ENNIS – Citing rising material cost and county budget limitations, Precinct 2 Commissioner Bill Dodson recently held a town hall meeting to discuss road issues.

During his presentation at the Ennis Public Library, the near-capacity audience became emotional over county road conditions in the precinct.

“We’re angry, we’re upset, we’re broke paying taxes,” one participant said, asking, “What do we need to do to fix this problem?”

Dodson began has presentation describing road conditions in the county.

“In 2000, road conditions in Ellis County were good. Today, the roads in Pct. 2 are horrible,” he said, citing changes that have contributed to the situation.

In a slide presentation, Dodson illustrated a tax rollback in 2001. As a part of the rollback, each of the four commissioners gave back $150,000 from their allotment to the county general budget. Another circumstance, he said, involved a redistricting of the county, which added 20 road miles to Pct. 2.

In the past six years, materials have suffered a 172.8 percent increase, he said, noting that the budget increases he has received have gone to address cost of living raises.

Heavier trucks, population increase and additional traffic have also had an impact.

“One 80,000 pound truck does the damage of 9,600 cars,” Dodson said, noting also that the precincts’ budgets are based on population not road miles.

Pct. 2 has 338 miles or 41 percent of the county’s roads – the largest percentage – with the allotment $4,665 per road mile.  

The next largest is Pct. 3, which has 273 road miles budgeted at $6,429 per road mile.

Pct. 4, with 118 road miles, has a $7,523 per road mile budget. The smallest is Precinct 1 with 80 road miles.

“They have the largest budget per road mile at $9,309,” Dodson said. “Pcts. 4 and 1 combined have fewer road miles than either Pct. 2 or 3,” Dodson said. “It makes it real tough to cover twice as much with the same number of people and fewer dollars.

“Of the total 2008 county budget, revenues dedicated to road repair from county taxes is $48.13 or 1.9 percent of the total tax bill,” Dodson said.

In response to questions, Dodson explained the budget process and how the commissioners arrive at the county’s budget. “This year, Heath and I objected to the budget. We were outnumbered. There’s two of us and three of them,” Dodson said, describing it as a process where there are five voting and only two who want change.

The residents also asked why there are more dirt and gravel roads that were once paved roads, with a representative of a volunteer fire department saying the poor road conditions affect emergency responders’ equipment and response time.

“It is cheaper to grind the road and convert it to a gravel road than continually do pothole repair on a heavily traveled road,” Dodson said.

Asked what could be done to help him get the resources the precinct needs, Dodson said, “I hope I get some support from you in commissioners court to get more money.”

Dodson will present the same information to the commissioners court in its meeting today at 6 p.m. in the second floor courtroom at the Ellis County Courthouse.

The meeting is open to the public.