Waller County Judge Trey Duhon delivered a formal State of the County address on Nov. 11 at the Houston Executive Airport. During his address, he discussed recently adopted redistricting for the …
Waller County Judge Trey Duhon delivered a formal State of the County address on Nov. 11 at the Houston Executive Airport. During his address, he discussed recently adopted redistricting for the county, the challenges of Winter Storm Uri and COVID-19 and property taxes and budgeting.
“This (year’s budget) is a huge first for us,” Duhon said. “It is a true balanced budget. We’ve always balanced our budget on a deficit. There are some things we budget for (on a projection). A lot of times, it’s indigent health care. This time we actually have a true balanced budget.”
Duhon said Waller County’s overall budget is about $53.6 million with about $42 million coming from taxes, especially property taxes, and the remainder coming from various grants. While many homeowners have seen increases in appraised values for their properties, the county was able to reduce its tax rate enough to offset those increased values, in part due to an additional 10% in added value to the value of property in the county as a whole. That added value came in the form of new construction in both the residential and industrial sectors, he said.
The county’s Road and Bridge Department has been allotted about $1.6 million more than it was last year to maintain and improve roads countywide, Duhon said.
About $1.8 million of that funding will go to increase the budget of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office to hire more officers, investigators and jail staff, Duhon said. Focusing on fighting crime which is on the rise in areas near the Houston Metropolitan Area is a priority for the entire Waller County Commissioners Court, he said.
Duhon noted that the county had completed construction on the new Waller County Jail, Precinct 4 Annex on Highway 90 between Katy and Brookshire and improvements to the Waller County Library in Hempstead.
Next on the county’s agenda to get an upgrade is the Waller County Courthouse, Duhon said. The current courthouse was built in 1955 and needs serious repairs with a boiler system that is broken down, an HVAC system that is no longer functioning well and several other maintenance issues. Duhon said that he and county commissioners and staff were looking at options on how to address the issue, including a possible replacement of the facility.
The current courthouse is the fourth in the county’s history, Duhon said. The first was established in 1877 in a one-room log cabin. Later, in 1892, that facility burned down and another was constructed. In 1944, another building was utilized and the current courthouse followed.
“At the end of the day, we need a courthouse that is functional and long-lasting,” Duhon said. “So, no matter what we do going forward, that’s going to determine our direction.”
The event was sponsored by the Waller County Economic Development Partnership, and Duhon deferred to EDP President Vince Yokom regarding the county’s economic status.
Yokom compared the county’s economy to various laws or theories of physics. He said the EDP is working hard to bring projects that will diversify Waller County’s economy and build momentum to bring jobs to the area in a variety of fields.
He also noted that the EDP is being choosy regarding which projects it tries to bring into the county and may work to stop projects that would be detrimental to the community.
“I’ve got folders on my desk with 200 projects that did not come to our county in comparison to the 35 projects we have successfully ran,” Yokom said.
Yokom said about 3.2 million square feet of space had been developed under those 35 projects and the group is currently working with several other projects to provide economic opportunities to Waller County residents.
Challenges would come as those projects move forward, Yokom said, because the county needs to address infrastructure concerns to ensure high-quality companies wanted to locate their operations there. Like many rural Texas counties, Waller’s infrastructure is not ideal, he said. However, with the county government’s help, he said he believes opportunities can come about.
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