Midlothian Mirror Managing Editor

The candidates and concerned citizens are still talking politics but the voters will have the last say Saturday when they head to the polls to elect city leaders and vote on a $53 million county bond issue.

Incumbent Place 3 Councilman Jimmy Beaudoin is seeking a second term on the Midlothian City Council. Ken Chambers is challenging Beaudoin for the Place 3 post.

Joe Frizell has formally filed for the Place 4 City Council post and his name will appear on Saturday’s ballot. Sam Hartson has filed as a write-in candidate for the Place 4 seat. Incumbent Place 4 Councilman Tracy Davidson did not run in this spring’s race

MISD School Board Vice President Phil Seay currently holds the Trustee Place 4 spot and Jim Mentzel is the Place 5 trustee. Both men were unopposed this spring and have already been declared winners and will serve another three-year term on the school board.

This marks the first year that MISD and the city will hold their election together at the Midlothian Conference Center. They will be separate elections and both the school and city will have separate tables to register and vote.

Voters in Precincts 101, 102, 107, 108 and 142 can also cast a ballot for or against the county facilities bond referendum at the Midlothian Conference Center. Precincts 103 and 137 will vote at Ovilla City Hall

Election times are universal.

“The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., on election day” said Lou Jameson, Midlothian City Secretary. “All votes for city council will be cast at the Midlothian Conference Center.”

Last spring’s city election saw city posts won by a little more than 500 votes for an individual candidate. School board elections were won by a little more than 900 votes for an individual candidate.

Election officials have pointed out that Midlothian had 7, 275 registered voters and 15.1 percent voted in last spring’s municipal election.

The city council has scheduled meetings twice a month on Tuesday evening at City Hall and routinely meets more often to conduct city business.

To qualify a candidate must be a U.S. citizen, be 18 or older, have not been legally deemed mentally incompetent and not been finally convicted of a felony. A candidate must have lived in Texas for the past 12 months and in Midlothian for the past six months.

The MISD Board of Trustees meetings are usually scheduled for 7 p.m. every third Monday of the month. Occasionally, a regular meeting date is changed, or a special meeting is called.

Jameson said while the city is responsible for running municipal elections, they are not the final authority.

“Questions regarding reporting procedures, contributions or expenditures are to be directed to the Texas Ethic Commission at 1-800-325-8506,” Jameson said. “Questions regarding election law are to be directed to the Secretary of State at 1-800-252-8683.”

A $53.875 million bond issue to build badly needed county facilities in downtown Waxahachie is being touted by a citizen’s political action committee called Friends of Ellis County.

“I grew up in Ellis County and this place is now much bigger than I remember it being,” said Layne Ballard, PAC chairman. “We are growing and this committee’s purpose is to inform and educate the community on the need for these facilities.

“While I have yet to talk to anyone who is opposed to this, I’m sure there are people out there who will vote against it,” Ballard said. “We want to make sure people get the correct information they need to make a wise and informed decision.”

Commissioners voted Feb. 26 to put a $53.875 million bond referendum before voters May 12. If the bond passes, two buildings will be constructed on property east of the Ellis County Courthouse in downtown Waxahachie.

Jon Vidaurri, of the real estate advisory firm Staubach Company, has repeatedly explained the details of how the $53.875 million would be spent and what it would buy if voters approve the bond issue.

“We’re talking about two-story steel and concrete buildings with a masonry facade,” Vidaurri said. “The county administrative building would be constructed in a fashion that would allow you to open a third floor in seven to 10 years when the need arises.”

The county administrative building would initially be 78,799-square-feet and would house all core county offices not officing in the Ellis County Courthouse. The justice building would house a new 273-bed jail and offices.

Vidaurri said bond money would cover the cost of acquisition of property not owned by the county, all professional services, construction costs and furnishings for both buildings.

“Ellis County residents who have an over-65 homestead exemption will not see any increase in their taxes because their taxes are frozen at the time of their 65th birthday,” Vidaurri said. “Property taxes will go up between 3.5 and 4.5 cents per $100 valuation over the next 20 years to pay for the new facilities.”

On a $100,000 home that would be the equivalent of $35 to $45 a year or about $3.50 a month. A $200,000 home would see taxes increase about $60 to $90 a year or about $7.50 month.

The current county tax rate equates to $349.50 a year on homes valued at $100,000.

Growth is fueling the county’s need for more office space.

“Current estimates from North Central Texas Council of Governments, U.S. Census Bureau and the State of Texas estimate the county’s population to reach 450,000 by 2030,” Vidaurri said. “Growth continues to put a strain on facilities currently and owned and leased by the county.

“In addition, it has been determined that many of the county’s facilities in downtown Waxahachie have been deemed not safe for county employees or the general public and most are not ADA (American Disability Act) compliant,” he said. “A lawsuit has already been filed and the county has been ordered to make all the repairs or fines will be assessed at a cost of $1,000 per violation, per day. There are multiple violations in several buildings owned by the county.”

The Staubach Company estimates the county will need 78,000 square feet for administrative and an additional 102,000 square feet of justice space by 2015. Including the Ellis County Courthouse, the county will need 279,830 square feet of storage, office and court space by 2015.

“The county can ignore the problem, but it won’t go away and it won’t save money,” Ballard said. “As the county’s population continues to increase, so do the needs.”

Members of Friends of Ellis County pointed out if the bond doesn’t pass the county will have to pay to renovate existing buildings at significant cost or move to leased space, “throwing away rent money each month,” they said. The PAC also pointed out the cost to house prisoners at jails in surrounding counties is significantly higher than if Ellis County houses its own.

The average yearly cost over 20 years to house prisoners off-site and out of county, coupled with the leasing of administrative and civil court buildings, has been estimated at roughly $7.1 million a year. That cost drops to $4.06 million a year if the county builds a new administrative building and county jail.

“Do you want your deputies transporting prisoners from jail to court or do you want them out patrolling your community?” Vidaurri said. “This bond package is all about getting the most out of tax dollars and making county government as effective and efficient as possible.”

The project also includes a parking garage located one block away from the courthouse. The parking garage is not included in the bond package. Its estimated $7.5 million cost will be paid for by the city of Waxahachie.

The county is also eyeing the construction of satellite sub-courthouses in Ennis, Midlothian and Red Oak. Funds for those facilities would come from the $6 million sale of the Superconducting Super Collider building and the $4.5 million settlement from the previous justice center.

The county has wrestled with where to locate its buildings. Some had wanted the new facilities to be located at the county farm property. Others, including downtown businesses and the city of Waxahachie, wanted to keep county offices and personnel downtown, a push helped by a Staubach Company report that favored the downtown site and the city’s decision to construct a parking garage. The city has also offered to help with drainage and construction of roads up to $250,000.

“I know people want to talk about the past and mistakes that have been made,” Ballard said. “But the past is the past and talking about past mistakes will not solve today’s problems.

“We want to talk to every civic club, home owner’s association, church group or individual who has concerns or questions about this bond issue,” Ballard said. “We should have drawings and a PowerPoint presentation ready by the middle of next week and we want to get before the public.

“I wouldn’t support this if I didn’t think there was a real and true need for these facilities,” Ballard said. “The needs are real and the needs are now, that’s why it is so important that we pass this bond issue May 12.”