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Paris High School, after two weeks of pre-season football practice, will scrimmage Henderson High School at 6:45 p.m. Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
It was Henderson that ended the Wildcats’ season last season in the first round of the playoffs. Paris finished its year with a 9-2 record, and Henderson went 11-3 before losing in the Class 3A-Division I state semifinals.
The two schools’ freshmen and junior varsity squads will precede the varsity at 5 p.m., simultaneously going opposite ways from the 40-yard line.
Admission will be $2 for adults and $1 for children, with all proceeds going to the THSCEF Benevolence Fund, which assists athletes and coaches with special needs or hardships.
To date the fund, established by the Texas High School Coaches Association board of directors, has paid $139,000 to athletes and coaches with special needs, plus sizeable donations to the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund.
To date, more than 740 schools have participated in the THSCEF benefit scrimmages, which have come to be known as Our Day to Shine.
Don “Pinky” Wilson, chairman of the City of Paris’ Building and Standards Commission, vents to the Paris City Council on Monday night the frustration of running out of budgeted funds to tear down a seemingly never-ending list of dilapidated houses in the city. Also in the picture are finance director Gene Anderson(left) and code enforcement supervisor Robert Talley. (eParisExtra.com photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
The Paris City Council signaled Monday night that it is ready to step up the pace of tearing down the city’s hundreds of dilapidated houses.
Mayor AJ Hashmi had asked for a report from code enforcement supervisor Robert Talley. The mayor said he was concerned after hearing complaints about a particular house on Fitzhugh Street that had been marked for demolition in July but was still standing.
Talley reminded the council that the city’s Buildings and Standards Commission only resumed meeting in February after being sidelined in mid-2011 by a Dallas lawsuit concerning cities’ taking down dilapidated properties.
Since February, Talley said, the BSC has issued 70 “repair or demolish” orders on dilapidated structures in the city, and 10 more about to be added to thel list, but there was only enough money in the budget to take down 10 houses.
The council budgeted $110,000 for demolition of dilapidated houses in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Talley said, but $50,000 was taken out of it in January to clean up a multi-story building that collapsed in downtown Paris in January.
That left just over $60,000, and that was quickly depleted, Talley said.
Councilman Matt Frierson said the council should dip into the city’s savings, if necessary, to replace the $50,000 that went to cleanup the emergency in January.
He got quick agreement from several other council members.
“Is there not a way we could have used our reserves for that?” Frierson asked finance director Gene Anderson, who was also interim city manager at the time the money was taken out.
“If the council authorizes that, we could certainly do that. I don’t think at this point the council has,” Anderson said.
“If the council wants to do that, and just lets staff know that is what you intend to do, we’re about at the time of year when we’re going to do budget amendments anyway,” Anderson said.
“My thought is, it feels after being on hold for so long, we’re at the end of the rope when we don’t necessarily have to be. That was a single-occurrence event,” Frierson said.
“That amount should be reimbursed. I see what you’re saying,” the mayor said.
“If the council wants to do that, we’re just about the time of year when we’re going to do budget amendments anyway. That’s just one suggestion,” Anderson said, suggesting money could be transferred into the demolition budget from another fund with surplus cash.
“Can’t you do a budget amendment anytime you get four votes?” Wright asked.
“We can,” Anderson said.
Don Wilson, chairman of the Building and Standards Commission, noted there was $48,000 from last year’s demolition budget that went into reserves because of the months-long moratorium on demolitions of dilapidated housing.
“I don’t see a problem of taking that $48,000 back out again,” Wilson said.
Wilson said it’s frustrating to members of the BSC that nothing could be done from June of last year, “and here we are 12 or 14 months later, everything’s finally all legal and we start issuing these demolition orders, but there’s no money to take them down.”
He added, “I mean, what do you want us to do. We’ve certainly got a lot more houses to take down. And we’ve got complaints, the one on Fitzhugh Street for example. That house has been up for demolition, and we finally get it, but it’s not down, and the word is all over town. A lot of these houses that we’re tearing down now had stickers on ‘em to be torn down last year.”
Hashmi said he would like to call a special meeting as soon as possible for the council to authorize going into reserves to replenish the demolition fund.
“Yes. We spent a year and a half talking about accountability,” Frierson said.
“Can’t you do a budget amendment anytime you get four votes?” councilman John Wright asked.
City manager John Godwin said he will immediately begin setting aside more money for demolition of dilapidated houses.
“If you want to have a special meeting, we can do it, but I’ve seen enough heads nod that staff-wise, we’ll just proceed. I’ll give them the orders to start tearing stuff down right away,” Godwin said.
“You don’t think we need to have a budget amendment?” Hashmi asked.
“We do, but we don’t need to wait on one. I’ve got enough council feedback to take action if you want me to,” Godwin said.
“Go for it,” councilwoman Cleonne Drake said.
Some citizens living in run-down houses have qualified for no-cost new homes to be built on their lot after the existing structure is torn down.
After the meeting, Wilson wondered if there might be a rebate from the government on the money spent to demolish the old property. Anderson said he did not think so.
Anderson said Tuesday that about 60 percent of the demolition money is for tearing down the properties, and about 40 percent is for the landfill fees
The finance director said he would have to look back through some past budgets to see how the $110,000 demolition budget for 2011-2012 compares to past years.
The council will begin work on Aug. 22, at a special meeting set for 5 p.m., to begin looking at the budget for the fiscal year that will begin Oct. 1.
Godwin had scheduled Aug. 27 as the day he would present the budget to the council, but Hashmi said the council is anxious.
A public hearing will be required on the manager’s proposal, and additional public hearings would be required for any amendments to it.
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As city manager John Godwin prepares to turn over to the Paris City Council his proposed 2012-2013 city budget, here is a look at what the City of Paris Charter, the city’s Constitution, mandates regarding the annual city budget.
Some members of the council say privately that they favor changing the charter to require that the council get the budget earlier, and also to delete the stipulation that if the council hasn’t approved the budget by Sept. 27, whatever the city manager has proposed will automatically go into effect.
Here’s the charter’s language regarding the process of approving the annual budget:
Sec. 45. – Preparation and submission of budget.
The city manager, between thirty and ninety days prior to the beginning of each fiscal year, shall submit to the council a proposed budget, which budget shall provide a complete financial plan for the fiscal year, and shall contain the following:
(1) A budget message, explanatory of the budget, which message shall contain an outline of the proposed financial policies of the city for the fiscal year, shall set forth the reasons for salient changes from the previous fiscal year in expenditure and revenue items, and shall explain any major changes in financial policy.
(2) A consolidated statement of receipts and expenditures for all funds.
(3) An analysis of property valuations.
(4) An analysis of the tax rate.
(5) Tax levies and tax collections by years for at least five years or, if records for five years are not available, then for as many years as are available.
(6) General fund resources in detail.
(7) Summary of proposed expenditures by function, department, and activity.
(8) Summary of proposed expenditures by character and object.
(9) Detailed estimates of expenditures shown separately for each activity to support the summaries. No. 7 and 8 above. Such estimates of expenditures are to include an itemization of positions showing the number of persons having each title and the rate of pay.
(10) A revenue and expense statement for all types of bonds.
(11) A description of all bond issues outstanding, showing rate of interest, date of issue, maturity date, amount authorized, amount issued, and amount outstanding.
(12) A schedule of requirements for the principal and interest of each issue of bonds.
(13) A special funds section.
(14) The appropriation ordinance.
(15) The tax levying ordinance.
Sec. 46. – Anticipated revenues compared with other years in budget.
In preparing the budget, the city manager shall in the preparation of the budget place in parallel columns opposite the several items of revenue the actual amount of each item for the last completed fiscal year, the estimated amount for the current fiscal year, and the proposed amount for the ensuing fiscal year.
Sec. 47. – Proposed expenditures compared with other years.
The city manager, in the preparation of the budget, shall, in parallel columns opposite the various items of expenditures, place the actual amount of such items of expenditures for the last completed fiscal year, the estimate for the current fiscal year and the proposed amount for the ensuing fiscal year.
Sec. 48. – Budget a public record.
The budget and all supporting schedules shall be filed with the city clerk when submitted to the council and shall be a public record for inspection by anyone. The city manager shall cause copies to be made for distribution to all interested persons.
Sec. 49. – Notice of public hearing on budget.
At the meeting of the council at which the budget is submitted, the council shall fix the time and place of a public hearing on the budget and shall cause to be published a notice of the hearing setting forth the time and place thereof at least five days before the date of hearing.
Sec. 50. – Public hearing on budget.
At the time and place set forth in the notice required by section 49, or at any time and place to which such public hearing shall from time to time be adjourned, the council shall hold a public hearing on the budget submitted and all interested persons shall be given an opportunity to be heard for or against any item or the amount of any item therein contained.
Sec. 51. – Proceedings on budget after public hearing; amending or supplementing budget.
After the conclusion of such public hearing, the council may insert new items or may increase or decrease the items of the budget, except items in proposed expenditures fixed by law. Before inserting any additional item or increasing any item of appropriation, it must cause to be published a notice setting forth the nature of the proposed increases and fixing a place and time, not less than five days after publication, at which the council will hold a public hearing thereon.
Sec. 52. – Proceedings on adoption of budget.
After such further hearing, the council may insert the additional item or items, and make the increase or increases, to the amount in each case indicated by the published notice, or to a lesser amount, but where it shall increase the total proposed expenditures, it shall also provide for an increase in the total anticipated revenue to at least equal such total proposed expenditures.
Sec. 53. – Vote required for adoption.
The budget shall be adopted by the favorable vote of a majority of the members of the whole council.
Sec. 54. – Date of final adoption; failure to adopt.
The budget shall be finally adopted not later than the twenty-seventh day of the last month of the fiscal year. Should the council take no final action on or prior to such day, the budget as submitted by the city manager shall be deemed to have been finally adopted by the council.
Sec. 55. – Effective date of budget; certification; copies made available.
Upon final adoption, the budget shall be in effect for the fiscal year. A copy of the budget, as finally adopted, shall be filed with the city clerk, the county clerk of Lamar County, and the state comptroller of public accounts at Austin. The final budget shall be printed, mimeographed or otherwise reproduced and a reasonable number of copies shall be made available for the use of all offices, departments and agencies and for the use of interested persons and civic organizations.
Sec. 56. – Budget establishes appropriations.
From the effective date of the budget, the several amounts stated therein as proposed expenditures shall be and become appropriated to the several objects and purposes therein named.
Sec. 57. – Budget establishes amount to be raised by property tax.
From the effective date of the budget, the amount stated therein as the amount to be raised by property tax shall constitute a determination of the amount of the levy for the purposes of the city, in the corresponding tax year.
Sec. 58. – Contingent appropriation.
Provision shall be made in the annual budget and in the appropriation ordinance for a contingent appropriation in an amount not more than three (3) percent of the total general fund expenditure, to be used in case of unforeseen items of expenditures. Such contingent appropriation shall be under the control of the city manager and distributed by him, after approval by the city council. A detailed account of such expenditures shall be recorded and reported to the city council. The proceeds of the contingent appropriation shall be disbursed only by transfer to other departmental appropriation, the spending of which shall be charged to the departments or activities for which the appropriations are made.
(Res. of 5-21-07)
Sec. 59. – Estimated expenditures shall not exceed estimated resources.
The total estimated expenditures of the general fund and debt service fund shall not exceed the total estimated resources of each fund (prospective income plus cash on hand). The classification of revenue and expenditure accounts shall conform as nearly as local conditions will permit to the uniform classification as promulgated by the National Committee on Municipal Accounting, or some other nationally accepted classification.
Sec. 60. – Emergency appropriations.
The city budget may be amended and appropriations altered in accordance therewith only in a manner provided by state law.
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
Back on June 12, as city manager John Godwin finished his third week on the job, he met informally with members of the Paris City Council.
He talked about the council’s role and the city manager’s role.
“Hopefully, I will get some feedback from you and have two-way communication,” he began.
It’s the city council’s job, he said, to set policy and guidelines.
“Now, once you tell me, ‘We want you to do so and so,’ then it’s time for you to back off and let me do that,” he said.
Sometimes, he said, people talk about how, “Well, it must be really hard to have seven bosses.”
And his response, he said, is always: “I don’t have seven bosses. I only have one. It’s the city council. I don’t have seven individual bosses.”
If one city councilman tells him to go jump off the roof, he said, his response will be, “Put it on the agenda and get three more votes. … It needs to be in a posted meeting, and it needs to be on the agenda.”
Godwin has said he will hand the council on Aug. 27 a proposed budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. That’s just beats the charter-mandated deadline of Sept. 1.
The charter requires that the budget be presented to the council “between 30 and 90 days prior to the beginning of each fiscal year,” which would mean anywhere between July 3 and Sept. 1. One thing the council was interested in was getting the budget earlier as opposed to later.
“We won’t have a tax increase. There definitely won’t be one this year. We don’t need it,” Godwin said.
As for more money for infrastructure, demolition of dilapidated houses, cleanup of the city, and more streets, the manager said he’s including more money for all of that, with the emphasis on the infrastructure.
“There is a million dollars available for sewer lines, and that will keep us pretty busy,” Godwin said. The retirement several months ago of a significant amount of city debt frees up money for the infrastructure, he said.
There isn’t a million dollars available for demoliton “and other kinds of things” that are taken care of out of the city’s general fund, Godwin said.
“At some point, we are going to need to talk about how we are going to fund the other things we need to do — sidewalks and streets and drainage. Drainage is a big problem for us,” he said.
“But this year, the biggest increase (in spending) is for water lines and sewer lines,” he said.
He doesn’t plan to dip into the city’s reserves to come up with the revenue needed to pay for improvements, Godwin said.
Bearing in mind that the council’s will must be expressed officially by a vote of at least four council members, here is a review of the priorities that individual council members gave Godwin during the June 12 workshop:
District 1 councilman Aaron Jenkins:
“We need to look for more things for the kids to do.”
“In my area, there is a lot of high grass …”
“I want to talk more about bringing factory work here. I have some people in my district who have felonies. How do we get them hired?”
District 2 councilwoman Sue Lancaster:
“I need an awful lot of help in my district, from dilapidated buildings to code enforcement.”
“I would like to find some grants to help our citizens fix these houses up. If we tear everything down, that doesn’t help our tax base very much. … Tax abatements might help a lot.”
“We need so much done with the infrastructure.”
“And we’re seeing some gang activity.”
District 3 councilman John Wright:
“Give department heads the best leadership available. Do an employee personnel audit to determine if the city staff is at the level it needs to be.”
“We have over $700,000 a year budgeted for overtime. I would like that drastically reduced.”
“Have engineering done in house.”
“Try for a tax reduction.”
District 4 councilman Dr. Richard Grossnickle:
“A new wastewater treatment plant.” He said with the city’s debt now lowered “to such a level that we can start on that, I’m wondering what the timeline is — one year,k two years, three years?”
“We have made some strides to make the building permitting process more friendly to the public. I would like you to do as much as you can to continue that process.”
“We need more youth activities, anything we can do to get gangs off the street.”
“It seems like we have a perpetual drainage problem, but nothing ever gets done. The same people are on these lists month after month after month.”
District 5 councilman Matt Frierson:
“I think a community newsletter, like you mentioned, would be a very good idea, whether it’s something that’s inserted along with the water bill or getting the message out with the help of the media.”
“I’d like to see clear job and performance reviews of the department heads … with goals clearly stated and a determination of whether they are productive. Accountability is important.”
“The downtown area needs to be more business-friendly, whether that is tax freezes on the current status of the purchase of a building, not penalizing someone trying to improve, because restoration is always going to be more costly than new construction. We need some sort of incentive program to draw new businesses in.”
“Fire codes are needed, but people investing $20,000 to $30,000 in a fire suppression system also have to pay taxes on the increased value of the structure, and that’s a hardship on a lot of people.”
“City planning is something that’s been very near and dear to me since I decided to run for this position. We need to know where we are now, our strengths and weaknesses, show an analysis, and how do we move forward together. That will require a lot of input, I understand, but if we’re going to be a successful community, we need to be together on where we want to go. That encompasses infrastructure and that encompasses communication, and code enforcement needs some help. We need a natural plan to say there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and how we’re going to get there.”
District 6 councilwoman Cleonne Drake:
“I would like for us to look at employee benefits. Some of it could bne done at minimum cost — things that have been taken away from them over the years.”
“People have told me they don’t feel welcome whenever they go to the city offices. Part of this has to do with the permitting process.”
“I would like for the city to do more partnerships with the Boy Scouts or other groups to help with needed projects in the city. Maybe the city could just furnish the paint for some projects. A lot of different programs are needing community service hours.”
“I would like to see town hall meetings to informn the citizens about issues that are coming up, like trash privatization or 4A and 4B. We need to make sure our public is educated before these things come up for a vote.”
“I agree with others on the council about waiving liens on foreclosed projects.”
“I like what you said about communicating, not just with the (residents) but with the staff.”
District 7 councilman (and mayor) Dr. AJ Hashmi:
The first thing the city needs, the mayor said, is a strategic plan — a plan specific with dates, milestones, expected, results, accountability and the financial needs attached to it.
“The plan must be acceptable and agreed upon by all your department heads as well as the council. I think each one of us — department heads and members of the council — must accept that this is the plan and that we are all in agreement on it,” Hashmi said.
“I want to see as a mandatory part of this plan a quarterly report on the progress of this plan, and it needs to be presented not to me but to the city council. It should be a precise action plan of what was accomplished and what was not accomplished,” he added.
“And the council should not have to spend the next year asking you for the plan. Parts of the plan may not get done, and parts of the plan may get done, but I want something before the next budget so that we can incorporate at least certain portions of that plan,” he said.
Hashmi also outlined other proposals:
“I want taxes decreased by 1 percent per year for the next five years, without cutting essential services.”
“I want efficiency, better accountability and improved productivity.”
“We want good equipment for all departments, but that doesn’t mean all the equipment has to be the equivalent of a Rolls Royse.”
“Money for capital improvement should be in the budget for every department so that 10 years down the road when the council is discussing buying something for that department, we don’t take money from one fund to put into another fund. It should already be in place.”
“If the code enforcement supervisor is the only one going and mowing the yards, there is aproblem. If code enforcement is responsible for maintance on private property, they need to have adequate staff. If seven council members are wanting to make sure the city looks clean, then code enforcement needs to have an adequate number of people.”
“Residents of this community pay the salaries of the local government, and I think it is a very bad idea not to have good customer relations with someone who is supporting you. From today forward, I would like for us to provide customer service like no other city.”
“Right off the top of every budget, I would like 1 percent to be earmarked for dilapidated structures, 1 percent for cleanup of the city, 1 percent for new streets, and 1 percent for repair of our infrastructure, and I would like to start this with the coming budget. If we have a $25 million budget, that’s would be $250,000 for each.”
“As others have mentioned, we need improvement in the permitting process.”
“Cleanup of the city is of grave importance to me. Unless you provide a clean-looking city, it will appear that the people here do not care, and industry will not want to come here. When you have dilapidated properties, people will not come here and invest money.”
“The city’s web site is horrible. If we can spend a small amount of money, or do some in-house work to improve it, let’s do it. But if we are going to have to spend $100,000 to improve the web site, I’m not interested, because I can live with it.”
“If we expect citizens to keep their property maintained, the city must also do its part. When city-owned properties are not maintained, it is complete nonsense for us to expect the peole to maintain theirs. If we’re out of code ourselves, how can we complain about others?”
“I’d like to have the council get education on bonds. How are they used and how are they maintained? If we think we are going to replace the entire infrastructure, and improve the roads, and do this, that and the other, we are never going to have enough money. When the time comes, if we are to decide on whether we have a bond issue, I want to be educated.”
“I intensely dislike the idea that every time we turn around, we hire a consultant. We have got to start doing work in-house, whether it be a city planner or an engineering study.”
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Shown sitting at right is Julia Trigg Crawford, who is challenging the eminent domain ruling that has given TransCanada Corp. the right to lay pipeline across her farm in northwest Lamar County. Standing nearby are her attorney, Wendi Hammond of Plano, and TransCanada lead attorney James Freeman of Houston. (eParisExtra.com photo by Charles Richards)
(Double-click on any photo to enlarge)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
A standing-room-only-crowd of about 60 people overfilled a Lamar County courtroom on Friday for Julia Trigg Crawford’s contest of an eminent domain ruling giving a Canadian pipeline company the right to lay a pipeline across her farm 20 miles northwest of Paris.
County Court-at-Law Judge Bill Harris presided over seven hours of arguments by both sides on Friday.
He said it will be a few days before he rules.
“The fact of the matter is that in the several thousand pages filed, I have read both motions for summary judgment. I have reviewed all the affidavits and the attachments thereto,” Harris said shortly after opening the proceedings at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
But attorneys from both sides filed several hundred additional pages with him Friday, “and I think it’s only fair to everyone involved that I review that as well. I’ll probably have something the first part or middle of next week,” he said.
Attorneys for TransCanada Corp. asked for a summary judgment in its favor, arguing that eminent domain is not in the jurisdiction of this court.
Harris gave attorneys for TransCanada until Wednesday of next week to respond to arguments by Crawford, and he gave Crawford’s attorney until Aug. 21 to reply to that response.
Both sides agreed to stipulate agreement on $10,395 as the amount of damages that would be due to Crawford from TransCanada, and Crawford agreed not to pursue the issue of artifacts on her property that could be disturbed on her land.
Harris said his ruling, and the attorneys’ response to it, could make moot a scheduled Sept. 4 trial in his courtroom.
For now, the judge said, “the Sept. 4 trial setting is still alive.”
Reporters from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal were in the courtroom, along with representatives of several online newsletters produced by organizations opposing the pipeline. Most of the spectators in the courtroom also were there to support Ms. Crawford’s cause.
James Freeman of Houston, lead attorney for TransCanada Corp., told the judge a proposed pipeline moving crude oil from Canada to refineries on the Texas’ Gulf Coast would “modernize infrastructure, create jobs, encourage energy production and reduce dependency on oil from hostile countries around the world.”
The project would complement an existing TransCanada pipeline in the United States, doubling the system’s total capacity to 1.1 million barrels of crude a day into U.S. markets, company officials say.
The 1,661-mile, 36-inch, $7 billion pipeline would start in Alberta, Canada, and stretch through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The last phase, which has already gotten government approval, would be built in three phases — from Cushing, Okla., to the Crawford farm on the Texas-Oklahoma border; from there to Diboll, Texas; and from Diboll to Nederland, Texas.
TransCanada officials say the Keystone XL project holds $2 billion of economic potential for Texas, more than for any other state. Just the 500-mile southern extension into Texas would create an estimated 4,000 jobs, they said.
“The crude petroleum transported on TransCanada lines is owned by third parties that are unrelated to Keystone, and we are delivering the crude to refineries in the Port Arthur area that are also owned by third parties unaffiliated with Keystone,” Freeman said.
In Texas, whenever property owners don’t voluntarily agree, “common carriers” are allowed under some situations to use the right of eminent domain to go onto the land and begin laying pipeline.Wendi Hammond of Plano, who specializes in environmental law, is representing the Crawford family. She argued Friday that TransCanada, as a private, for-profit company, does not meet the criteria of a common carrier.
TransCanada doesn’t have the right to use eminent domain because there won’t be any access points for anyone to tie onto the pipeline anywhere within Texas, she said.
“Think of it as a toll road. Anyone can get on that toll road. This can’t be done. The only way oil will go in is in Oklahoma, and the only exit is at a refinery to be shipped out elsewhere,” Hammond said.
Crawford supporters in the courtroom on Friday were wearing bright orange labels that read, “No Eminent Domain For PRIVATE Gain.”
Wharton businesswoman Debra Medina, a Tea Party leader who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Rick Perry in the 2010 Republican primary, was among the dozens of Crawford supporters — some from hundreds of miles away — who came to Friday’s hearing.
“Today, the eyes of Texas were shining upon the judge in this case. All of us were here to see if he would stand up to protect landowners from illegal takings or whether he would deny a landowner justice in favor of this Canadian company. It appears we will not get our answer today,” Medina said.
In addition to deciding whether TransCanada qualifies as a common carrier under Texas law, Harris has been asked to consider the pipeline’s possible contamination of Bois d’Arc Creek, which the family relies upon for irrigation.
In January, President Obama rejected the first proposal from TransCanada, saying more time was needed to study the pipeline’s likely effect on environmentally sensitive areas, particularly in Nebraska.
But in May, the Army Corps of Engineers granted the final permits for the project’s $2.3 billion southern leg from the major oil depots of Cushing, Okla., to refineries on the Texas coast.
The first 200 miles or so would stretch from Cushing to the Red River, then cross into Fannin County just west of the Crawford property, 20 miles northeast of Paris in northeast Lamar County.
The 36-inch pipeline would then be taken under Bois d’Arc Creek to the Crawford land, where pipe would be laid in trenches the length of a 30-acre pasture on the southwest corner of the Crawford’s “Red’Arc Farm.”
“Our whole farm is 650 acres. So it’s about two acres of that. But you know, if it was just a square inch, I’d still be in the courtroom fighting,” Ms. Crawford told eParisExtra.com during an afternoon break.
The field provides the best grazing to a Red Angus bull and more than 30 Red Limousin cows.
“It might seem that it’s just a little piece of land to most people, so why bother to fight,” Crawford said in an April interview with Fort Worth Weekly. “But to us, it’s our land, and no one should have the right to simply come in and tell us they’re taking it so that they can make a profit. That doesn’t sit well with us.”
The 53-year-old Ms. Crawford is articulate and tall, even without the 4-inch heels she wore to court on Friday. In the late 1970s, when universities were just beginning to field women’s basketball teams, she was a forward for Texas A&M University in College Station, serving as co-captain her senior year. After college, she spent 25 years working in the cut-throat corporate world as an executive recruiter in Houston.
Over all those years, she made frequent trips to the family farm that her grandfather, Richard Paul Crawford, bought in 1948. Her father, Richard Paul Crawford II, was a veterinarian, and she was born in Opelika, Ala., where he taught at Auburn University. From there, the family lived on farms in Minnesota, and Iowa, and other places, following his teaching jobs.
Once Julia and her younger brother (Richard Paul Crawford III) and sister (Allison Crawford) were grown, their parents moved to the farm, and worked it for 12 years.
After his wife died, Julia’s father moved to Paris. Now 78, he still visits the farm several times a week.
Julia spent time on the farm with her grandparents while growing up and moved onto it full time in 2010. Allison Crawford has her own place that abuts the farm and raises goats and horses there.
The northern boundary of the property is within one-quarter mile of the Red River, which over the years has changed course, eating away some of the original 700 acres. Of that, 400 acres are leased out and farmed for soybean, wheat and corn.
“I’m the farm manager, but I’m sort of a farm hand, too,” she told Fort Worth Weekly. Even on the leased land, she is still responsible for turning on the irrigation system, checking the pumps, and occasionally running the combine.
The remaining 250 acres include fields of hay, some woods, a small orchard, and space for the farm’s three horses. Rolling hills and tall shade trees dot the land. The entrance to the family home off County Road 37500 runs alongside a small lake. That road carries a special marker: “Paul Crawford Blvd.”
The Crawfords are one of a handful of landowners who chose to fight the pipeline company. TransCanada said the Crawford Farm is the last holdout in Lamar County and one of the few properties in Texas still in dispute.Medina disputes that. She said she has gotten condemnation records from 14 of the 18 counties affected by the southern leg of the Keystone XL. “So far, I’ve come up with 89 condemnations in the 14 counties I have,” she said.
From 2008 through last year, Ms. Crawford kept saying “no” to the attempt by TransCanada to lease rights to cross her land, but the company kept coming back.
Finally, last August, Ms. Crawford received in the mail a “final offer” of $21,620 from Keystone XL Pipeline, TransCanada’s American subsidiary, which was about three times the company’s initial offer.
”If Keystone is unable to successfully negotiate the voluntary acquisition of the necessary easements, it will have to resort to the exercise of its statutory right of eminent domain,” the letter said. She was given three days to decide.
The Crawfords received another letter in October, advising them the land had been condemned and a lease awarded to TransCanada.
Ms. Crawford said it was a tough decision to fight the pipeline company in court.
“My dad, my brother, my sister and I sat around the kitchen table and talked about it. We knew it was going to cost us money we didn’t have, but we just decided it was the right thing to do,” she said in the April interview. “We also decided that no matter how much money TransCanada might finally offer, we were going to fight.”
She was frustrated to discover that no one has the responsibility of checking on what pipeline companies are doing, she said.
If she were to open a beauty shop, someone from the Texas Cosmetology Commission would be out to check her credentials the next day, she said.
“But that’s not how it works with pipeline companies. They simply file paperwork with the Texas Railroad Commission, and if it’s filed properly they get their permits and start condemning private property. The responsibility of the Railroad Commission stops at the moment it hands out those permits, she said.
“Which leaves it up to the landowner to push back. And unless you do well, a pipeline company in Texas can get away with a lot,” she said.
The Crawford family has support from environmentalists, property rights advocates and other landowners who oppose the 376 miles of pipeline that would stretch through 18 counties in East Texas.
Depending on how the ruling goes, the issue could go to a jury trial before Harris on Sept. 4 to decide the value of the land that was condemned last October.
TransCanada valued the land as purely agricultural, but Ms. Crawford said her father felt the family could sell tracts of their land if they ever needed money for the farm.