Category Archives: Rockwall County

New Texas Land And Cattle owners plan to upgrade

texas land & cattle

The new owners of the Texas Land & Cattle Restaurant across Lake Ray Hubbard in Garland announced today they plan to refresh their brand and bring new life into it.

Story was in the Dallas Morning News:

“(Scott) Smith and (Tim) Dungan, who were previously the senior executives in charge of Texas Land & Cattle and Lone Star Steak House, are one year into a three-year strategic plan designed to refresh the brands, reestablish category leadership and bring new life into the chains, which have seen little growth recently.

“Tim and I are obviously strong believers in the growth potential of both brands, which is the biggest reason we moved so aggressively to acquire the company,” said Smith.

Texas Land & Cattle is a great place to eat with delicious food and a warm and inviting atmosphere, overlooking Lake Ray Hubbard and facing Rockwall.

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Rockwall County to ask voters to pass $100 million road bond initiative this November

Rockwall Co. Commissioner Lorie Grinnan

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Rockwall County Commissioners will ask voters to pass a $100 million road bond initiative to reduce traffic congestion this November to upgrade four of the County’s major thoroughfares into modern highways which can accommodate current and future traffic flow, Commissioner Lorie Grinnan explained this morning at the monthly Rockwall County Republican Men’s Club breakfast.

This 2008 bond initiative follows the $17 million road bond package which 75 percent of voters approved in 2004 to construct I-30 interchanges at FM 205, FM 549, FM 551, Hickory Hill and FM 740.

According to Grinnan, the additional bond package is needed now because previous County leaders could not foresee how quickly the County would grow, did not anticipate how serious traffic congestion would become and, therefore, did not upgrade enough roads fast enough.

Most of the County roads were built 50 years ago to haul crops, not to carry thousands of cars and trucks, she said.

The $100 million will be leveraged into approximately $310.3 million in roadway improvements, but the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) and the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) require that local involvement must be shown in order to qualify for the funds when they become available, in competition with Dallas, Collin, Tarrant and Denton Counties.

The Commissioner explained that the “worst-case scenario” cost to taxpayers and business owners should not exceed three cents per $100 valuation over the next ten years, based “on a conservatively projected six percent growth rate (lowered to two percent after ten years), after all the debt is issued.”

She said that means that the owner for a home valued at $190,000 would pay less than $4.75 per month, “about the cost of one no-frills cup of coffee.”

Her entire Powerpoint presentation is available to see by clicking on “2008 Road Bond Initiative” on Rockwall County’s website homepage.

State Highways 66 and 276, plus Farm-to-Market roads 549 and 740 are the major roadways targeted for improvements.

Improvements will widen SH66 into a six-lane divided highway for 11.5 miles from SH205 through Fate to FM1777 in Royse City. The bond funding request will be $30 million.

SH 276 will be widened to a six-lane divided highway for 9.2 miles from SH 205 to the Hunt Co. line, at a cost of $28 million.

FM549 will be widened into a six-lane divided highway for 12.5 miles from FM 740 in Heath to FM552 near the Collin Co. line at a cost of $30 million.

FM 740 will be widened to a four-lane divided highway for four miles from FM 549 in Heath to FM3097 (Horizon Rd.) at a cost of $5 million.

Comments from the crowd of nearly 100 seemed generally positive towards passing the bond initiative. Rockwall Community Playhouse president Gary Freedman said doing so would finally be a proactive step in the right direction rather than reactive, as has been the case too often lately. Former Rockwall government leader Dale Morgan said that many of the former leaders just didn’t realize the necessity of better roads because they were farmers whose only real care was getting their crops transported.

The one major concern asked by a member of the audience was whether business and industry would be paying their fair share, rather than assessing the burden of financing on homeowners. Commissioner Grinnan responded that businesses and homewowners would all pay their fair share if the bond initiative passes.

Discussions underway to expand near-capacity Rockwall County jail

Preliminary discussions are currently underway in Rockwall County to expand the near-capacity jail for the third time in 11 years, to keep up with demand as well as to compete for lucrative federal contracts which would help pay for the expansion.

The next expansion could be the largest ever, possibly doubling capacity to more than 500 beds.

County commissioners have recently heard presentations from two firms hoping to win the expansion contract. Both estimates propose adding 288 beds, ranging from $18 million to $27.3 million.

The jail was built in the late 1980s. Additions in 1997 and 2000 increased the size to 241 beds, but those filled quickly.

A 2006 report by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards instructed Rockwall County to either add more beds to meet demand or face the additional expense to lease beds and transport inmates elsewhere.

County Judge Chris Florance said that in a two-month period last year, Rockwall spent $30,000 exporting inmates.

“We’re in a position now where if we don’t start thinking about this issue, we’re going to have to start shipping our prisoners out – a lot more than we did last time – and it’ll cost the county a lot of money.”

Rockwall Co. Sheriff Harold Eavenson said earlier expansions created temporary excess capacity, which allowed the county to lease some beds to federal agencies and neighboring counties.

“From 2002 to 2006, when we had extra space, we made about $1.1 million for the county contracting out bed space.”

The sheriff said he hoped the county could reopen that revenue stream with the next expansion. He said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials scouted the jail this month and that the U.S. Marshals service is interested for temporarily housing detainees.

County Commissioners Lorie Grinnan and David Magness said they are intrigued with the idea of generating dollars from the outside to help pay for the facility’s costs but want to hold discussions with County residents before moving forward.

Judge Florance said he would likely schedule additional discussions this Fall.


Rockwall County property value rates slow down

Rockwall County property values increased by 7.6 percent this year, compared to 10.9 percent last year, the smallest increase in more than a decade for one of the nation’s fastest growing counties.

The more modest increase reflects the growth slowdown across the County.

The Rockwall Central Appraisal District released certified appraisals July 31 which show continued growth across the county to $6.7 billion in taxable value, an increase of $475,157,728.

New construction represented about three-quarters of that growth.

The City of Fate, with a population of 4,800, led the county with a 15.2 percent increase in property values – largely from new construction. The city of Rockwall was up 8.1 percent, and Rockwall ISD up 10.5 percent. The City of Heath’s value grew by 6.4 percent.

Rockwall County auditor John Blackwood said the appraisals came in strong enough to support the county’s preliminary budget for next year.

Consequently, cities and school districts can prepare more detailed budgets for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The slower growth in property values had been expected. According to the North Central Texas Council of Governments, double-digit valuation growth in recent years was the result of a home construction boom that caused the county’s population to increase nearly 70 percent, to 73,500, between 2000 and 2007.

The boom has slowed, however, to only 3.4 percent population growth last year.

Despite the slower 7.6 percent growth in taxable value, Rockwall still outpaced neighboring Collin and Dallas counties, which reported certified appraisals last month of 4.3 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.

Rockwall County’s tax rate likely to increase slightly

Rockwall County’s tax rate is likely to increase very slightly this year to begin making debt payments for the new $11.5 million library, which voters approved in 2004.

Last year county commissioners cut the tax rate from 35.07 to 35 cents per $100 valuation, but this year the County must also begin paying off debt on the planned $30 million justice center, though that will have less impact for now on the tax rate.

Although the county expects to receive $1.6 to $1.9 million in new tax revenue in 2009, commissioners must still pay for rising costs and salaries – especially for library operations. The bonds don’t pay for library salaries and other expenses, and those could add $1 million to the $21 million general budget.

County Judge Chris Florance is scheduled to propose the first budget draft July 31. Then commissioners will make revisions, hold two public hearings and vote for the final budget on Sept. 9.