Commissioners to discuss transportation for A&M student voters, funding for projects


By Tyler Hoskins

Published: October 10, 2022

BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - In an effort to help students get to the polls for the upcoming early voting period, Brazos County commissioners on Tuesday will “consider and take action” on an interlocal agreement with Texas A&M University. In the agreement, the county would pay the university for the use of its busses that would be used to transport students to College Station City Hall where they can cast their ballots.

This is the next step commissioners are taking after previously deciding the Memorial Student Center would not return as an early voting location this year. The decision to remove the MSC as an early voting location in favor of College Station City Hall was made in July and has since drawn criticism from students and organizations.

Precinct Two Commissioner Russ Ford, who was the only vote against the MSC’s removal as an early voting location, said the commissioner’s court has already admitted it was a mistake and they are now trying to go “above and beyond” for a solution.

“Now there’s an item tomorrow, to see if we can help pay for the buses to pick students up at the MSC, carry them to College Station City Hall then carry them back,” Ford said. “That’s still rather inconvenient. Obviously, being the only dissenting vote on that thing, I don’t want to disenfranchise voters, particularly young voters, who may be voting for the first time.”

Commissioners have promised to return the MSC as an early voting location next year, however, Ford warns that with two new commissioners slated to join the group, it’s not a guarantee.

Another topic on the agenda for Tuesday is a discussion on how to spend the American Rescue Plan Act funds (ARPA).

The ARPA funds were provided to the county to support its response and recovery from the pandemic. Brazos County Commissioners have looked at using the funds for projects such as a medical examiner officer, expanding broadband services, funding non-profit organizations, roadwork, and other projects.

Ford said despite months of hearings on how to spend the money everything changed two weeks ago when he learned that $7 million originally planned for broadband would now go towards the medical examiner’s office. On Tuesday’s agenda, $1 million dollars will be discussed for broadband. As an east Brazos County resident, Ford said he’s seen whole sections of that area without broadband.

“I’m very disappointed that we made these changes at the last second after we spend all that time going through it,” Ford said. “Broadband prices continue to go up for the insulation with supply chain issues. At one time we were told we could have broadband service to the entire county with 100 up, 100 down speeds for $5 million. That’s gone now it’s out the window. We’re now talking about $10-12 million.”

The county tax will also be on the agenda again tomorrow at $0.4635 which is two cents lower than the originally proposed tax rate. Ford and Brazos County Commissioner Precinct 1 Steve Aldrich have been skipping meetings to oppose the tax rate which they say will cost taxpayers more money this year than last year. Four members of the commissioner’s court are required to be present for the tax rate approval vote and if the new rate is not approved by October 21 a “no new revenue rate” of $0.429 would go into effect.

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