Taxpayers will pay $60 million to pave roads skipped by contractors

Bexar County taxpayers will pick up the tab for up to $60 million to pave or upgrade dozens of streets in a few communities over the next decade, according to commissioner Kevin Wolff. (News 4 San Antonio Photo)

SAN ANTONIO - Bexar County taxpayers will pick up the tab for up to $60 million to pave or upgrade dozens of streets in a few communities over the next decade, according to commissioner Kevin Wolff.

The first community to be paved will be eight streets in Highland Oaks, where more than 250 families live south of 1604 off 281. The developer, who was supposed to pave the roads, never did.

"Did they buy a house from a bad developer? Did they buy in a bad area? Obviously," Wolff said. "That still doesn't remove the burden from them. It's their responsibility."

Commissioners tightened regulations for developers in 2010 to prevent similar problems in the future, but over the past century, a handful have not done their due diligence.

Wolff was the lone opponent of county acquisition at the Bexar County Commissioners Court on Tuesday. Three of his colleagues, including Commissioner "Chico" Rodriguez, approved the directive to the Public Works Department to incorporate the unpaved and substandard streets into future budgets.

Rodriguez said public safety is his main concern and the reason he's fighting for the funding. Residents of Highland Oaks have said first responders are often delayed by roads that even school bus drivers refuse to brave.

The road acquisition program lays out the following timeline for funding the unpaved subdivisions: Highland Oaks in two phases (2017 and 2018), Woodland Forest in 2019, Brentwood Hills in 2020, Pleasant Oaks in 2021, Northwind Estates in 2022, Carver/Heart&Diamond/High Oaks Ac. in 2023, Robards in 2024, Twin Valley/Monte Alto/Oakhills No. in 2025, Southton Park in two phases (2026 and 2027).

The total cost of those paving projects is estimated to be $27.7 million for a total of 1,093 lots, 368 of which have been improved. A county spokeswoman could not provide locations for the neighborhoods Wednesday, saying the streets only exist on the developers' paperwork and have never been formally recognized by the county.

Also included in the plan is county control of 19 paved subdivisions over the next 10 to 15 years. Completely reconstructing every one of those roads would cost $30.9 million, although the Public Works Department notes it's "unlikely that the majority of the streets will need to be completely rebuilt."

The majority of the projects are in Rodriguez's district, but he pointed out District 1 contains more unincorporated land than the other districts.

He said road improvement districts could still be on the table as a way for residents to reimburse the county at rates they can afford. If everyone with an improved lot were to pay an equal share of the paving costs, each person would pay between $33,123 and $538,051, according to Public Works Department estimates.

"What we will be doing is taking tax dollars from everybody else in the county and paying for 103 streets," Wolff said. He said other projects could be delayed, with "$60 million in capital cost that you can't spend on other services like, I don't know, a substation that the sheriff wants or upgrades to the jail that we need."

Rodriguez countered that commissioners have already approved two substations for the Bexar County Sheriff's Office. He said he had not heard of any futures ones being planned.

Wolff said taxes would likely not go up, but he said maintaining the new roads is estimated to cost $500,000 each year.

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