The Hays County Commissioners Court discussed the letter addressed to it by the Travis County Commissioners Court on Sept. 27 regarding the SH 45 gap road project that has caused some tension among the court members and with other courts, as previously reported by Community Impact.

The SH 45 gap project spans both Hays and Travis counties to connect SH 45 and South MoPac.

The Travis County Commissioners Court sent a letter to Hays County on Sept. 13 to express opposition over action taken to spend $2.5 million on an engineering services contract with CP&Y Inc. The letter also called out Commissioners Mark Jones and Walt Smith’s characterization of “positive” conversations with Travis County Commissioners Jeffrey Travillion, Ann Howard and Margaret Gomez.

Jones told Community Impact that his use of the term “very positive” regarded how he felt the conversations regarding SH 45 went with the Travis County commissioners. He added the conversations were purely informational and he was not seeking approval of any kind for the project.

“I never indicated that they were in favor of this project, one way or the other,” Jones said at the Sept. 27 meeting. “I was disappointed, judge, that you took to edit a video to try to make me look like I said something I never said.”

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra posted a shortened, edited version of the Aug. 30 meeting to Facebook on Sept. 14, following the Travis County vote on the letter, in which he claims Jones and Smith lied in court “to spend $2.5 million on a project that can’t go anywhere.”

The video does not include Jones’ comment that he does not want to speak on behalf of Travis County regarding the conversations over SH 45.

“I still stand behind my reduced footage,” Becerra told Community Impact. “[Jones] needs to stop lying and do the work.”

Becerra, Jones and Smith continued to speak over each other in court, trying to shoehorn in their statements regarding the issue.

“The question is do you support it? Yes, no or, ‘I won’t answer,’” Smith asked Becerra.

Becerra continued to say he does not support the process in which Jones and Smith attempted to take to get this project moving.

“It is clear that Jones and Smith have not done the work to help me make that decision. I don’t know if I’m against the project yet or for the project yet because the information hasn’t been provided that is critical to the decision making,” Becerra told Community Impact.

Becerra said the county will “burn” some of the $2.5 million in legwork to gather more information regarding the viability of the project, which will be revisited at a later time.

FY 2022-23 budget

The commissioners adopted the fiscal year 2022-23 budget Sept. 20 accompanied by a no-new-revenue rate of $0.3125 which drops from last year’s rate of $0.3867 to be the lowest tax rate for the county since 1989, according to the county.

The $354.05 million budget allocates funding to create the 483rd Judicial District Court and for assistant district attorneys, school resource officers, election staff and more. An additional $2 million was recouped by the county as it eliminated 47 vacant positions.

$13.3 million of the budget will go toward capital improvement projects for the Hays County Jail, public buildings, public parks, flood mitigation efforts and more.

Around $15.3 million of American Rescue Act Plan funds are earmarked for the public defender's office, which was approved last August; the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center; breast cancer screenings; extra school resource officers and more.

Pet resource center

The commissioners approved specifications for requests for proposals for project coordinator for the new pet resource center. The commissioners held a workshop in June to discuss the findings of a feasibility study for a new animal center to help the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter.

The project coordinator will be responsible for planning and budgeting operations of the center, developing a social media outreach strategy, developing fundraising plans and more.

Candidates have 120 days to submit their proposals.

“We’re happy to move forward on that, I know it’s been a long time coming. We look forward to the responses and moving forward,” Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said.