Athens Review, Athens, Texas

April 30, 2013

Not diggin’ it at all

County to protest right-of-way bill

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — The Henderson County Commissioners Court approved a petition on Tuesday opposing a Texas House bill that they believe will cause delays when they need to dig in county right-of-way.

HB 2900, to protect phone lines and other infrastructure, was filed by Representative Tony Dale of Williamson County. The State Affairs Committee heard oral testimony on the bill on April 24 but took no action. Each of the commissioners said they were concerned that the bill eliminates a 24-inch exemption on requirements that the county call Dig 8-1-1 before digging.

“The commissioners would have to call anytime they wanted to do any work in the right-of-way, construction or repairs,” County Judge Richard Sanders said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney said when a commissioner gets a call reporting a drainage issue that threatens to flood a person’s house, they have to move quickly to prevent damage. Calling 8-1-1 and waiting up to 72 hours to get approval could be costly to the resident.

“We try to help them pretty quick — that day, if they’ve got rain coming down,” McKinney said. “If they remove that exemption, I’m sorry, but someone’s house is going to flood.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Scotty Thomas said that scenario played out recently in his precinct.

“So we went out and cleared the ditch without having to wait,” Thomas said.

The commissioners regularly call Dig 8-1-1 before a big project, such as a major road rebuild, McKinney said.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin said counties in the state granted utilities the opportunity to put phone lines in the right-of-way. Henderson County requires that any lines be buried at least 30 inches underground. The new bill requires that the county call even if the dig is less than that depth.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence said even though state law requires the county to allow phone companies, water companies and other utilities to bury lines in county right-of-way, the county should be able to require that they’re buried to a certain depth. In some cases, the commissioners have run into lines as close to the surface as six inches.

Commissioners also voted to:

• approve spending $500 for the 2013 Sonic Boom Kickoff Walk;

• authorize a resolution to resell properties bid in trust to Henderson County;

• appoint Blake Farrar to the Emergency Services District No. 4 to fill an unexpired term;

• to apply for the 2013 State Criminal Alien Assistance Program;

• to accept the FY2013 Tobacco Settlement Award in the amount of $154,359.34;

• to allow Bethel-Ash Water Supply Corporation to place 2,150 feet of water line on Henderson County Road 4827;

• to approve the Henderson County Investment Policy for 2013; and

• authorize payment of regular bills in the amount of $146,703.71.