Smith County commissioners call bond election for phase 2 for roads, bridges

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 2:55 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2021 at 3:09 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Smith County residents will be able to vote in November for or against a road and bridge capital improvement project.

From Smith County:

After holding several community meetings to gather input from Smith County residents throughout the summer, the Commissioners Court on Tuesday voted to call a bond election in November for Phase 2 of the Smith County Road and Bridge Capital Improvement Project, which will help it complete a six-year plan to substantially upgrade the County’s Road and Bridge system.

The bond to do Phase 1 work was approved in November of 2017, by 73 percent of the voters. At the end of the first phase, more than 250 miles of road will be completely reconstructed and/or repaved using the $39.5 million in bond funds approved in 2017. In just the first year of Phase 1, the County was able to reconstruct and repave as many road miles as had been done in the entire preceding decade.

Now that the first phase is coming to an end, the Commissioners Court has officially called an election for voters to decide if they support the second phase of the six-year bond to continue to improve the county’s nearly 1,200 miles of road. The bond that will be on the ballot for voters on November 2, will be for $45 million and is expected to include the improvement of an additional 283 miles of roads in the next three years over and above what is paid for in cash annually out of the County’s budget. This amount is also over and above amounts spent each year for the County’s annual maintenance programs.

If approved by voters, Smith County taxes would increase by 0.76 of a penny, resulting in approximately $15 more per year in taxes for the owner of a $200,000 home.

Last year, the county reduced the property tax rate a full penny during the pandemic. For Fiscal Year 2022, the proposed property tax rate approved on Tuesday will remain the same as last year -- 33.5 cents per $100 valuation. Thanks to conservative fiscal planning, the county has an AA+ bond rating, and has been able to sell its Road and Bridge bonds for phase 1 at historically low rates, including a sale of the last tranche of bonds in June 2021, at 1.05 percent interest rate.

Phase 2 of the County’s six-year Road and Bridge program includes three categories of major work: (1) Reconstruction; (2) Base Stabilization and Overlay; and (3) Overlay projects. Additionally, based on the success of Phase 1 and feedback from citizens, the County has added roads to the list of projects and upgraded the anticipated work to be done. To make sure that all roads on the list are completed in the second phase, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said the County plans to contribute another $11 million in cash so that a total of $56 million of projects can be completed in Phase 2, bringing the total road miles either repaved or reconstructed in Phase 1 and Phase 2 to nearly 500.

The Commissioners Court has held several workshops to discuss the plans during its regular public meetings. In addition, five Citizen Input Meetings have been held throughout the county’s four precincts. The meetings were attended collectively by about 140 people. Citizen feedback forms solicited suggestions from residents, both at the meetings and online, at https://www.smith-county.com/i-want-to/view/county-road-projects and dozens of have been received. The work done in Phase 1 and the work planned for Phase 2 can be found at this link on the County’s website, which includes maps of completed and planned projects for each precinct.

Smith County Engineer Frank Davis said after hearing all of the suggestions, some road projects have been added, upgraded or moved up the schedule. He said the proposed project for the second phase of the bond, if it passes, is fluid and always changing depending on the conditions of the roads.

Here is a breakdown of the road miles for each precinct:

· Precinct 1 includes Flint, Noonday and Bullard and has 296 miles of roads. There are 68 miles of overlay/reconstruction work planned for Phase 2, while 55 miles of roads were improved in Phase 1.

· Precinct 2 includes Whitehouse, Troup and Arp and has 219 miles of roads. There are 46 miles of overlay/reconstruction work planned for Phase 2, while 42 miles of roads were improved in Phase 1.

· Precinct 3 includes Lindale and Winona and has 510 miles of roads. There are 138 miles of overlay/reconstruction work planned for Phase 2, while 63 miles of roads were improved in Phase 1.

· Precinct 4 is in the northwest part of the county and includes mostly the city of Tyler, and 144 miles of county roads. There are 31 miles of overlay/reconstruction work planned for Phase 2, while 39 miles of roads were improved in Phase 1.

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