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Eagle Ford issues top county’s concerns
Increased road damage and a surge in traffic accidents brought about by the ongoing spike in Eagle Ford shale truck traffic is tops among pressing issues for Wilson County officials. Several officials voiced their concerns during a July 5 special meeting of the Wilson County Commissioners Court.
Gathering their concerns was former Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt, who now serves as county relations officer for the Texas Association of Counties (TAC).
Wilson County Judge Marvin Quinney suggested perhaps the Legislature could establish Eagle Ford zones, similar to construction zones, in which fines could be doubled for speeding and other violations.
“Gravel haulers get paid by the load,” he said. “The income generated [from the fines] could be used toward enforcement and recovery.”
Hunt said that while TAC does not originate ideas for legislation, the organization does help counties in getting bills passed. He suggested that the state could perhaps restructure its severance tax system by implementing a cap. While much of the money would still go toward the “Rainy Day Fund,” anything collected above the cap could be returned to the respective counties from which it originated. These funds could be used to improve roadways or increase the number of officers to enforce traffic laws.
“The state was getting half a billion in severance tax from Dewitt County and the county was getting back just $100,000,” Hunt said.
Commissioner Paul Pfeil said, “Twelve Eagle Ford counties have contributed $4 billion in revenue, and they haven’t gotten anything back.”
Also related to tax revenue, Quinney mentioned that the state recently used 911 tax dollars -- which are charged to cellular telephone customers to help defray the costs of 911 operations -- to help balance its budget.
“That is fraud,” he said.
LeAnn Hosek, coordinator of the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency, said 911 tax funds mostly are allocated according to area code. Because most county residents with cellular telephones have 210 area codes instead of the county’s 830 area code, she said the county often loses out on these funds. Hosek suggested that the allocations should be based on postal ZIP codes.
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