Grimes County, Texas Central dispute impact of court judgment

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BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Grimes County officials say they have another victory against the proposed high speed bullet train from Houston to Dallas.

But the company behind the train says not so fast.

On Tuesday County Judge Ben Leman said a court granted an injunction that would in his words, stops the train in it's tracks.

"With this ruling as well as the regulations in every single county from Ellis to Waller and only a few weeks left of our current legislative session, it does not seem as if this high speed rail project is going to make progress anytime soon," said Leman.

Grimes County took Texas Central Railway to court after they say a contractor surveying on the railroad's behalf did road damage.

The crosses and metal spikes were put down during the survey.

The summary judgment from the 506th District Court says in part, "Defendants and their agents are permanently enjoined from performing survey (s), or other studies which damage, alter, or impair county-maintained rights of way."

Jon C. Fultz is the Grimes County Attorney.

"The ruling by the court on April 26th effectively confirms that Texas Central Partners does not have eminent domain authority. Because they don't have the ability to conduct surveys that would impair, alter or dare I say damage the county rights of way," said Fultz.

Texas Central maintains they do have eminent domain authority.

They cite a Harris County Judge's decision declaring Texas Central a railroad company. Judge Leman downplays that decision saying Texas Central later asked to be released of that judgment.

In a statement, Texas Central said:

"This is case about a nail roughly the size of a quarter that is used every day across Texas as part of standard and routine survey work – performed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), roadbuilders and other development projects.

A year ago, per standard, accepted practice, a survey contractor for Texas Central placed four small nails and three painted stripes on Grimes County-maintained roads. Immediately after learning the county preferred the nails removed, Texas Central and its consultants worked to make the minor repairs, all to the satisfaction of the county’s road and bridge engineer.

Even though the nail was removed and any damage was repaired, Grimes County chose to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars to pursue an already-resolved issue.

The judge’s order does not ban surveys, which are continuing and, as always, will be conducted in line with state and local rules. It simply prohibits performing surveys or other studies which damage, alter, or impair county maintained rights of way.

Texas Central is building the high-speed train every day, and property owners are responding positively to our personal and collaborative land-option program – which has resulted in over 3,000 survey
permissions granted from landowners and includes option agreement on more than half of the parcels expected to be needed in Grimes County.

Landowners there are voting with their signatures while some county officials frivolously spend taxpayer money over an issue that was resolved even before they decided to sue."

Many gathered in the small crowd outside the county courthouse were supportive of the fight against the train.

"We're extremely happy to hear that Judge McCaig has validated Grimes County's opposition to this project," said
David Tullos, a Plantersville resident.

Roy Johnson owns properties in Grimes County and says he's not against high speed rail, but this route.

"I wanted to hear it first hand to see exactly what the ruling was. I had no clue what it was going to be good, bad, ugly I was very impressed with the way they judge laid it out," said Johnson.

We've reached out to Judge Albert McCaig to get his perspective on the summary judgment he wrote, but have not heard back yet.

The county attorney didn't have a dollar figure for the cost of the lawsuit but he says it cost the county staff resources.