Wednesday was last chance for public to protest a road

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Orange Grove Journal

Jim Wells County Commissioners held a public hearing on Wednesday to receive comments on a proposed County Road map that has been on display at the courthouse since December 2006.

As part of the Texas Transportation Code, the county is attempting to clarify each road considered a county road for mapping and record purposes. Roads that have gained approval as county roads through the commisisoner's court, or those that have been maintained continuously with public funds beginning before Sept. 1, 1981, are under consideration for mapping. County taxpayers received a notice concerning the county map in their last tax statements.

Attorney Robert Bass, with Allison, Bass and Associates L.L.P., led the presentation of the county map, and the hearing was open to those who had issues with a particular road, either left off the county map or a roadway that shouldn't be considered for mapping.

Wednesday was the last day to turn in any protest letters on the map project, which will be researched and presented before an administrative jury in late June.

Only two protest forms were turned in on Wednesday. One was from the family of Baydelia Saavedra, who lives on County Road 429, and filed a protest form concerning a portion of CR 431 that was near her property but not on the map. She said the county has maintained the road for several years and it should be on the map. The part of CR 431 which extends past the intersection of CR 429 and CR 431 does not currently appear on the map.

Commissioner Zenaida Sanchez also filled out a protest form on County Road 109, which had inadvertently been left off county maps, although county road and bridge crews maintain the road.

"It's been maintained by the county for several years, and it will continue to be," Sanchez said.

The jury of view, which is a five-member body appointed by the court, oversees the decision to include roads on the map after information by the county is researched to see whether a road is indeed a county maintained road.

Bass, whose firm has handled the county road mapping procedure for nearly 100 Texas counties, said Texas has one of the most extensive road systems in the world.

In creating an accurate map of county roads, Bass utilizes information from United States Geographic Survey Topography maps, Texas Department of Transportation data and aerial photography, all of which is constructed in map form and submitted as a draft to county commissioners.

"We're not going to tell you it's perfect, but it's as close enough as we're going to get," Bass said.

Any county road not presented on the map would have to go before the jury of view, and evidence would have to be presented as to its existence. Roads can also be removed from the map.

The jury process cannot be used to open new county roads; it is only used as a process during which existing roads can be identified.

During the process, the burden of proof is on the county to prove maintenance.

"The jury of view is an administrative, not a judicial body. It's not a cure all, it's a very limited authority," Bass said.