Precinct 1 candidates discuss county roads, annex, subdivisions


Precinct 1 Commissioner candidates answered questions on a number of issues facing Gonzales County during the Republican candidate forum held Thursday, Feb. 15, at American Legion Post 40. The event was co-sponsored by the Gonzales Inquirer and the Gonzales County Republican Party.

Below is a transcript of three of the questions answered by the three candidates: David Janota, Anton “Tony” Matias and Ryan Mills. The forum can be seen in its entirety on the Gonzales Inquirer Facebook page.

Gonzales County has nearly 690 centerline miles of certified county roads. Many are heavily used, especially due to large amounts of oil and gas traffic. As Commissioner, what can be done to better maintain and improve our county roads? Is paving more of them an option?

Janota: Well, I don't know if paving them would be an option with this heavy equipment. It tears up all the pavement that you do put down, so I would imagine limestone is more cost effective, because you can grade it,. If you put your payment down, this big heavy equipment will tear it up and you’ve got to fill pothole after pothole after pothole. As far as getting control of that, you just have to have your commissioners go out or get hold of your law enforcement in order to track some of these large equipment operators and get them to file permits and fine them if they're way overweight.

Matias: Yes, there is a lot of traffic through parts of Gonzales County in Precinct 1, Precinct 4 and Precinct 2 as well. Yes, your roads are designed and built by base on limestone. And yes, they do sustain a lot of traffic — the weight’s a big troublemaker there. Basically, if you’ve got oil wells on your county roads, you can get with the commissioners and county judge to keep certain traffic off certain roads, but then there's a lot of wells on a lot of county roads, and they do need access to these wells. If you go to paving these roads, you're looking at $100,000 a mile and that's not even your correct amount of base put on the road, so your taxes would go up if you pave all these roads in the county and you wouldn't be able to afford live in this county.

Mills: I'm definitely for paving more roads, but I do not want to pass that cost to the taxpayers. There's other ways to do it. I've reached out and I've talked to commissioners in other counties. Specifically, DeWitt County has made a deal with some of the major oil corporations and they've done some cost sharing and some matching that made up to 85 cents on the dollar for some of these roads. If you get out and hustle and see what grants you can find available, I think a lot of that is communication with your other commissioners and with your judge. I'd also like to hold some of these underground water guys like Schertz-Cibolo or Canyon Regional that are running up and down our roads, tearing them up — they make plenty of money off our water. I think they can pave some roads too.

The deterioration of the Gonzales County Annex Building on Sarah DeWitt Drive appears to be worse than originally thought. Do you support repairing the current building, demolishing it and building a new structure on the same site, finding an existing building to buy or building a new building elsewhere and how should the county pay for your choice?

Matias: At this time they are looking into engineers and contractors to see what can be done. Can we remodel it where it's at? Do we need to tear it down and rebuild? Yes, there's going to be a cost either way. If you bought another building, then you got a building sitting there and you cannot  just leave it sitting there — it's a danger to the public. As far as building a new building, we are waitingfor contractors and engineers to see what the cost is going to be. And yes, it would be a cost on the taxpayers from what I want to understand.

Mills: That building is definitely gonna be a major issue for the commissioners to face. I do think that something has to be done and I think the question is, “Do you want to fix it for today or do you want to invest in it for tomorrow?” I think that we could patch it, repair it and it would work for a few years. The reality is we're struggling for office space as it is. I think you might as well go ahead and figure out what is best by looking at, you know, cost efficient options, whether you go to a two-story building, whether you remodel it to the max, I think at the end of the day, it does come down to dollars and cents, you know, both money and common sense as well. And, you know, as always, you want to try to keep it from being on the taxpayer.

Janota: I think it would come down to what the engineers think would be best. Repairing the building could be $7 million; a new building could be $8 million. So you would have to decide what the taxpayers — ask them what they want to do. Do they want to have a brand new building versus the old building? You just have to wait for the engineers to come up with the correct price to build you one or remodel it. The problem with finding a place to build a new one is you'd have to find some land in order to do that. I don't believe the taxpayers want to buy another piece of property and have this one vacant.

Gonzales County is working on updating its subdivision ordinance for the first time in nearly 12 years. There are concerns about how development is allowed to take place within Gonzales County, especially when it comes to making sure there is enough water to handle everyone’s needs. What changes would you like to see made in the subdivision ordinance?

Mills: As we know, Caldwell County is being taken over. The county wasn't ready for the growth that they've experienced and it's coming our way. I think they're kind of jumping Luling and going straight into the Waelder and Harwood area on their way down. I think when you refer specifically to water, I think it comes down to contractor responsibility. I think that anytime a contractor comes in and wants to get a plat approved for a subdivision, I think that there should be someone to go out and ensure that there's enough water to support it. If there's not enough water to support it, I believe that the contractor should have to upgrade the county main lines. It's not fair to the people that have had meters in place for years that are struggling to get the amount of water that they need. Let the contractor pay for it and that will pass the cost on to the new homeowners that are buying the property, which will most likely mean more expensive homes, which do create more tax revenue for the county.

Janota: In order to make a beautiful subdivision, I believe your roads need to be paved in a subdivision. The subdivision needs to have their own rules as far as breaking down how many acres per lot. I believe you have to have an acre and a half per lot. You'd have to have a septic tank. Personal wells are going to be probably out of the question because you probably would be working with smaller lots. You cannot have a septic tank and your water well within 50 feet or 150 feet (of each other). I believe the Gonzales County commissioners might have to make another position for an inspector. The Emergency Management Director, Mr. Harless, may be starting to get overburdened with everything that he does, and I believe that the county might need to look at an inspector.

Matias: On the subdivision ordinance, I would definitely say make the lots larger so you're not on top of each other. Water wells where everybody can have their own water well, because a lot of areas you don't have rural water. Maybe put up a storage tank and wherever the subdivision is, say it's 50 acres, put up a large storage tank so there would be plentiful water. As far as the septics yes, we've got our emergency management coordinator, you know, he does the inspections on all that. Of course, you know, there's more in subdivisions so you’ll need another inspector out there. Maybe there needs to be some rules about how the subdivisions are kept clean and mowed and all that so they don't get grown up.

Editor’s Note: Due to space considerations, questions and answers from the Precinct 3 Commissioner candidates and the House District 44 candidates will appear in the Feb. 29 edition of the Gonzales Inquirer.