What the hey, last year Conley resurfaced Old Bumpy, a private road (by the city's accounting) up the hill from Flite Acres Road leading to the gated Summer Hills subdivision. So why not just top it off this year with a champagne toast on Flite Acres
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Update: Tuesday Sept. 1 – Public hearings on the proposed new tax rate and 2010 budget are scheduled at the county courthouse Wednesday Sept. 2, 9 a.m., Wednesday Sept. 9, 6 p.m., and Wednesday Sept. 16, 9 a.m.
By Bob Ochoa
Word's getting around that Precinct 3 County Commissioner Will Conley – who represents Wimberley, Woodcreek and some of the biggest and prettiest open stretches in Hays County – is having delusions of grandeur fit for a Saudi prince.
Some have started to wonder about his, well, strange behavior. Insiders are asking, "How many promises has Conley made?"
Is he shooting for an early lock on a third term in 2012, or setting himself up with some big donors for a shot at the county judge's seat next year? Sadly, in Hays County we have seen all too often that public service and public largess come with a price.
Commissioners court has just adopted a very tight, stripped to the bone, proposed budget for the new fiscal year, 2010. The budget will go into effect on Oct. 1, after citizens get another shot at commenting, complaining, and asking questions at a series of upcoming public hearings (see dates and times above in the update).
Last week, commissioners voted to increase the property tax rate to support the proposed budget. Conley, surprisingly enough, voted in favor of the tax hike (his very first vote for a tax increase, we believe), but lately has been out talking tough, promising constituents he intends to fight to reduce the tax rate he supported.
Here's the strange part: Conley also is promising certain constituents he will deliver on some very expensive projects, some for which there is no money earmarked in the proposed budget. We've reached a point where we're not sure if Conley's a spoiled spendthrift or a conservative bean-counting Republican. He certainly seems to enjoy playing both roles.
Here are a few cases to consider:
– Conley wants to resurface moderately traveled Flite Acres Road, not with the standard chip seal process but with high dollar asphalt. We hear the cost could run upwards of a quarter million dollars. Lucky residents. Perhaps Flite Acres Road should be renamed Little Hollywood Boulevard. The road weaves in and out of the city limits, but the impoverished City of Wimberley will not be able to help finance this deal. What the hey, last year Conley resurfaced Old Bumpy, a private road (by the city's accounting) up the hill from Flite Acres Road leading in to the gated Summer Hills subdivision. (It earned Conley a lot of new fans). So why not just top it off this year with a champagne toast on Flite Acres.
– Conley wants to widen the low water bridge on Green Acres Drive at an estimated cost of between $200,000 and $300,000. Savvy sources are saying it doesn't make sense to spend so much of the taxpayers' money to widen the bridge if it doesn't also raise the bridge to the 25-year flood stage standard. I.E., it would be a waste of our money to widen the bridge and then have to return later to raise it, let's say, after the next flash flood washes it out. So, should Conley up the ante or take a rain check on this one?
– Conley wants to spend between $200,000 and $300,000 to expand and enhance the county's dispatch system for fire departments and EMS. This one could be the Camel's Nose Under the Tent. A very excellent and long time fire chief informed the RoundUp the ideal solution would be a multi-million dollar Hays County Dispatch Center.
The quick fix would be to add a new dispatcher or two and new console or two to handle fire and EMS calls exclusively. This proposal appears to have some merit, but the problem is the money is currently not in the proposed 2010 budget. Conley may have to fight for this added expenditure and find cuts of equal amounts if he's going to stick with his pledge to reduce the tax rate.
Hays County Fire Chiefs Association vice president David Smith says a proposal has been forwarded to commissioners and that a presentation will be made at a budget workshop in September. Smith declined to discuss dollar amounts – says they're a non-profit group not subject to public information requests. He suggested we talk to our county commissioners.
Old Baptist Church is up for sale. Will the taxpayers take the bait?
We are told Conley intends to take his latest church plan to commissioners court on Sept. 15. Earth to Commissioner Conley: a) the money's not in the budget, not even for the original asking price of $2.6 million; b) a soon-to-come capital investment review will show a $5 million total price tag to purchase and rehab the old church property; c) the city has other options for a permanent city hall that offer potentially much better deals for the taxpayers, and could accommodate county offices, when and if commissioners court finally gives your church puppy a rest.
The list could go on but time is short. We've got a call in to the commissioner to help explain some of these bizarro positions of his.
We'll leave on this quick note – it's another very strange thing that has Commissioner Conley's name attached to it. Not long ago, the state highway department made a sudden road sign change along FM 3237 that surprised and angered many residents. One day the green highway sign said Red Hawk Rd. The next day, as if beamed down from space, a larger green highway sign appeared replacing Red Hawk with Woodcreek Ranch Rd. It stirred up a little hornets nest among Red Hawk residents and upset members of a nearby hilltop church, all of whom had for years instructed visitors to turn on Red Hawk.
An enterprising Red Hawk resident has set out to get to the bottom of this mysterious sign change. He has documented some interesting information. Here's part of an e-mail he recently sent around to interested parties:
1) The process for changing our road signs took place over nine months. During this time there was no notice or consultation with the residents on Red Hawk Road.
2) Will Conley was involved every step of the way, despite his apparent assurances that this was all a TXDOT project.
3) There were two residents on Woodcreek Ranch Road that seemed to be behind this. Interestingly, they seem independent of one another and both of them made efforts to urge the county NOT to take down our signs. They expressed a desire to just add their sign in addition to our own. Unfortunately, TXDOT rules do not allow for two street names to be on the same sign if the directional arrow for them points the same way.
4) The key to Conley's ability to remove the signs depended upon some change at the 911 Hays County mapping office. I have an October 24, 2008 email from TXDOT to Will Conley that states the following, "As you may recall, the sign on 3237 reads Red Hawk Road because we were told last year that this was the designation that the 911 services used....... Sean Wright from our office has recently clarified this further with the 911 service and they now recognize it as Woodcreek Ranch Road."