Citizens for Change deeply appreciates all of those in Hill County that supported the effort to change Hill County for the better by voting for the “Optional County Road System” – also known as the “Unit System”.

The vote was clear — the win decisive — 61% for, 39% against. In any one’s book, that is a landslide victory.

Optional County Road System voting results:
For—5,285**
Against—3,373

Thank you citizens of Hill County who signed the Optional Road and Bridge Management Petition. 

Because of your efforts and willingness to support needed change, the Hill County Commissioners approved your petition at the regular meeting Tuesday morning, August 14, to order an election for a Optional County Road System. 

What that means is that the petition you signed was validated and so the opportunity to vote for the Optional County Road Management System will be on the Nov 6th, Ballot.  Please be sure and vote “YES” for the Optional County Road Management System.  In addition, please tell all your family, friends, and neighbors to vote “YES” for the Optional County Road System on Tuesday, November 6th.

Hill County has 1,126 miles of “county” roads and 150 bridges maintained by the Commissioners Court under a road and bridge maintenance program termed “Ex Officio Road Commissioner System” (Regulated by Texas Transportation Code, Chapter 252 Subchapter A). In this program, elected precinct Commissioners serve as the road commissioner for their respective precinct.

Hill County’s current precinct-based system of four (4) independent maintenance facilities is a throwback from the era of horse drawn wagons.  It harbors financial and operational inefficiencies that impede efforts to improve the county’s road and bridges. This creates unnecessary duplication of heavy road equipment, vehicles, tools, and machinery, wasting your tax dollars.

By comparison, the Texas Department of Transportation, Hill County, maintains 1,077 miles of roads with an annual budget of $4.3 million under consolidated operations at one (1) maintenance facility in Hillsboro (county and state roads are separately maintained (Fact # 4). 

The Optional County Road System accomplishes the same for our county road management.  It consolidates the county road management under one office (County Road Engineer), maximizes economies of scale and allows the commissioners to concentrate on other important county matters like economic development, etc.

So don’t forget to vote Tuesday, November 6th and vote “YES” for the Optional County Road System.

Hill County Commissioners Court continues to prioritize into the county budget the employment of two Information Technology (IT) specialists from Dallas (previously worked for Dallas County government) working directly for County Judge Justin Lewis, at a total annual compensation (salary with health & retirement benefits) of more than $135,000.  Moreover, their duties do not encompass several of the county’s major computer users, resulting in additional and ongoing taxpayer expenses such as County Assessor-Tax Collector.  In addition to compensation, the annual budget shows $80,000 for “Training and Mileage Reimbursement” and “Contract Services” along with $75,000 for “Capital Outlay”.  Just the IT position salaries and training/mileage since 2006 have cost Hill County taxpayers nearly one and half million dollars ($1,500,000).

Interestingly, the county’s annual IT budget totals $611,000, with nearly half ($302,000) devoted to software and maintenance, but that’s another interesting story.  Might it have been more cost effective for the Commissioners Court to outsource the county’s IT service requirements? We’ll never know because the Commissioners Court failed to conduct a common sense cost analysis for IT services.  A more transparent approach would call for a county computer user committee to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for IT services. (NOTE: At one time the county had a computer user committee, but it was disbanded following the employment of these IT specialists).  The RFP would then be submitted for bids resulting in a one-time expense to meet the county’s needs, perhaps followed by oversight by a nominally salaried IT person for ongoing computer maintenance or even approach Hill College to develop a work-study program.  RFP’s in government and private industry are used specifically to avert ill-fated decisions, especially by those not familiar with the technology of modern information systems (i.e. our elected Commissioners Court).  The RFP approach would have avoided the present situation in which Hill County taxpayers are paying an ever continuing $135,000 annual compensation and $80,000 for training for two IT positions (total $215,000).  The Commissioners Court’s decision to hire two IT employees working directly for County Judge Lewis did not require a public bid (an easy but expensive way around the RFP process).  Those living in Hill County for the last few years will recall the Commissioners Court’s purchase of a funeral home for $450,000.  While the expenditure was a waste of taxpayer funds, at least there is a tangible piece of real property to show for it.  The funeral home purchase pale in comparison to Hill County Information Technology program expense.  What do Hill County tax payers have to show after spending millions of dollars on a “going nowhere” IT program, with more expenses planned?  Without correction, Hill County taxpayers will continue pay $611,000 each year for an ongoing dysfunctional program simply because our elected Commissioners Court failed to follow a common sense and proven method of procurement (RFP).

We, Hill County voting citizens, will have an opportunity to vote and change how business is conducted in our county government on November 6th.  Please review the information on this website about  the “Optional County Road System” (aka Unit-System) and vote “YES” for the “Optional County Road System on election day, this November 6th.

It’s your hard earned money.

Mike Hendricks, Citizen for Change (580-5260)

The “paving” project of Quarter Horse Road (Precinct 1) is yet another example why Hill County needs to move away from its “horse & wagon” road maintenance business model and adopt a “unit system” where an expert administrator would manage our multi-million dollar program. This taxpayer funded project started in early September but the “paver” broke and the project was delayed until November. Within just 6 months, major deterioration of the road surface is present. The bottom-line remains, without road engineering expertise, our tax dollars will continue to be literally washed away. (pictures from Carter Brough).

IMG_6193 IMG_6199 IMG_6893 IMG_6896 IMG_6902 IMG_6906 IMG_6907 IMG_6910 IMG_6943IMG_6948

“Hill County Citizens for Change” is building momentum towards allowing “VOTERS” to establish a “Unit” system for our county’s antiquated Road & Bridge Maintenance Program.  We are now 33% complete with our required petition signatures (925 signatures required by July 2012 but our goal remains 1,000+).
We now have 3 petition signing locations in place:

Lake Whitney Real Estate (thank you to Paul Sauer)
803 South Colorado (corner of SH-22/FM-933)
Whitney, TX 76692

Don Tutor Bail Bonds (thank you to Don Tutor)
600 West Elm Street (west end of Hillsboro on SH-22)
Hillsboro, TX 76645

Triple H Feed Store (thank you to Kenneth Hill)
2410 Corsicana Highway (one mile east of I-35 past Hill College entrance on SH-22)
Hillsboro, TX 76645

Abbott Area
Ryan Kaska (254.707.0335).  Those in the Abbott area wishing to sign the Roads and Bridges Study Petition should call Ryan and he will bring the petition by for your signature.


Hubbard Location Pending…Coming Soon
Itasca Location Pending…Coming Soon

Response to comments

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By daved | Filed in General | One comment

I would like to respond to Mr. Harkins’ comments.

Mr. Harkins appears to begin with the premise that the unit road system is suitable only for counties with populations of 100,000 or more. Of the 44 Texas counties with populations between 25,000 and 55,000, thirteen (29.5%) report using the unit road system. I telephoned road officials from Caldwell, Chambers, Grimes, Hood, Howard, and Upshur counties to learn about their experiences with the unit road system. Several themes emerged. First, county road departments are better able to document their activities. They keep better track of equipment use and maintenance, personnel deployment, and resources devoted to specific projects. Second, county road departments have more financial flexibility. They are able to circumvent the problem of how to allocate funds among precincts. One engineer I talked to discussed a situation in which one precinct in his county was smaller geographically but had the largest population. This precinct was chronically underfunded. Third, county road departments are better able to plan and prioritize projects when the focus is on the county as a whole. Fourth, nearly all of road officials cited the absence of unnecessary duplication of capital equipment as a benefit of the unit road system.

One interesting observation made by the Hood County Engineer was that in not dealing directly with the day-to-day administration of road maintenance, the county commissioners are able to spend more time delving into greater budget issues in service to the county.

Mr. Harkins projects that it will take Hill County 133 years to reach the 100,000 population milestone based on a historical growth rate of 8.564%. I drive I-35W between FM 67 and Fort Worth on workdays. In 1995, my commute home was free of major traffic once I passed the Miller Brewery and Mrs. Baird’s. Pasture land dominated the landscape to the South. Today, retail dominates the landscape south from Fort Worth, and my homebound traffic does not thin out until I reach Alvarado. Over the past decade, the Ellis County population grew 37.9%, twelfth highest among Texas’ 254 counties. Over the same period, the Johnson County population grew 23.3%, twenty-fourth among Texas’ 254 counties. As the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex reaches into Hill County, I would be hesitant to rely on past growth patterns to project Hill County population growth over the next few decades.

Mr. Harkins states that a county road engineer would require compensation of $100,000 to $130,000 annually. According to http://salary.com, a Civil Engineering Supervisor III would command an annual salary of $90,193 in this area. Step down to a Senior Civil Engineer, and the salary becomes $69,768. The $200,000 in additional staff compensation (including benefits) would seem to be an overestimate. Moreover, Mr. Harkins calls for a “detailed comparative cost analysis”. To my knowledge, the commissioners do not collect the data that would allow for a comparative cost analysis. Better data collection and analysis was one of the benefits of the unit road system cited by the county road officials.

On the issue of equipment utilization and duplication, Mr. Harkins uses road graders as a case in point. But equipment duplication goes far beyond road graders. At issue are: 17 Motor-graders, 10 Tractors, 19 Dump Trucks, 30 Pick-up trucks, 7 Loaders, 31 Trailers, 18 Mack Trucks, 2 Dozers, and 3 Backhoes.

Finally, Mr. Harkins states, “…wouldn’t the engineer have to calculate the number of blades “required,” estimate an in-commission rate, and also allow an emergency factor?” This is exactly our point. Hill County would be better served by decisions made by a professional engineer than by an elected official.

County population data are from the U.S. Census Bureau at:

http://www.census.gov/popest/eval-estimates/eval-est2010.html

Road system type by county is from:
“County Road System Report”, County Information Project, Texas Association of Counties, July 2, 2010.

Comments attributed to the Hood County Engineer are from the author’s telephone conversation with Mr. Donald Linney, Thursday, March 24, 2011. Reported with his permission.

Engineering salary data are from http://salary.com using their “salary wizard”.

Equipment inventory data are from the “Hill County Roads and Bridges Study”

This website presents to the public a  study on the roads and bridges management within Hill County.

Currently, roads and bridges within the county are managed by the county commissioner’s court via a system known as “Ex Officio Road Commissioner System”, which translates into each precinct commissioner (there are 4 precincts in Hill County) managing an independent maintenance program and plan.  This creates unnecessary duplication of heavy road equipment, vehicles, tools, and machinery, costing Hill County taxpayers millions  of dollars annually (2009).

This study advocates a change in management to a program known as “Unit-Road System”.  Essentially, this style of management would bring professional management to the entire county road and bridge maintenance program as a consolidated unit labeled “County Road Department System” and according to the study save millions of taxpayer dollars annually.

We encourage all Hill County citizens to take a few minutes to review this  comprehensive study and provide feedback as appropriate.  When you link to the different sections of the study (see the main navigation menu above) you may add comments on each section.

If community support for this initiative becomes apparent, a petition drive will be initiated to seek signatures from at least 10% of voters participating in the last gubernatorial election (925 signatures).  The signed and approved petition will then be presented to the Commissioners Court.  This will initiate the process to allow our community’s voters the opportunity to replace the antiquated “Ex Officio Road Commissioner System” with a more efficient, more cost-effective consolidated “County Road Department” (unit-road system) managed by a registered professional civil engineer who would report to the Commissioners Court.