Gregg, Upshur counties sign up for road grants, Panola declines - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Gregg, Upshur counties sign up for road grants, Panola declines

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CARTHAGE (KYTX) - Panola County Commissioner Ronnie LaGrone remembers his first trip to Austin in 1996 -- asking the transportation board for money to fix county roads torn up by oil and gas trucks.

"Begged for money, begged for help" LaGrone said Tuesday. "They laughed at us. One lady asked, 'What is a county road?' So, that's the attitude they've had."

This fall, lawmakers announced $225 million in grants for eligible counties to fix damaged roads - from $438,000 in Smith County, to $1.9 million in Panola County.

Each must match those dollars by up to 20 percent, but that's not all.

Part of the county must be designated an energy reinvestment zone. It's a mechanism used to collect taxes from new property wealth to fund public projects.

That tax revenue would go into a transportation fund to pay for future road repairs and be used as collateral to borrow money for projects.

Commissioners must also a nine-member board to pick future road projects and manage the program at the local level.

LaGrone says Panola County decided not to participate.

"We didn't go with this system because it set up another bureaucracy," LaGrone said.

Monday, commissioners in Gregg and Upshur counties took the first steps to getting more than $1.6 million combined in road help. And that's not the ceiling. Counties that are participating like Gregg and Upshur can get more money if other eligible counties decide not to participate."

LaGrone says they can add Panola's part.

 "By making all the hoop-da-loops you gotta jump through, we're not gonna do it," he said. "Give it to Panola County. Divide it amongst the four precincts. Then let us send you the paperwork that shows the number of trucks on that road, the amount to that road, and the amount of material we put on that very road. That solves everything they're asking. We ain't creating nothing."

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