Fix to some roads in sticks nixed by Burnet County commissioners

BURNET —  Burnet County will no longer provide repairs on publicly dedicated roads following a 5-0 vote by Commissioners Court to end the 20-year practice.

In essence, even roads used by the public in private county subdivisions or overseen by property owners’ associations cannot receive repairs and maintenance funded by tax dollars.

“It’s not an easy issue,” said county Administrative Attorney Leslie Vance during the commissioners’ Sept. 11 meeting. “My recommendation is we cease working on those roads until they’re accepted by the county (for) maintenance.”

The commissioners unanimously voted to accept the suggestion.

A complaint by a tipster last month about county crews hauling road base to a private subdivision in Precinct 1 for a publicly dedicated road — a road used as much or more by the public as residents — prompted a review of the county’s policies.

The POA purchased the materials and did the work, not the county.

However, in a related issue, Vance said the county is still free to help nonprofit organizations — such as a rodeo — with projects as long as the activity fulfills a public purpose and is in the public interest. He suggested commissioners draft a policy.

In the matter of the roads, County Judge Donna Klaeger said commissioners relied on advice from various county attorneys going back two decades when they approved hauling road materials to subdivisions and property owners associations.

The issue becomes murky, officials said, because there are different kinds of roads in the county including county roads, county-maintained roads, publicly dedicated roads and private roads.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Bill Neve said many subdivision roads are considered “publicly dedicated” as part of a development plat and because the public uses them.

But that doesn’t make them a road subject to taxpayer-funded repairs, Vance said.

“When that plat comes to you and you approve the plat, that doesn’t make those county roads, (it) just (means) that the public can use them,” Vance said. “Until the county accepts maintenance of any road, (there is) no requirement for a county to expend money on that road.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Russell Graeter said some counties require developers to build roads to county specifications and the county then maintains them.

“But the cost is mind-boggling,” he said, adding Burnet County doesn’t have the funds.

Bob Bass, an attorney specializing in county road issues, said allowing county funds to be used on subdivision roads not accepted by commissioners for maintenance eats up the road-and-bridge budgets.

County road-and-bridge funds are designed to maintain rural roads, not subdivision streets, he said.

“If you don’t have maintenance over the road, you don’t have governmental authority (to spend money on them),” Bass added.

While the commissioners have put an end to assisting subdivisions and POAs with road work, Vance suggested the county should also develop a policy about assisting nonprofits such as rodeo associations and other organizations.

“If we find there’s a legitimate public interest, then there is case law that the County Commissioners can (help),” he said. “It’s not just taking up any project, but making informed decisions. You need to use your discretion.”

daniel@thepicayune.com

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