During the Aug. 12 meeting of Karnes County Commissioners Court, local residents said to send more than $78,000 per acre for the property would be a waste of tax dollars when the yard could be built on property the county already owns, or a less expensive site could be found in a part of the county where real estate prices are cheaper.
The item proposed approval of a purchase contract for the property and was placed on the agenda by County Commissioners Pete Jauer and James Rosales.
According to the wording of the agenda item, the purchase would be contingent upon approved budget funding and at a price not to exceed $1.1 million. The agenda item, if approved, would authorize County Judge Richard Butler to negotiate the contract with the assistance of Rosales or Jauer.
The 14-acre property is located on State Highway 123 just north of the city limits of Karnes City and directly across the highway from Karnes Electric Co-Op, Inc. A metal building of approximately 3,000 square-feet in size would be included with the property.
“I just think that it is time to move forward on something,” Rosales said.
Whether or not the title is clear on the property was discussed, but according to the county judge, the title issue would be addressed after a contract is signed.
“Don’t you think it should be surveyed?” said County Commissioner Tracey Schendel. “We’ve got an estimated 14 acres but we don’t know how many acres total?”
“That’s $78,571 per acre,” said Scott Hall who was seated in the audience at the meeting.
Butler questioned whether or not spending $1.1 million on the property is the best way to spend tax dollars toward the purpose of improving county roads.
“The people of the county want and expect the road department to deliver good roads to the county as soon as possible and as economically as possible,” Butler said. “Whether taking $1.1 million of the road and bridge budget and putting it into this piece of property is the best way to accomplish that is the real question.”
David Reynolds told the court that he thinks the price is ridiculous.
“You can buy land within a half a mile of the intersection in Kenedy on 72 for $2 per square foot, and that’s for small acreage. You are at two dollars per square foot for 14 acres in a much less desirable location. It is a ridiculous expenditure of money.”
Others at the meeting agreed with what Reynolds said.
“To store road and bridge equipment, we don’t have to be so close to the city,” Shanna Hall said. “Right now, with the real estate market the way it is is not the time to be buying property... That is not a fiscally responsible move with our tax dollars.”
County Judge Richard Butler said he hoped that the court could work together and reach a consensus together in regard to creating a plan that spends tax dollars in the most effective way possible to fix county roads desperately in need of repair.
Commissioner Jauer said the county would be getting a lot more that just the land with the purchase.
“It has about six acres of base material and gravel on there about four inches thick,” Jauer said. “It has got a large building suitable for a shop. It has got some office space. It has to have some improvements.”
Jauer said Monday that the property also has two open sheds.
Road and Bridge Administrator Michael Wozniak said that he believes the $1.1 million is a necessary expenditure and having the yard in that location will help the department accomplish its goals.
“I think it is worth it,” Wozniak said, explaining that a location is needed for storage of the county’s ever-growing inventory of equipment.
“I don’t see why you can’t leave your equipment out on the roads out there,” Commissioner Schendel said. “You don’t have to bring them into the yard.”
Wozniak said a secure location is needed due to problems with vandalism and theft.
After lengthy discussion, a motion was put forward that was slightly different than what the agenda called for.
Instead of authorizing the county judge and either Commissioner Jauer or Commissioner Rosales to negotiate a contract to purchase the property, the court instead voted in favor of having Butler along with either Jauer or Rosales begin negotiations with the property owner and then report back to the full court who would later decide whether or not to make the purchase.
County Commissioner Shelby Dupnik said Monday that he is opposed to the purchase of the property due to what he considers too much cost and a less than ideal location. Dupnik said other options should be explored in order to meet the needs of the county’s road and bridge department.