similar timeline to our work,' Adams said.

Robinson was the lone vote against placing the new facilities downtown but said, 'It is our responsibility as the commissioner's court to inform the citizens of the needs that we have for facilities, square footage, condition of buildings and additional jail beds.

'After informing the citizens of our needs it is our responsibility to present to the citizens a bond referendum and allow the voters to decide if they want to finance the project.

'I knew the election would be very close but did not know what the results would be.

'Prior to the election that regardless of whether the bond passed or failed that I would support what ever the voters decided.'

As for what will become of the old jail, Adams said, 'The court signed a resolution a few years ago protecting the 1929 jail.'

'However, the design process has yet to begin on the new facilities so the future of the jail is somewhat of an unknown quantity.' The passage of the Ellis County Emergency Services District No. 6 was approved by an even closer margin.

Less than 100 votes separated the 'yes' votes from the 'no' votes allowing the district to increase its maximum tax rate to 10-cents per $100 of assessed value. The resolution passed 319 for and 226 against.

The current tax rate for the district was 3-cents per $100 of assessed value and generated about $145,000; these funds provide training and equipment for the volunteers of the fire district.

With two fire stations and approximately 43 volunteers, the district responded to a little over 600 calls last year.

According to the district board's proclamation, the increase will only be 6-cents per $100 of assessed value through the 2008 tax year.

These added revenues will be used to build a new station in the northern-most part of the district where one was needed.

The revenues will also be used to purchase additional emergency equipment for the fire departments.

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