Without matching grant, Granite Shoals voters to reconsider $3M roads bond

JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER

Phillips Ranch Road in Granite Shoals. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Phillips Ranch Road in Granite Shoals. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

GRANITE SHOALS — In November 2016, Granite Shoals voters approved issuing $3 million in bonds for road improvements with an eye toward a $3.6 million matching grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In December, a USDA official told Granite Shoals City Manager Ken Nickel the most the city could hope for was $50,000.

“I felt I’d gotten punched in the stomach,” Nickel said. “We were talking roads, that’s all we’ve been talking about.” 

Now, the city council is going back to voters with a November 2017 ballot measure to ask them if they still want to go forward with the original $3 million bond package, knowing there won’t be any significant federal funding influx. 

“We want to reconfirm, not knowing if we can get any grants,” Nickel said. “We’re better off reconfirming. The city council truly believes this. We already passed the $3 million bond. The council wants to make sure (voters understand) it’s $3 million versus $7 million.”

The city was planning to use the bond money, a potential $3.6 million USDA grant, and another $400,000 from city coffers to make upgrades and repairs to Phillips Ranch Road, Valley View, and Prairie Creek.

Nickel said city officials will use the next several months leading up to the November election looking for grant opportunities, but, he added, the city might have to go on its own when it comes to the street repairs if no other grant funds are found.

This would force the city to rethink the scope of repairs and upgrades for the three thoroughfares. 

The slash to the amount of possible USDA grant funding caught Nickel and city officials completely off guard. Prior to the November 2016 election, a USDA official assured Nickel and Mayor Carl Brugger that the city was a solid candidate for a dollar-for-dollar match for the street repairs. So officials told voters that if they approved a $3 million bond, the city would apply for a 55 percent matching grant from the USDA. 

And it wasn’t a one-time conversation.

Brugger and Nickel had many discussions with the same USDA official throughout 2016 leading up to the ballot measure, and they all focused on the street repairs and potential $3.6 million federal match. 

“There were no problems,” Nickel said. “Millions could be available. We talked about roads only. Then, we went through the application process.

“At the time, we thought there was good potential with the USDA,” the city manager added. “The question is: What do we do now?”

In December, a different USDA official informed Nickel that the department was only allotting $600,000 for road repairs to the state of Texas, not the millions initially discussed. If approved, Granite Shoals would get no more than $50,000.

Nickel said the good news is the bonds haven’t been issued and the only road work that’s been done so far are tasks such as addressing potholes on Phillips Ranch Road. 

“If voters say no in November, we’ll resolve the $3 million. We’ll never issue that debt,” he said. “We will not spend any money for roads except for the $200,000 this year (already budgeted). We won’t spend any (other) money or issue the bonds. We’ll let it expire.”

The city manager re-emphasized that the city of Granite Shoals was “encouraged … to go forward with” applying for the grant and ask for a 55 percent match by his original USDA representative.

“I will go on record in saying that, to this day, we talked about millions and millions of dollars,” he said. “Why did it change? I don’t know that. I will stand by what I heard. We’ll move forward on other things. We’re spending time fixing Phillips Ranch Road to get short-term fixes. This is a unique situation. The bond passed and wanting to reconfirm it with folks is unique. The information went out we thought was true. I think that’s an intelligent approach.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

6 Responses to “Without matching grant, Granite Shoals voters to reconsider $3M roads bond”

  1. Bob McSweeney says:

    We have terrible roads here and pay some of the highest property taxes. It seems odd to me and others that money for needs like this should be passed .

  2. Dennis McCoy says:

    It is very sad that the word “streets” is continued to be used concerning those bonds and the plans for only 3 Arterial ROADS. In this article the usage of “streets” is noted at least 3 times referring to ONLY 3 ARTERIAL ROADS. Before the bond elections in Nov. 2016 the word “Streets” was placed on several large signs to promote the Bonds election.

    Why is the word so important and used wholesale as a great misnomer and farce? It is simple… involved in that bond package and even the proposed roadway project is not a single street and only 3 Arterial Roadways. This is extremely important to consider as the streets in Granite Shoals are in very bad condition and many are still either dirt or gravel after years of being annexed and the city acquiring those tax-payer’s hard earned money. The administration has not given due diligence to the serious and disturbing conditions of the neighborhood streets which are recognize by most all as being “STREETS” not roads. Not a single penny of any of the Bonds funds, nor even the proposed Grant funds would go toward any “streets” in this town at all.

    For years malfeasance has directed street repair employees to only throw out some patching materials(?) as one would toss dirt in their yards with a shovel, without a proper effort to actually repair any pothole nor street. In fact, after years of wasting thousands of Tax-payers’ dollars in this poorer community claiming pothole & streets repairs, it was revealed that the waste was knowingly committed due to the city not having appropriate nor proper street repair equipment to do the work as it should have been done. Only within the last months of 2016 did the city that the City Manager stated “did not have funds nor the appropriate equipment”, suddenly find the money and rented a piece of equipment for more than it could have purchased one during the past years . This sudden happening was brought about due to the widely public statements and efforts of a community activist whom became aware of the long ongoing farce considered as “street & potholes repairs”.

    The very poor condition and large quantity of either unpaved and/or poor conditioned streets and drainage areas have been a very sore and angrily disheartening subject matter to a large quantity of residents and especially tax-payers. Therefore the use of the word “streets” in any discussion, printing, and more, including advertising for the Nov. 2016 Bond vote is a serious misleading and farcical terminology to be used for a plan, item, bonds, and anything else regarding those only 3 Arterial Roadways that have nothing at all to do with streets and everything to do with politics and wholesale misdirection. Many voters did actually believe their own streets would be repaired with some of that bond money, so they approved of it naturally based on, again, seriously misleading “streets” wordage and verbiage by the City Manager, and the City Council.

    So sad that the former City Manager of Llano, Texas was ousted for his poor performance on streets and infrastructure repairs etc. when the City Manager of this smaller and much poorer community has been rewarded and is now paid a $40,000 higher salary while having many similar problems with streets, water and other infrastructure unmet needs. I am a home-owner and tax-payer of Granite Shoals for many years and have been involved in trying to help get something resolved more positively fo our citizens, including being the sole proponent that demanded the city apply for Federal funding instead of only relying on increasing local taxes as they have done for many years, and the records show the streets and drainage conditions have not been improving accordingly.

    Now the Mayor and City leadership are going to make more promises in an effort to keep and spend the bond funds they snookered the citizens into approving when they absolutely do know such funds will not suffice and will also not be spent on the “streets” which the citizens thought they were approving. …. As I usually do…. I do not wish anyone to blindly believe what I say and have written, I very strongly urge and encourage people to find the truth for themselves and not allow those miscreants and deceivers to continue to have access to that $3 million of 2016 Bond funds and reject their taxes being used for certain “interests” VS the tax-payer / citizen real streets and drainage needs.

  3. DJ says:

    I’d rather see the sewer system the previous administration proposed. The roads are in rough shape but good enough.

    • Dennis McCoy says:

      The previous administration did not pursue the available EPA grants for constructing Sewer plants and associated needs like many other Texas small towns have done ( Find the records on their EPA web site and contact those cities listed. About 6 in 5 years) Instead the GS administration wanted to use a loan of $14.5 million to finance only a part of a sewer system serving basically 1431 and no other funding options after that. This would have left ALL of the Tax-payer citizens holding a huge loan debt but not getting the service they would have been paying for, with no future financing nor sewer development available. Like paying for a Limousine but getting only a bicycle with a big debt and a flat tire. Check the real facts as to why the sewer bond deal and vote failed.

  4. Bob McSweeney says:

    And the potholes keep getting larger and larger………… It doesn’t look like the employees of the city will be able to fill the new potholes and refill the old ones. I would like to know when our streets were completely paved?

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