Breckenridge Texan

Commissioners vote for county speed limits, continue burn ban

Commissioners vote for county speed limits, continue burn ban
March 20
12:53 2019

The Stephens County Commissioners took a major step forward in setting lower speed limits for some county roads when they voted at last week’s meeting to establish a county-wide speed limit on all county roads of 30 miles per hour. During the meeting, they also agreed to continue the burn ban and took action on several other items.

New speed limit

Public Hearing

The commissioners held a public hearing at 9 a.m. Monday, March 11, to allow local residents to voice their opinions about the proposed speed limit change. Dr. Gary Fambro and Lisa Hodges signed up to speak.

Fambro spoke first and said he lives on CR 146 East and has his veterinarian’s office on CR 225, and he is supportive of the plan to lower speed limits on some county roads.

“I have spent 45 years going all over county roads all over this county, and I personally think it is a wonderful idea, I’ll just make that clear to start off with,” Fambro said. “Safety, safety, safety. I have actually had, at my office, an elderly couple pull out and get killed. About a 60 mile per hour vehicle came by and T-boned them.”

He said that, while all county roads may not need to have the 30 mph signs posted, some do need the limit set. “I think it is a logical thing to have a 30 mile an hour speed limit and if you put up signs then it’s enforceable. Even if it’s not enforceable, it sends a message to people, ‘Let’s not drive crazy on the dirt roads.’ And, I know some of these roads are paved, and some of them get abused quite a bit,” he said. “But, I think it’s very logical, and I’d like to tell the county commissioners that I appreciate them thinking about doing this.”

Lisa Hodges speaks during the Public Hearing about county road speed limits. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Hodges spoke next and said she lives on CR 274, expressed concerns about the speed limit being applied to stretches of the county roads that have few residents.

“I do believe that 60 is probably too fast, but I recently moved out to the lake…and there is about 2 miles to get to my house where there’s not anything, so to be 30 miles an hour on that part, I think would be a little bit too slow,” she said. “There’s not any kids, there’s no houses…I don’t see the need for 30 miles an hour speed limit in that stretch.”

Following the comments, the commissioners officially closed the hearing and returned to the regular meeting, at which time they discussed some of the specifics involved in changing the speed limit. Then, they voted unanimously to pass the ordinance.

What the new law means

Although the commissioners voted to officially make the speed limit 30 mph on all county roads, the law is only enforceable in areas where there are speed limit signs. So, in reality, the speed limit will remain 60 mph on all county roads where there are no speed limit signs.

The law applies only to official county roads, which are roads with the designation County Road or CR. The 30 mph speed limit does not apply to other city, state or U.S. streets, roads or highways.

Reason for the new law

County Judge Michael Roach explained that the reason the county commissioners were passing the law to create the uniform speed limit, even though it is not enforceable without posted signs, is to avoid having to hold public hearings every time a county commissioner and his constituents decide speed needs to be limited on a specific stretch of a road.

Roach said the default speed limit for all county roads has been 60 miles per hour and that some citizens have requested lower speed limits to make the roadways in front of their homes safer. However, he said, simply passing a new speed limit law doesn’t immediately solve the problem.

“What this ordinance does not do, this ordinance does not, right now, make it enforceable for every mile of our county roads to be at 30 miles an hour, and some folks have thought that. There are some stretches of road where, and these commissioners are well aware, you can go for miles and miles and not see a house; it’s not a heavily populated area. Those…are not going to be reduced to 30 miles an hour; it has to be enforceable, which you have to have signs,” Roach said. “Today allows the groundwork for a citizen and a commissioner to get together, and if there’s a dangerous stretch of road, they can talk about that.  What we don’t have to do is come back every time we want to set a speed limit and have a public hearing, do a public notice…and go over every segment of the road.”

He went on to explain that other rural counties have taken this same step to simplify the process of setting speed limits on certain county roads.

By holding Monday’s public hearing and making the law apply to all county roads, all that will need to be done to actually lower the speed limit in an area will be to have a sign installed. Without the uniform speed limit law, every time a need was determined for a lower speed limit, another hearing would have been required.

Burn Ban

After Breckenridge Fire Chief and Stephens County Fire Marshal Calvin Chaney recommended keeping the current burn ban in place, the commissioners agreed not to change it.

Chaney explained that although there has been some rain recently and there is rain in the forecast this week, the grass and other fuel will quickly dry out and can quickly catch on fire.

“You can’t use the moisture level of the ground as where we’re at during the winter time. Even though the moisture is high, the grass is dead,” Chaney said. “Right now, the observed fire danger is in the moderate to low range…my recommendations is to keep the burn ban on…”

There are some exceptions to the burn ban as outlined in the original order issued by Commissioners Court in Febrary, which includes firefighter training; public utility, natural gas pipeline or mining operations; planting or harvesting of agricultural crops; and burns that are conducted by a prescribed burn manager. Click here to see a copy of that order.

Sumer Russell gives her annual report to the Commissioners Court. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

In other business

The commissioners heard and accepted County Extension Agent Sumer Russell’s year-end report for the AgriLife Extension Office and Sheriff Will Holt’s 2018 Arrest Report.

They also agreed to accept grant funds from the Leon Bosque Resource, Conservation and Development Council to host tire collection projects for Stephens County on April 27 and Oct. 5, and to accept a proposal to take part in a brush chipping project with the City of Breckenridge on March 25-29.

Another issue tackled by the commissioners involved the Stephens County Employee Handbook. Some changes to

Jean Curtis spoke at the county commissioners meeting last week. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

the handbook dealt with definitions for “full-time” and “part-time” employees, methods of announcing job openings, employee vacation days, sick days and health insurance premiums.

Additionally, Jean Curtis, spoke during the public comments section of the meeting, praising the local jail. She volunteers to host a Bible study for the women who are in the Stephens County Jail.

“It is the best atmosphere I have ever seen,” she said. “The people are so professional. You have a very good thing going there, and I just hope it continues.  You can be proud of what you’ve done for this county.”

The Stephens County Commissioners met in the District Courtroom last week to consider a variety of topics, including setting a uniform speed limit for all county roads and continuing the burn ban. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Dr. Gary Fambro addresses the Stephens County Commissioners Court last week about the change to the speed limit on county roads. Fambro was in favor of the new ordinance, which the commissioners approved. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

 

 

 

 

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