Duesterheft to sit in as Caldwell County Judge
By LPR Staff
Almost a month to the day after the passing of Caldwell County Judge H.T. Wright, the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court announced on Monday that the remainder of his term will be filled by a former Commissioner and active volunteer in the county.
After a brief executive session following their Monday morning meeti
ng the Caldwell County Commissioners announced they had appointed Ronnie Duesterheft, of Maxwell, to fill Wright’s unexpired term, which will end in December 2010.
Duesterheft, who was not present at the meeting, served as Caldwell County Commissioner for Precinct 3 prior to the election of Neto Madrigal in 2004. Since leaving the Court at that time, he has been active with several issues impacting county residents, including being a driving force behind the recent approval of Caldwell County Emergency Service District No. 2, which was approved by Maxwell area voters this weekend.
Duesterheft will lead his first meeting as the county’s interim judge on Monday, May 17.
Although the Court has been trying for months to work with the Texas Department of Transportation and the SH-130 Concession Company to find a way to save two ancient oak trees in the path of the construction, Commissioner John Cyrier announced on Monday those talks have all but ended.
“It makes me sick to say it,” Cyrier said when he announced the decision had been made to remove what is known as “the Big Tree” and “the Hangman’s Tree,” located on Boggy Creek Road. A second tree, nearly equal in age, which will be located on the northbound side of the highway, will be saved.
Cyrier said the decision came after several rounds of negotiations and a request for the contractors to go back to the drawing board to estimate the cost of a change order, moving the highway to avoid the tree. The cost, he said, was expected to be upwards of $487,000.
In addition to the cost, he said, moving the highway wouldn’t necessarily guarantee the survival of the tree, whose root system will likely be stressed not only by the construction itself, but by its proximity to the highway after construction. Cyrier said it was an uncomfortable decision for everyone involved, but that it was thought best not to spend the additional funds on moving the highway, when the tree may not survive, anyway.
“It’s a shame that we didn’t think about this earlier in the planning, when there was truly something we could have done about it,” Cyrier said. “But at this point, I really believe the best thing is to save that money on the project, in case some other contingency comes up that we need it even more.”
Among change orders still pending regarding the project are “turnaround lanes” near Plum Creek, and access points for several cross-streets throughout Caldwell County.
Cyrier took time to thank the contractors who originally cleared the land for opting not to remove the trees four months ago, when the clearing began, and instead giving the county and area residents time to work with TxDOT to see if a viable solution could be reached.
In other business, the Commissioners met with representatives from Tri-Community Water Supply Corporation to discuss the possibility the county lending support to the WSC in the search for grant funding.
Discussions with the WSC started last year when the organization received word from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that some of their equipment was not in compliance with state-mandated standards. In effect, TCEQ gave Tri-Community a year to rectify the issues or risk being cited by the state’s environmental enforcement division. Both of Tri-Community’s wells, it seems, are out of state compliance and need extensive – and costly – upgrades.
The Commissioners initially discussed the situation last month, and opted to wait to hear from other water supply corporations in the county before approving their support – which comes in the form of a cooperative position, but which as of Monday’s vote, did not include a financial investment in the upgrades.
After a brief discussion, the Court unanimously voted to support Tri-Community in their efforts to apply for grant funds to assist in the necessary upgrades.
In brief news:
The Court opted to leave an outdoor burning ban off.
They approved a change of provider for the inmate phone and coin telephone service at Caldwell County Jail.
The Commissioners approved a request allowing County Treasurer Lori Rangel-Pompa to schedule a management workshop which will likely be required for elected officials and departmental supervisors, in an effort to improve employee relations and safety.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public and the public is encouraged to attend.