DAYTON – As the eyes of Texas have been on Liberty County in recent weeks, County Judge Jay Knight took the opportunity to address constituents on current affairs facing the area.
Knight, the special guest of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce, addressed members at the November Luncheon and hammered home that good management was necessary in dealing with the county now and going forward, especially as the population continues to increase.
"You manage what you have to work with," Knight told the packed house. "You manage, you don't control."
Knight turned the focus to housing, economic development, transportation, and drainage projects, with big hopes for the county in those areas.
Knight spoke of the substantial growth the county has undergone in recent years; as one of the fastest growing counties in Texas, the need for housing and certain types of housing has increased, including demand for affordable homes.
Knight did tout lower tax rates since taking office in 2015, which comes in about 10 cents lower per $100 of taxable value. He further pointed out an increase in the county's fund balance, now $20 million, double since 2016.
"What causes that? It's called good management, its management," Knight said.
He pointed to his staff and fellow elected officials he works with daily to put the county in good financial standing, while dealing with the county's issues.
"Those are the things that keep you awake at night. I used to have blonde hair before this all started. I really did, and a lot more of it," Knight quipped.
He turned to transportation and the work going into projects around the county, with a significant focus on the more pressing projects in the Dayton area. That includes the US 90 overpass at the railroad crossing, set to begin next year, and the already underway overpass at US 90 and FM 1413.
He also spoke about River Ranch Parkway, located at the new master-planned community of the same name. It will span that subdivision from Texas 146 to FM 1409, with plans to extend it east over the Trinity River to FM 563, just south of Liberty; according to the judge, that project will see a great deal of private funding along the way.
The judge also spoke briefly about his hopes for a drainage plan to guide Liberty County when dealing with developers and new business and allow for planning. That goal is moving closer to reality following a Housing and Urban Development grant.
That plan will also allow for control over drainage issues, which he made clear affected every corner of the county.
"We'll create a drainage district for Liberty County," Knight exclaimed.
Knight has often said that the district will operate on impact fees assessed to housing and business developers, bypassing ad valorem taxes altogether.
Knight also hit on industrial development and what will likely come over the next several years, focusing on the rail corridor down Texas 146.
"What you're going to see in the railyard area, from Gulf Inland all the way down to Barbers Hill to the county line, is more and more either industry or more and more warehousing," Knight said. "There is no better place to put it."
Knight believed that new industrial development would line both sides of the highway and serve as a game-changer for the area.
These areas have been pinpointed in the Liberty County Strategic Plan, which will see its second version this Spring, allowing community leaders to plan for future growth.
That plan will be made available to the public, who also had the opportunity to provide their input over the past year, assisting the Texas Target Communities (TxTC), a community enhancement program at Texas A&M University.
Knight wrapped his remarks and again spoke about the growth and its impact going forward on the county.
"It's coming. It's coming. We just have to plan for it. We have to visualize what we want, we have to execute the plan, and we all have to work together," Knight concluded.