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Knight looking forward to 2022

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    Work crews continue on the Liberty County portion of the Grand Parkway, crossing FM 1960. The Vindicator | Russell Payne
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    Heavy equipment operators are moving dirt on a retention pond off the Grand Parkway. The Vindicator | Russell Payne
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    A view of the Grand Parkway between FM 1960 and US HWY 90 in Dayton. The Vindicator | Russell Payne

Liberty County Judge Jay Knight is excited for things to come in 2022, as the focus moves further away from COVID19, and attention turns back to the issues and projects affecting the county itself. The upcoming year will see the completion of several major projects, such as the Grand Parkway, new sheriff’s office, and annex, and several recent developments that will significantly impact the area.

“After the last two years we’ve been dealing with COVID, 2022 is a welcoming change to me,” said Knight.

The Grand Parkway, which is well on its way to being completed, should be ready by the first quarter of 2023. There will be quite a few issues that will be dealt with after that date, with drainage and other things that must be addressed. However, right now, Knight believes those projects being completed are critical.

Road projects for the county do not end there, and perhaps two of the most notable will take place on US HWY 90 in the Dayton area. Two overpasses are on the horizon, with the first coming at the intersectiontion of FM 1413, where the wreck count continues to soar. The project is set to begin in early to late-Spring of this year and will take an estimated 18 months to complete construction. The other project involves the rail crossing coming into Dayton. Yes, preliminary plans to eliminate congestion at the “Dayton Train” are expected to be ready this month, with public hearings hopefully following in the months ahead.

The second project will be funded out of the $57 million the county has acquired through grants, and the agreements are being made between the county, TxDOT and Union Pacific for that project. There should be some funding left after construction, and there are hopes to create another rail crossing in Dayton if Waco Street is permanently closed at the current intersection. If all goes well, the project that should also take about 18-24 months will be underway or well on its way.

Next up for the county is completing the new law enforcement complex that will consist of an all-new office for the sheriff’s department and emergency management. The complex will also consist of an annex for the Pct. 3 Constable and Justice of the Peace and Texas Highway Patrol and the Texas Rangers.

As the county looks ahead at capital improvement projects, the focus will turn significantly to the county jail after completing that facility. The jail is over-occupancy and has been for some time. The capacity is 285 occupants, which the county far exceeds. Currently, the county contracts out inmates to facilities in five other counties, and the number is only expected to increase considerably.

“We’re prepared to explore the construction of a new county jail,” said Knight.

That new facility would likely house anywhere between 500-750 inmates once constructed, as the necessity to house inmates grows along with the overall population. That project would be done without any bonds and built on the same property as the newly constructed law enforcement complex, costing an estimated $50-75 million.

As for the current sheriff’s offices, those will be revamped, and the jail administration will be housed there, while Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace would be moved to the current emergency management office. The county would like to get out of the renting business and let go of the offices at the existing annex.

As for annex buildings, well, there will be a new facility constructed later this year in the Colony Ridge development, with new offices for the sheriff’s department, Pct. 6 Constable, and the county permitting department. The project has been fast-tracked by commissioners with existing funding.

Knight is also excited for the development of the Liberty County Drainage District and working to bring that system together throughout the area. Knight stressed that there will be no ad valorem taxes in the funding of the district, with a focus on permitting fees, grants and the possibility of a half cent sales tax in the future.

Another big area for the county continues to be growth through new development, which is constantly coming. One new project is the new 242-acre development by Kingsland located in the vicinity of the Grand Parkway. The project calls for 1,096 new lots, ranging from $350,000 -$750,000 homes. The project will include parks, detention ponds, and new commercial development. The new subdivision will be in the area of both Dayton and Cleveland ISD.

“We are seeing more interest in Liberty County, of not only residential development but also commercial and industrial development. It is commercial and industrial that we are really seeking, but all of those go hand in hand,” said Knight on the future growth.

Knight believes he and the Commissioners Court are addressing the problems of Liberty County head-on, and they are ready for what comes their way.

“I am lucky to have a commissioner’s court that works well together and understands the problems. We can sit down in a workshop environment or when we are in the court and work through these problems, so we can make sound decisions and still we’re able to follow the law,” concluded Knight.