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Court again rejects high-speed rail

Ellis commissioners to join brief in state high court appeal

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
The Ellis County Historic Courthouse.

Texas Central Railroad may one day allow Dallas residents to buy Houston Astros season tickets. But what will Ellis County residents get out of it? That’s the question county officials are still asking.

The proposed high-speed passenger rail line bisecting the county was once again the target of opposition from the Commissioners’ Court on Tuesday as commissioners agreed to weigh in on a lawsuit challenging it.

Commissioners approved a resolution in support of an “amici curiae” (friends-of-the-court) brief in the case of James Fredrick Miles v. Texas Central Railroad and Integrated Texas Logistics, Inc. The suit is currently before the Texas State Supreme Court on appeal.

The resolution expresses commissioners’ opposition to the construction of the railway on the grounds of poor feasibility, lack of significant regulatory approvals and lack of benefit to rural communities.

County Judge Todd Little said every county between Dallas and Harris counties involved in the rail line routing will join in the brief.

Public speaker Ronnie Caldwell, a longtime opponent of the railroad, thanked the court for its vote, noting that the rail line will split multiple properties where it is proposed to be built, roughly paralleling Interstate 45 several miles to the west. Caldwell said he has “stayed the course” with his property and has been threatened with eminent domain.

The court case involves whether Texas Central is legally recognized as a railroad in the state of Texas and thus empowered with eminent domain along its path. In May of last year, the Texas 13th Court of Appeals recognized Texas Central as a railroad with eminent domain power.

Texas Central Railroad proposes a 90-minute trip via high-speed rail between Dallas and Houston with one stop in the Brazos Valley, while replicating the Japanese “bullet train” system. The proposed route has no stops in Ellis County and passes to the west of Bardwell Reservoir before entering Navarro County.

Other items

• Commissioners spent some time considering a replat of the Mitchell Addition in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city of Oak Leaf before approving it. The property, which consists of 7.887 total acres, was approved after discussion of whether a neighboring property would be landlocked as a result of the replat.

• A replat of a 2.395-acre property at the north side of Shady Brook Lane in the Red Oak extraterritorial jurisdiction was approved. The court also agreed to release a performance bond and accept a maintenance bond for the proposed Country Meadows Estates Phase III, a 45-acre property northwest of the intersection of Gibson Road and Cactus Road in the Waxahachie ETJ.

• The court approved the purchase of four Cisco Webex boards for each of the county’s four precincts in the total amount of just more than $70,000. County purchasing agent E.J. Harbin said these purchases are eligible for partial reimbursement.

• Commissioners approved a list of recipients and grant amounts from the Economic Relief Grant Committee, with the added provision that any recipient who owed money to the county or state would be disqualified and would have those funds redistributed.

• The consent agenda included acceptance of previous minutes and various reports, as well as acceptance of property tax refunds in the amount of $186,379.

• Commissioners approved lease agreements for two pickup trucks and the purchase of two Mack dump trucks. Also, bids were awarded to Avenue Fuel Distributors for wholesale gas and diesel, and to Wright Asphalt Products Company LLC for specialty emulsions.

• An existing agreement with D&J Enterprises Inc. and Crowder Gulf for disaster debris removal was renewed for one year starting Jan. 26.

• The court approved the acceptance of grant funds by the Ellis County Office of Emergency Management for reimbursement of salaries.

• Michael V. Greenlee was appointed to a 2-year term on the Ellis County Rural Rail Transportation District Board.

• Commissioners authorized $21,692 for the replacement of a tilt skillet in the jail kitchen. Sheriff Brad Norman said the skillet dates back to 1990, when the kitchen was originally built. Another skillet is in use that is over 11 years old.

• The court also approved an agreement that would allow the Sheriff’s Office to hold its detention officer physical skills course, which is required for them to attain jailer’s licenses, through the TEEX program.

• The court approved the purchase of AuditBoard auditing software for the county auditor’s office. The cost is $18,700 per year for three years, with an $8,075 up-front cost for implementation and training.

• The court declared 300 Poll Star “pizza box” voting booths as surplus, and in a separate motion voted to donate these booths to other counties.

• Following an executive session, the court approved a property purchase at 301 N. Rogers Street in Waxahachie at a cost of $1.25 million and also approved an agreement with Wray, Willett and Stoffer to provide legal services to finalize the acquisition.

• The court also approved a benefit contribution of $13,000.89 to the Texas County and District Retirement System for a previous employee following the executive session.