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County Corner: State of the County Update

(ROCKWALL, TX – July 25, 2018) Commissioner David Magness and I had the great honor of providing a State of the County presentation to the Rockwall Chamber of Commerce, with presentations to several more organizations scheduled in the near future.

Allow me the opportunity to brag for a bit about some major projects the county has worked on in the past couple of years. First off, let’s take a look at what we’ve been able to accomplish as far as road projects in and around the county.

Thanks to bond elections in 2004 and 2008, the county had $120 million to spend on road improvement projects. From 2004-2011, we saw tremendous success in building relationships with the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), Regional Transportation Council, engineering firms that work with and for the county, and TxDOT. Those relationships helped us make a big impact on transportation in the years to follow.

Over the last seven years, we’ve seen the completion of five projects including FM 740 North, John King Interchange, FM 551 Interchange, Erby Campbell Interchange and SH 205 Ramp project. County transportation projects currently under construction include SH 66 from SH 205 to the county line, FM 740 South from FM 1140 North to FM 1140 South, and the FM 3549/IH 30 Interchange. Four more projects from the County’s Transportation Plan are also in the works, with construction start times as early as the first quarter of 2019.

The year 2025 looks to be a big one in terms of progress, as all of the county’s transportation projects set out in the 2004 and 2008 bond elections, along with TxDOT’s IH 30 and SH 205 projects, are expected to be completed by that year.

A lot of hours and hard work have been put into these projects for the county, and I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the extraordinary efforts of the individuals making up the Rockwall County Road Consortium, past and present. The consortium is made up of the Rockwall County Commissioners Court along with the mayors and city managers, as well as several city council members, of each municipality in the county. Over the last 12 years, the consortium has held regular meetings 11 times a year, with each member attending multiple transportation meetings with their respective cities for each county transportation project. They’re a big part of the progress the county has made in terms of transportation, and I can’t thank them enough for their service.

Another major county initiative I want to highlight is the new radio interoperability system. The Commissioners Court purchased an $8 million radio interoperability system to service all public safety officials throughout Rockwall County. During my time as mayor, we had spent some money trying to extend the life of the Rockwall Police Department’s radio system, and we had done the right thing as far as keeping the system online, but it’s safe to say both the Rockwall County and Rockwall Police Department systems were at or near the end of their life cycle. The Commissioners Court already had a plan in place, but I’m proud to say that I was able to be apart of seeing that plan to the finish line when I came aboard as county judge. This new interoperability system serves in the best interest of the taxpayers as well as all of the public safety officials in Rockwall County. Commissioner Dennis Bailey has done an outstanding job in leading these efforts on behalf of the Commissioners Court.

Last year, the Commissioners Court had an RFP out on the market for a new ambulance service provider for the county, as we were at the end of our contract with Rockwall County EMS. We received several responses to that RFP. As members of the Emergency Services Corporation (ESC) board, Commissioner Cliff Sevier and I worked together with the other board members throughout that process and ended up extending our contract with Rockwall County EMS. But what’s different? It’s no longer a subsidized service, meaning the taxing entities throughout the community are not subsidizing that service. The service stands on its own, as it should. We were also able to improve response times throughout the community. It’s a performance-based contract, so if they don’t perform it triggers liquidated damages. But overall, we’re in a very good position in contract with a solid provider, and we’ve got a lot of faith in these guys to perform their duties solidly.

Right now, the county is also looking at a jail use study. The jail was built in 1989 and began operations with 49 total beds in the facility. An additional 48 beds were added in 1998, and another 146 beds in 2001. We have not expanded that facility since then. Looking at those population numbers I touched on earlier, it’s not a surprise that there’s a need for expansion of the jail. We’ve hired Broaddus and Associates to conduct a study of the jail, and they will have some information to us within the next month regarding a recommendation. They’ll conduct an assessment of the current facility we have in place and determine what’s in our best interest moving forward. The Commissioners Court will work closely with Broaddus in order to identify the number of additional beds that will be needed based on estimates of future population within the jail. The goal right now would be for us to come up with that decision in order to come to the voters with a future bond proposal. I’d like to commend Commissioner Lee Gilbert and Commissioner Bailey on leading the court’s efforts in working with Rockwall County Sheriff Harold Eavenson and his leadership on the jail needs assessment project. We’ve got a lot of work to do here in the next month, but I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve hired a well-qualified firm as a partner to assess this for us.

Looking at the scope of what has been accomplished this past year and where we’re headed, it’s easy to see why we’re all blessed to live in Rockwall County. Each and every one of our cities has such a unique quality and set of characteristics that makes them stand out, but when we all come together in Rockwall County, it truly becomes a special place.

Submitted by David Sweet, Rockwall County Judge.

Elected in November of 2014 as the Rockwall County Judge, Sweet previously served two terms as the Mayor of the City of Rockwall and as a City Council Member.

 

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