Pearson holds ‘State of the Precinct’ meeting

hoto by David Kapitan

Precinct 3 Commissioner Keith Pearson hosted a ‘State of the Precinct’ meeting at the Wills Point Community Center Feb. 22, speaking with area residents about work completed locally in 2017, and goals for 2018.




Van Zandt County Precinct 3 Commissioner Keith Pearson welcomed area residents to the Wills Point Community Center Feb. 22, hosting an informal “State of the Precinct” meeting to provide updates on past and current projects while also taking questions from attendees on a number of topics. Not surprisingly, the condition of the roads and road repairs were top of mind for many in attendance, serving as the primary conversation topic for the nearly two hour meeting.

Pearson opened the meeting by welcoming all in attendance, introducing current officeholders and those currently seeking office in Van Zandt County before transitioning to his introductory remarks and an overview of Precinct 3.   

"First of all I want to thank you for being with me, working beside me so that we can try to straighten some of the mess up in our precinct and our county. I want to touch on subject of roads. I know it's a very sore subject because that's what hits us in the face every time we leave our house or come home is that road that's tearing out or knocking our teeth out. Thanks to you we're slowly coming out of the hole. The people and citizens of Van Zandt County had enough confidence in the court to vote in that $.10 road and bridge tax and I can't thank you enough.”

Pearson continued, “If we hadn't got that $.10 road and bridge tax, you could go out there and look at your road right now and that's as good as it would ever be. We did not have the finances in Van Zandt County under the way we were operating to actually try and repair those roads. What you see is what you’d get. That $.10 road and bridge tax gives us a hope of fixing that road, repairing that road one day."

During Pearson’s first year in office, the precinct had ground up, mixed oil with, raised back out and packed in between 16-17 miles of road. “Is it a state highway? It is not a state highway. Even with the $.10 road and bridge tax we do not have the money to build a county road to the specs of a state highway.”

Pearson went on to explain that the $.10 road and bridge tax brought in approximately $650,000. By building to the state specifications for a highway or roadway, Pearson estimated that the increased road and bridge revenue would only be able to go towards reparing at most five miles of county roads. “I’ve got right at 300 miles of road in Precinct 3 so you can do the math as to how long it would take to get them all done. We can’t do it. I wish we could. We cannot provide the drainage on a county road like a state road has and the reason is that we don’t have the easement that a state highway has. To provide the drainage that we really need it takes depth of a ditch…We have to come in and work with what we have to work with.”

Even with the influx of income due to the tax increase, Pearson stressed that his top priority would continue to be being a good steward of funds that pass through Precinct 3.

Among the cost saving measures implemented by Pearson is the use of an inmate work crew to help with repairs and trash pickup around the precinct. Pearson explained that former VZC Sheriff Pat Burnett helped to oversee work crew while also crediting current sheriff Dale Corbett for helping to provide the inmates. “You can’t just take any inmate over there [at the VZC Jail]. He has to qualify. He has to be low-risk. He can’t be a flight risk. He can’t be arrested for aggravated assault. There’s certain criteria that the inmates have to meet before they can come out and work on a crew. I’m telling you that has saved the day. We have patched so many roads.”

Pearson also provided an outline of the new equipment either leased or purchased over the past year, including a belly dump, haul truck, a blade, an oil tanker and a boom axe.

In regards to the belly dump, Pearson was quick to praise Chris and Nathan Bullard of Brazos Trailers for providing equipment to the county at a reduced rate. "They leased us, Van Zandt County Precinct 3, a belly dump trailer for $1800 a year! If I owned that trailer I couldn't keep tires on that trailer for $1800 a year. I'm about to change it out. I'll take it to Brazos Trailers, we'll get out from under it, and we'll back drive off with a brand new one and pay $1800 again. I'm pretty sure that they are going to do two of them this year."

Pearson also credited other entities that had stepping forward for the betterment of the county, including the Wills Point Economic Development Corporation, Brazos Trailers, the city of Canton and private citizens that have stepped forward to partner with Precinct 3 for local road repairs.

Once weather permits with consistent dry and warm conditions, work on roads by Precinct 3 crews will commence in earnest. Pearson explained that his ultimate goal was to "spread the wealth", fixing roads in a variety of areas instead of focusing on just one small section of the roughly 300 miles of roads spanning his precinct. Considerations about which roads to fix cited by Pearson included the number of residents living in the area as well as the amount of traffic a roadway sees if it serves as a connecting road between busier stretches.

"In 2016, prior to the $.10 tax, Precinct 3 spent $295,038 on just materials. Last year with the introduction with the special road and bridge tax, Precinct 3 spent $744,357 just on materials. That is how a $.10 road and bridge tax is helping us…We spent every dime of that road and bridge tax on material.”

The “State of the Precinct” meeting wrapped up with an hour long session of questions and comments from those in the audience, including further discussion on the condition of the roads as well as the illegal dumping of trash that takes place throughout the county.