The Ellis County Commissioners Court is preparing to assemble a special committee to review and recommend needed capital improvements.
The court met during a special workshop at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the historic Ellis County Courthouse to discuss the capital improvement needs. County Judge Todd Little expressed that, with pending legislation being considered in the Texas House, it would limit the county’s ability to raise revenue beyond a 3.5 percent cap, Little remarked that the court has to act now if they are to adequately prepare for the county’s growth in the future.
“We’ve got some things ahead of us that are concerning,” he expressed. “But we also have a lot of opportunities ahead of us as well. We have the ability to pass some bonds and create some projects going forward.”
“If we do nothing right now, we will have a certain dollar amount in capacity for next year if we leave everything the same,” he added. “That’s kind of where we are.”
County auditor Miykael Reeve explained that the county could issue $3.5 million in bonds over a one-year-period, $5 million over a five-year-period or $7.5 million over a seven-year period.
Those bonds, she iterated, could help the county in funding the capital improvement projects that are needed.
“Our county is in a great position,” she explained. “If we utilize our maximum lung capacity, we can issue $65 million over all of the other counties in our position.”
Little laid out the capital improvement project priorities the county needed to focus on, including the approved third County Court at Law, which will be built out on the second floor of the Ellis County Courthouse, and the District Attorney’s Office, which is out of space and needs to add two attorneys, an investigator and associated support staff.
Little explained the county also needs to improve security for the Justice of the Peace offices for Precincts 2 and 4, which he expressed, have been ignored for quite some time.
“To me, it’s an embarrassment,” Little expressed. “It’s an embarrassment that we actually call that a county facility. The JP is doing evictions for people that are being evicted out of their houses. They’re coming in to have their trial and get evicted. It’s essentially a free-for-all over there.”
Little expressed that a capital improvements committee needs to be formed in order to research the further improvements needed for the county. Little proposed that the committee include the county judge, one county commissioner, one elected official, one county employee and five county citizens nominated to the board.
While Precinct 4 commissioner Kyle Butler questioned how much of a role citizens could serve on the board, commissioners Paul Perry and Lane Grayson welcomed the input, stating that citizens could provide a perspective the commissioners’ court may not have considered.
“We need to be looking at different areas that we need to improve,” Grayson remarked. “Utilize the available funding that’s there. That’s a lot of heavy lifting to do.”
The workshop was adjourned with no action taken by the court. Approval for a special capital improvements committee will come before the commissioners at a later meeting.
* A previous version of this story misattributed a quote to Pct. 1 commissioner Randy Stinson regarding citizen input. The quote belonged to Pct. 2 commissioner Lane Grayson.