The Coupland City Council met in a special meeting on the morning of June 5. In attendance were Mayor Jack Piper and Aldermen Barbara Piper, Susan Schmidt, and Eldridge Tidwell. The only item on the agenda was a meeting with representatives from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to discuss improvements to FM 1660 between Rice’s Crossing and SH 95.
Representing TxDOT were Mark Herber (Transportation Engineer), Laura Nelson and Susan Dwyer (Right-of-Way Agents). Ms. Nelson was the primary spokesperson. She said this project has been in the works for a number of years. Their intent is to “rehabilitate” the roadway itself and to add shoulders resulting in two 12-foot lanes plus 4-foot shoulders. Typically they need 80 feet of Right-of-Way (ROW) but more in some places to provide for proper slopes.
According to Nelson, the Texas Administrative Code requires a 10 percent contribution from municipalities to help cover the cost of ROW acquisition (presumably only acquisitions within the city limits and not elsewhere in the project – Editor) and reimbursements to utilities that have to be relocated but only if they were previously outside the ROW. She said legal costs—primarily imminent domain challenges and property title issues—can add to the total but they cannot be predicted.
[Editor’s Note: The off-the-cuff estimate, from a previous phone conversation with TxDOT, of Coupland’s share was $14,000. The City’s annual budget for road maintenance is $10,000 and more than half of that went to pothole repairs and filling in a small sinkhole on Hoxie Street near the Post Office.]
Nelson said that loans or incremental payments are possible but she also said that incremental payments would have to be completed before the project was completed.
Nelson promised to send a copy of the proposed agreement and information about state infrastructure loans as well as information regarding special provisions for disadvantaged counties, which she said applied to cities as well. She said TxDOT was willing to work with us but that the project release was waiting on an agreement with Coupland. A citizen attending the meeting asked if there was any provision for cities in situations similar to ours and whether or not we would be “grandfathered” because Coupland was not afforded an opportunity to have any input into the planning process. None of the TxDOT representatives could offer any opinion on why they did not know that they were planning a project which included sections within a municipality, even though Coupland has been incorporated for a year and a half. She said she had not encountered a similar situation in the past. She also said she did not know where the breakdown in communication happened.
With regard to SH 95 (and presumably any other state roads within city limits – Editor), the City of Coupland would not be responsible for any costs unless land acquisition is involved. Nelson also said that the state requirements apply only to land within the corporate limits, not within the area of Coupland’s Extra-territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).
Finally, Nelson said that they have no authority to do anything but apply the law. She said that the Texas Transportation Commission “runs the show” and that Coupland would have to apply to them to request other arrangements. She said they would send the City a breakdown of costs.
There was also a short discussion about various issues on SH 95.
The next regular meeting of the Coupland City Council will be on June 12 at 7 PM.
[Editor’s Note: You can see project details on TxDOT’s website here. As you can see, the project is funded for May 2015 and costs have exceeded the initial projections. The project detail listing does not specify ROW and utility estimates.]