Tag Archives: Collin County

Nature’s awesome power on display … even after it passes

TOPEKA, Kan. — We got here — finally!

As we proceed southward toward The House in Collin County, we have seen evidence of the awesome power that Mother Nature can deliver to we mere human beings.

The Missouri River runs adjacent to Interstate 29 through Iowa and into Nebraska. We saw a flashing electronic sign that told us that I-29 would be closed; a detour awaited.

So, we exited the freeway and proceeded east along Interstate 680. We had to drive about 16 miles out of our way toward our next stop here in Topeka. We turned south and then west along Interstate 80.

This leg of the journey was extended about 40 minutes.

What caused it? The Missouri River flooded. We didn’t see what it had done to the right-of-way. All we know river caused the state highway department to shut down the major thoroughfare.

But we damn sure did see the river. It is quite high at this moment. In places it is just a foot or two from spilling over its bank and onto the highway. We saw street signs below the Interstate that poked only a foot or two above the water. We noticed buildings half-submerged under the Missouri’s tides.

Yep, it’s an awesome sight.

Grand Forks, N.D., had just gone through what apparently occurred downstream. We watched crews seek to siphon water from ditches into retention ponds.

There’s water. Then there’s too much water. We saw evidence of what happens when you have too much of it.

Yes, our friends along the Gulf Coast are experiencing this very thing at this moment. Our hearts go out them. They are in our prayers.

Now that we’ve seen how far widespread nature’s wrath has become, we send our prayers to those we saw from a distance as we zipped along to our next destination.

DMV: Legislature’s next big project?

Texas state Rep. Scott Sanford came to our Rotary Club in McKinney the other morning to provide an update on the accomplishments of the 2019 Legislature.

Then he took a question from the audience about an issue that has been in the news of late in North Texas: insufferably long lines at Department of Motor Vehicles offices.

What is the Legislature going to do about that? How do Texans avoid having to wait in line for hours on end to get a new driver’s license or to do any kind of business at DMV?

Sanford, a McKinney Republican, didn’t have a quick-and-easy answer. He is acutely aware of the problems that have plagued Collin County DMV offices.

News reports in recent days, noting the 100-degree temperatures logged all across the state this summer, told of people waiting six or seven hours. Some of them waited until the DMV office closed, denying them the chance to get finish their business at the state office.

I’ll mention Collin County because it’s where I live. It’s also a rapidly growing part of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The county’s population sits at right at 1 million residents. DMV needs to do a much better job of responding to residents’ needs; that’s what I have heard in our brief time living there.

It’s the kind of question that confronted Rep. Sanford. He couldn’t provide much assurance that relief is on the way.

My hope is that he takes those concerns with him to the 2021 Legislature, presuming of course that he gets re-elected next year. My sense is that DMV should be high on lawmakers’ to-do list when they return to work.

Hoping to get the call for jury duty

I am not a weirdo. Really. I’m not. I do, though, want to fulfill a civic duty that always seems to escape me.

I want to serve on a trial jury.

My wife and I moved from Randall County to Collin County in Texas a little more than a year ago. We registered to vote almost immediately. We have renewed our motor vehicle tags in Collin County. The folks at the county clerk’s office know we’re residents of this county; so do those at the district clerk’s office as well as the tax collector-assessor’s office.

It’s just that whenever I have gotten the call during all those years — 23 of them, in fact — that we lived in Randall County, I always was told “don’t bother to report.” I’d get my summons. I would call the preceding day after 5 p.m., per the instruction on the summons. Then I would get told that the cases all had settled and that “all jurors” were excused.

Damn, man!

I once served on a grand jury in Randall County. The district attorney, James Farren, told us that service on the grand jury likely would disqualify us from any trial jury, given that grand juries serve under the direction of the state. The grand jury receives criminal complaints from the DA’s office and then decides whether to indict someone for the crime listed on the complaint. That was a marvelous experience.

Still, now that I’ve moved away I am hopeful that the court system in Collin County — whether it’s a district court, a county court at law or a justice of the peace — would see fit to summon me to report for jury duty.

I’ve always wanted to sit on a trial jury. Does my grand jury experience taint me forever as a “pro-cop” kinda guy? No. It does not.

Hey, I’m retired now. I’ve got nothing but time on my hands. I don’t work for a living, although we have plenty to do around our house. It can wait, though, while I would serve on a trial jury.

Too many people look for ways to evade/avoid/skip jury duty. Not me. I want to serve. Come and get me. I’m all yours.

Biting my tongue regarding constables

I made the acquaintance today of a young man whose job causes the hair on the back of my neck to bristle … and I mean no disrespect to the individual himself, as he is a nice, earnest and dedicated public servant.

Or so I will presume for the moment.

He serves as a constable in Collin County. I won’t identify him just yet; that might come later if I choose to write any more about this matter.

You see, I have long had bur under my saddle about constables. I dislike the office. I have lived in communities as disparate as Beaumont and Amarillo that have had regrettable experiences with constables.

To be candid, I believe the elected office is superfluous. State law empowers constables to issue civil papers; that’s their primary task. They issue papers, such as eviction notices or court summonses. They also provide courtroom security for justices of the peace. And, yes, they have the authority to make traffic stops or assist police when the need arises.

However, as I have noted before, these duties can be done by sheriff’s deputies. Or by municipal police officers.

When I was working in journalism for many years I had the chance to comment on constable goings-on. In Jefferson County, for instance, voters elected a constable who wasn’t certified by the appropriate Texas law enforcement authorities. He vowed to obtain his certification — eventually! He failed to meet the deadline and was removed from office.

Potter County had a constable who didn’t do any work. It had another constable who enjoyed acting the part of dedicate law enforcement official, but fell far short of actually doing the duty.

In Randall County, there was a constable who pledged to surrender his office because there wasn’t enough work, only to think twice about it. He stayed on the job and battled county commissioners over his salary. Then Randall County voters elected a constable who campaigned on the pledge to not to do any work, enabling the county over time to disband the office. He then was gerrymandered out of office after the 2010 census was completed.

I still dislike the constable’s office. It is unnecessary. It also has a powerful lobby in Austin that fights for constables and justices of the peace.

I wish my new acquaintance well as he performs his constable duties. However, I would cheer loudly if the Texas Legislature ever finds the guts to get rid of the elected public office.

Princeton grapples with rapid growth

Blogger’s Note: This blog item was published originally on KETR-FM’s website.

Princeton City Hall is a non-descript structure on U.S. 380. The City Council meets there. The city administrative offices are located inside the structure the city leases from the building owner.

It comprises about 6,000 square feet. The Princeton Police Department works out of another structure, as does the Princeton Fire Department.

Well, if City Manager Derek Borg and the City Council have their way, they intend to break ground in about a year on a shiny new municipal complex about a mile east of the current site.

First, though, the city needs a “concept” of what the new complex will look like.

Borg is awaiting the concept from the architectural firm the city has hired, GFF Architects, based in Dallas. He’ll present it to the council, which then would approve it. Then the city hopes to break ground on a massive new public/private endeavor on the north side of U.S. 380.

There will be restaurants and other commercial enterprises, plenty of greenspace, two lakes, natural vegetation, wetlands, a bridge that goes over the wetlands to protect their integrity.

“We’re in the very early stages of the concept,” Borg said. “The next thing will be to look at the cost and how it can be funded.”

OK, so what’s the city’s role here?

Borg said Princeton has outgrown its tiny City Hall. It needs a lot more space. The city intends to bring police and fire administrations under one roof along with other departments. How much space would the new City Hall complex entail? Borg estimates 40,000 to 45,000 square feet, or about eight times the size utilized now, admittedly for only part of the city government’s administration.

Princeton Crossroads is the name of the developer, which Borg said the city is trying to enlist to get “some level of developer participation” in completing the project. “We certainly don’t want to drag this on forever. We want to deliver this project,” he said.

It’s critical to bring police and fire administrations under the same roof as the rest of the city, Borg said, joking that the fire department “is working right now out of its trucks.” Borg, though, has some credibility cracking jokes about the fire department, given that he served as fire chief before becoming city manager.

“It’s going to take a year to build this complex,” Borg said. “We want to break ground in late 2020,” he said.

The cost is still to be determined, he said. Borg did note that the city has a few funding options to consider. One is the obvious option: a bond issue that would go to a vote of the city’s residents. The bond issue would pay only for the bricks and mortar of the public complex. Another option would be to issue certificates of obligation, which the City Council can do without voter approval. Borg did not offer a preference for which funding option would work best for the city.

Princeton clearly is on a fast-track growth trajectory. It’s 2010 census stood at 6,708 residents. Borg believes the population will at least double that amount when they count the residents for the 2020 census. U.S. 380 is under heavy construction along virtually its entire length through the city. Texas Department of Transportation crews are finishing up the median improvements now, but then will begin work on adding one additional lane in each direction through Princeton, turning the four-lane thoroughfare into a six-lane highway to accommodate the expected increase in traffic.

Thus, with the growth that’s occurring, it becomes imperative for the city to build a municipal complex that delivers services to its expanding population.

And what about the City Council’s level of support? Borg said the council is all in and that council members – led by Mayor John-Mark Caldwell – want to proceed as soon as possible.

All this growth does have a way of presenting “headaches” most public officials would wish to confront.

Sod Poodles will have to carry on without me

I enjoy offering tidbits of commentary on Amarillo’s AA minor-league baseball team, the Sod Poodles. However, it is time for an acknowledgement.

It is that given my current place of residence, I’ll be unable to attend any Sod Poodles games this year at Hodgetown, the team’s brand new home venue in the middle of downtown Amarillo.

My wife and I live in Collin County. The Sod Poodles do come to Frisco a few times this season to play the Roughriders. Some friends have invited us to attend a Sod Poodles-Roughriders game later this month. We’ll attend it. We’ll have a good time. I’ll cheer enthusiastically for the Sod Poodles.

I had high hopes at the beginning of this maiden season that I could attend a game at Hodgetown. I’ve seen the stadium up close. I stood outside the right field fence on a recent visit to Amarillo, but didn’t seek entry into the ballpark.

My friends who do attend the games tell me the venue is first class, top drawer, shiny and clean. The beer is cold. The hot dogs are fresh. Hey, these things matter when you’re sitting in the summer sun at the ballpark watching athletes play hardball.

There’s always next year. I will commit to returning to Amarillo when the Sod Poodles are there for an extended home stand. About the best I can do is visit the Sod Poodles souvenir shop in the near future, where I am likely to buy a ballcap or some such memento.

Meanwhile, if it’s OK for me to cheer from afar, I’ll do so with pleasure.

TxDOT takes very long view of highway ‘realignment’

Blogger’s Note: This blog post was published originally on the KETR-FM website.

If you had any thought that the Texas Department of Transportation was going to knock out a planned realignment of U.S. 380 through Collin and Hunt counties just like that, well, you can set that thought aside.

It’s going to take some time. And quite a long time at that, according to TxDOT officials who are concluding a series of public presentations along the route of the proposed realignment.

I attended the presentation at Princeton High School this week. TxDOT’s Ceason Clemens delivered a 24-minute summary of the grand plan. It’s a doozy, I’ll tell you.

Here’s the time line, as explained to me by Michelle Raglon, TxDOT public affairs manager: They won’t start “throwing dirt around” for six to nine years and over time, it’s going to take TxDOT roughly 20 years to finish the job; it might go longer than that, Raglon said.

The bottom line? North Texans are in for a long haul.

Clemens made a couple of points I want to highlight before discussing some of the guts of the proposed realignment.

  • One is that there has been no shortage of public meetings about the plans to reconfigure the U.S. 380 corridor from the Denton-Collin County line to Hunt County, she said. TxDOT has received more than 15,000 public comments over the course of about five years.
  • Another is that this project is not subject to any kind of public vote. TxDOT has received authorization from the Texas Legislature to study the feasibility as well as the environmental impact of the work to be done and it is proceeding with that mandate from state lawmakers.

So, what’s in store for Princeton, where I live and where my wife and plan to live for, shall we say . . . the duration?

TxDOT is planning to spend about $353 million to build a loop north of the existing U.S. 380 thoroughfare. It will displace 19 business, compared to 122 that would have been displaced with another option it considered before settling on the recommended route. The affected area lies between Farm to Market Road 1827 to County Road 559. TxDOT believes this route offers “greater support for future economic growth opportunities.”

The highway department is planning average right-of-way depths of 330 to 350 feet, but there will be “exceptions” made around “major interchanges where more is needed for ramps.”

The renderings presented after revealing TxDOT’s recommendations suggest a major widening of the highway to accommodate what is expected to be tremendous growth over the next several decades. Indeed, I recently spoke with Princeton City Manager Derek Borg, who told me the city’s population – which he estimates today to be around 13,000 residents – will top out at around 110,000 residents in the next, oh, 40 or 50 years.

Thus, the pressure on the highway infrastructure is going to be immense. You know?

There’s much more, of course, to this proposal. TxDOT, for instance, is looking at yet another loop south of the existing U.S. 380 corridor through Farmersville. It will displace far fewer businesses and residences than another alternative considered. The TxDOT recommendation offered for the segment from County Road 559 to the Hunt County line will cost around $404 million.

The Princeton High School meeting drew a substantial crowd of about 250 residence. TxDOT brought a full complement of staffers, engineers, spokespeople – you name ‘em – to the public presentation.

My sense is that the size and scope of what TxDOT is pitching – in conjunction with the North Central Texas Council of Governments – hasn’t sunk in completely with those who will be affected.

It all will, over time, which TxDOT seems – at the moment – to have plenty at the moment as it seeks to explain fully what it intends to do with this highway corridor that courses through North Texas.

Happy Trails, Part 152: Sleepy town? Not for long

Our retirement journey has taken us to what we thought was a sleepy little town just northeast of where our granddaughter resides with her parents and her brother.

Today, I learned something about Princeton, Texas. It’s a sleepy town — more or less — at the moment, but it won’t be for very long.

I visited today with City Manager Derek Borg while on an assignment for KETR-FM radio. Borg said something quite astonishing.

He said the city is projecting a top-end population of about 110,000 residents. The 2010 census put Princeton’s population at 6,708. Today, the city is home to 12,000 to 13,000 residents, Borg told me.

OK. There’s a bit more. Borg said the city is adding about 1,000 single-family homes annually, accounting for an annual population growth of around 3,000 people. At that rate, presuming it holds up over time, the city will surpass 100,000 residents in fewer than 30 years.

Let’s see: I am 69 years of age now. I could still be among the walking and talking when this burg hits the 100 grand mark, if my health and my good luck hold up.

I was astounded to hear the city manager make that determination.

My story for KETR-FM is going to discuss the extensive highway construction that is under way along U.S. 380, the main arterial thoroughfare that cuts east-west through this Collin County community.

My hope for Princeton is that it manages its growth wisely, prudently and builds in this planned remarkable transition from a sleepy little town to a burgeoning urban center.

I’m glad to be able to watch all of this from our ringside seat.

Casting my gaze over my shoulder

I love my life in my new home. There’s much to explore about Collin County, the rest of North Texas, the Metroplex. The growth all around our home is astonishing.

However, I remain committed to casting my gaze backward, perhaps for beyond the foreseeable future. I know that might seem counterintuitive, looking backward as we move forward.

However, the community my wife and I departed in 2018 has some issues that are boiling. Two of them stand out:

  • Downtown Amarillo is moving into a new existence, with a new energy and a new purpose. I want to keep my eye on how that progresses. I have high hope that the city’s future is looking brighter week by week.
  • The Amarillo Independent School District is facing some potentially critical policy debates over the short and perhaps the medium terms. The board of trustees is suffering a lack of community confidence. It has fumbled — in my view — in its handling of the resignation of a high school girls volleyball coach and the alleged misconduct by one of the elected trustees.

I am in touch with Amarillo ISD residents who are intent on getting to the bottom of matters. I intend to stay in touch with them and I intend to keep talking about those issues on this blog. I want the Amarillo ISD to resolve these problems constructively and permanently.

But I have to tell you that based on what I am hearing, there well might be some more AISD issues to tackle than what I’ve laid out with this brief blog post.

I also intend to get more involved with the community where my wife and I — along with our precious puppy, Toby — have settled. Princeton is a community on the move. My still-developing relationship with KETR-FM public radio will allow me a chance to get more deeply acquainted with the individuals and groups who are calling the shots in Collin County and throughout KETR’s listening area.

So . . . retirement has brought some new challenges my way. They involve getting involved with our new surroundings.

And keeping tabs on the community we recently departed, but did not leave behind.

Happy Trails, Part 151: Waiting to watch it grow

My wife and I lived long enough in our Amarillo, Texas, neighborhood to develop what I like to call “institutional memory.”

By that I mean we spent enough time to remember how “it used to be,” before it became the place we departed when we moved to Collin County. Indeed, our neighborhood in southwest Amarillo was still under construction when we staked our claim on a lot and then had our house built to our specifications. That was in late 1996. We stayed in the house until March 2018.

We’ve now moved into another new house in Princeton, Texas, about 370 miles southeast of our former Texas Panhandle digs.

One of the many joys we have living here is anticipating the building of more “institutional memory” of our new neighborhood.

It’s a curious way to look forward to our retirement years. At least it seems curious to me.

Our house is brand new. We didn’t buy some dirt and then have the house built on it. We purchased a newly constructed house. It’s a modest home, but it is perfect for the two of us . . . plus, of course, Toby the Puppy.

But there are still houses being erected on our street. And at the end of our street — on both ends! And on the streets to our north and south. Oh yes, and we have a school under construction a block away.

We figure our house is a wise purchase for us in at least one important aspect.

We see it as an investment that will appreciate in value as more development occurs around us. Hey, we’re both lifelong urban dwellers. Yes, I like peace and quiet, but I figure we’ll continue to have plenty of both when the sun goes down each night even after the neighborhood is complete.

The other element of perfection for us is that we’ll be able to invite our granddaughter for sleepovers. But . . . you probably knew that already.

Collin County is on the move. Princeton is reportedly the fastest-growing community in the county. I read something recently that Collin County will be larger than Dallas or Tarrant counties by 2050.

I’m looking forward to watching it unfold. I might grouse in the future occasionally about how “it used to be.” However, I am not one to want to turn back the clock.

The future looks quite inviting.