From the Desk of
County Judge Tom D. Bonn
Most any time a new candidate files for an elected office, you may hear the candidate speak to making government more efficient. Candidates know that telling the taxpayer that they make judicious use of their tax dollars is appealing to taxpayers/voters. Trouble is, as we have witnessed, that changing the way government operates is difficult at best. We are skeptical because of what was promised and actually delivered by the current President.
Change, even if it is for the efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars, is very hard for people to accept. Most always, their resistance to accept change often results as emotional arguments not fact-based discussions on what is good for the taxpayer.
Our recent approval to appoint a County Engineer to oversee the Unit Road Department and our subdivision department is a prime example of how difficult and emotional these issues can get.
Logically speaking, any right-thinking person would have to admit that having a licensed and experienced engineer making decisions on our County roads is far superior to not having one. This was witnessed at our last Commissioner Court, where our County Engineer took the lead of the discussions that consumed the majority of that meeting, concerning the possible closure of CR 176 and installation of speed reducing devices on CR 69.
The County is subject to continuing liability, and has had several lawsuits filed by property owners over the past several years for decisions that were made concerning road configurations and designs. A licensed engineer not only makes the best decisions on materials and construction techniques, but also – most importantly – on design issues. In my opinion, at the top of the list of benefits is our ability to have Caldwell County on a professional level dealing with TxDOT Engineers where decisions are made affecting our State roads and now our County Transportation Plan grant.
We had a licensed County Engineer already on the County’s payroll performing other engineering functions. Commissioners Court decided to dedicate $340,000.00 in this year’s budget to preserve our paved roads through a seal coating process. The Court’s direction is to begin a long-term process of upgrading our roads which will ultimately amount to spending millions of your taxpayer dollars. We all want to get the best job and price for these projects.
In consideration of the unit road employees, I personally visited with the individuals affected by this hiring and insured them that it would not change their staffing, salaries, office space or duties, with the exception of a title change from Unit Road Administrator to Supervisor, and that he would report to the County Engineer.
Personally, I am not about to spend hundreds of thousands or millions of taxpayer dollars on road and bridge projects that are not designed, implemented and overseen by a professional engineer; remember the bridge collapse on IH-35 in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.! I took abuse at a recent meeting for suggesting that our current engineer be responsible for the Unit Road Department. The focus was on the emotional argument about hurting the current Road Administrator’s feelings because his title is changed. It is amazing how much flak you take as an elected official for doing what is required by State Statute 252.304, economically sound and logically correct for the taxpayers.
Now maybe you can see why it is so hard to change the way government operates. I did pledge, however, when I ran for the office of County Judge to make changes for the betterment of the taxpayer. I will continue to do so, but when you see a politician promise and not deliver, just remember that it is easier not to catch the flak and just let status quo prevail. It is much easier not to battle the emotional, non-logical arguments, than to do what is right for the taxpayer. That is why we are all fed up with how things work in Washington.
Change, real change, begins at the local level. Don’t forget change can be really beneficial to you the taxpayer. I ask that you embrace my mission, “Excellence thru Professionalism” as the County improves services with updated solutions. Advancements in software, equipment, facilities and training of employees will improve our County government while demanding accountability from those in charge.
Our current end-of-year audit report by the County Auditor shows that we are financially solvent with $ 5.8 million in general fund reserves after transferring the $1.2 million to general fund reserves and currently on track within spending limits of our current budget.