Precinct 3 Commissioner candidates answer questions about roads, annex, county jail


Precinct 3 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 four of the questions answered by the two candidates: Roy Staton and Thomas “Tommy” Barnick. 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?

Barnick: I do not believe paving them is more of an option. I don't feel like they can hold up under the heavy weights, the amount of traffic. I currently work in Precinct 2 and a lot of my roads I maintain are in the Shiner and Moulton area, and even with limestone built-up roads, they grind them to dust. I don't know that there is a great answer. It's just too much traffic and too heavy weights. I do feel like we should, by all means, try to make deals with these oil field companies and try to see if there's some cost saving that they can do. They will donate gravel every now and then, but maybe they can do something on a more permanent basis.

Staton: We don't have a whole lot of oil field traffic in Precinct 3. I have been over there for 18 and a half years, but I know what they're talking about. The paving will not hold up to all the weight. You’ve got to have limestone pretty thick out there and it's got to be put down right. Around Precinct 3, we don't have any of this oil field traffic, so if we can get these grants, get this government help we got the last time over here on Harwood Road and get it paved. And if you put enough base down on it and do it right, it will be there for a long time and it will save you a bunch of money.

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?

Staton: Well, I'll look at like this. I think you need to fix one thing first before you go to the second thing. And that building, if you really put the money down on it, what it costs to repair that building would be way cheaper than building a new building, buying a new property and building a big old building. That thing's got lot of footage in there. I don't know what it is, but it's a very big building andf I'll bet you could make the repairs and come out way ahead on that.

Barnick: I feel like the repair idea is probably the best option. It's hard to make a decision without seeing exactly cost basis on what this, that and the other is going to do. But just for instance, if you just did demolition, if we decided to build a new building, just the demolition might come within a quarter of what a repair is going to cost. Plus, you're going to start a completely new building. Or if we buy a new property, what would we do with what's there? That would still be sitting there. It's needs to be fixed one way or the other, but I do feel like the repairing of the building is probably going to be the most cost-effective thing.

Another building that is in need of attention is the Gonzales County Jail, which was built in 2002. The county has outgrown the current jail, which is outdated and not up to standard. How should Gonzales handle the need for a new or improved jail facility and how should we pay for it?

Barnick: I agree that we're running out of space in the county jail. And I feel like with the way that our border situation is, we’re just gonna keep getting more and more crime everywhere. I do feel like we probably will need to build a new county jail. As far as paying for it, I always feel like there's ways to cut money in any organization. There are ways in whatever county government we're in now, whatever office that some money could possibly be saved. It's probably gonna be a tax increase to do this. I mean, there's really no other option, you're not going to save that much.

Staton: I agree with what he just said. And I know we need a new jailhouse down there, but you're gonna have to pull it out of the tax roll. And it's the only place you’re going to get it unless you get a grant or go to the government and get some help. But I think you really need to fix what you got broke now and you worry about that on another day. I mean, I know (the jail) is what the question is about, but I'm still thinking about the annex building and I think we need to fix that one before we fix this other deal.

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's enough water to handle everyone's needs. What changes would you like to see made in the subdivision ordinance?

Staton: I think we really need to have somebody out there watching over your code enforcer and go to the subdivisions and make these people have new rules on utilities. There's a bunch of them who have lots out here that they’ve cut up and they can't get water. They can get power but then they have to drill wells. And then we got people in the north side of town who can’t get well water to work because the water table is down. There ought to be a lot of rules for these subdivisions and make them pay for it.

Barnick: Well, it's funny, we're talking about this. This is one of my campaign platforms that I started out with. It's been a concern of mine for a while. You’re right; 2012 was the last time that the subdivision rules and regulations were updated. We have our acreage rules on how much water there needs to be and to cover the septics, but I feel like if there's county water available, then the developer should have to pay for the water to be piped into the subdivision and have a spot set for the meter. If the owner wants to drill a well later on, that’s fine, but I think that should be a part of the cost of Well, later on, that's fine, but I think that ought to be part of the cost for the developer.

Editor’s Note: Due to space considerations, questions and answers from the Precinct 1 Commissioner candidates appeared in the Feb. 22 edition of the Gonzales Inquirer.