By Brad Kellar
Hunt County Judge Bobby Stovall was optimistic in his assessment on the state of County in his address during Friday’s Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“I believe our future is very bright,” he said, touching on a number of reasons for his positive outlook.
Stovall said the Hunt County Commissioners Court has been able to reduce the county’s property tax rate from 51.18 cents per $100 valuation in 2019 to 36.11 cents in the current budget.
“That is a 15 cent decrease in five years,” he said, noting that the county’s overall tax base has doubled in the past six years.
But Stovall cautioned it would be difficult for the county to continue on such a path.
“Like everybody else we have deteriorating infrastructure,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest single infrastructure issue the county is facing is the status of the Hunt County Detention Center. Plans to take another stab at building a new jail began almost immediately after the previous measure was defeated by a narrow margin of Hunt County voters in November 2021.
Stovall said the problems with the building continue to worsen, including cracks throughout the ceilings, walls and doors, constant sewer stoppages and water leaks. Some of the cell doors don’t operate and sensors in others cannot determine if there is an inmate inside or not.
A 10-member board, two members appointed by Stovall and from each of the commissioners, has been working on the next steps, even as stop gap and cosmetic measures are performed.
“We put a lipstick on this pig every day,” Stovall said.
Stovall was also optimistic on the amount of sales tax rebate revenue collected by the county, which has risen from an annual total of $4.7 million in 2019 to $7.3 million in 2022.
Stovall said a fairly recent legal case changed the collection of sales tax to the point where a sold item is delivered helped Hunt County receive funds from sales made through online sources such as Amazon.
“That’s a big deal for small counties like us,” he said.
Much of Stovall’s speech was directed at the rapid increase in the population to the north, south and especially west, which is requiring a corresponding rise in highway construction. The latest update of the Hunt County Transportation Implementation Plan repeated TxDOT’s proposal to widen Interstate 30 to six lanes throughout Hunt County and to build new interchanges at several exits. In fact, some of the projects are already underway.
“We have let the contracts for the Monty Stratton Parkway, FM 1570 and FM 1903,” Stovall said. Monty Stratton and FM 1903 are expected to be widening the intersections on either side of I-30, while FM 1570 will require the existing overpass to be destroyed and rebuilt as the roads to the north and south are realigned.
“That intersection is going to be closed down part of the time,” Stovall said. “They are all three going to be built at the same time.”
Stovall closed his remarks with a heartfelt tribute to Precinct 4 Commissioner Steven Harrison, who volunteered to donate a kidney for a stranger after hearing a plea from a teenager in his Commerce precinct.
“He did that so that a boy could keep his daddy,” Stovall said, with tears in his eyes. “This is one of the reasons why I’m positive the future of Hunt County is bright.”
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