City Council Meeting Summary (March 24, 2011)

This blog is a short summary of the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, March 24, and is not the official minutes. Changes made to specific items will be recorded in the minutes, which will be available in approximately two weeks.

Workshop Meeting Highlights

University Drive Pedestrian Safety Improvement Project
Council unanimously approved an ordinance removing parking on University Drive and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Northgate District Association. This action was taken in relation to a plan to enhance pedestrian safety along University Drive between Wellborn Road and Tauber Street.
 
Local media reported last summer that there have been 342 accidents in the project area since 2001, with 12 of those involving pedestrians or bicyclists. Eight out of those 12 accidents have been in the past two years. The primary focus of this project is to significantly increase the pedestrians’ safety as they cross University Drive. The vast majority of pedestrians and bicyclists cross University Drive at the College Main intersection. Between July 2009 and June 2010, three presentations were given to the city council about the efforts between the city and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to improve pedestrian safety along University Drive. In June, council directed staff to permanently close College Main to vehicle traffic, remove parking along University Drive, and create a loading zone, if desired by property owners.

Discussions have also been held with Texas A&M, and the university supports the project. The University Drive Pedestrian Safety Improvement plan being developed by TxDOT is based on public comments they received at city council meetings, public meetings, city-initiated public meetings with merchants, comments from the Northgate District Association (NDA) through bi-weekly meetings with the city, and direction from the College Station City Council. During discussions with the merchants and the NDA, several requests were made regarding concerns about how the project would impact businesses. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was developed to document needed safety aspects of the project and what the city would do to mitigate the concerns of the merchants.

TxDOT has approximately $2 million available for the construction phase. The scope of this project changed and evolved as stakeholders provided feedback and input, but the budget was not increased. The state is working diligently to develop a design that meets the needs of the city, Texas A&M and the NDA within the allowable $2 million budget. However, the city may need to contribute some additional funds to this project if favorable bids are not received. The city will be solely responsible for the cost associated with the design and construction of the capital improvements included in the MOU with the NDA.

Medical Corridor Project Update
The council received a presentation from Community and Economic Development Director David Gwin regarding the progress of the Medical Corridor study. Medical assets in the Rock Prairie Road, Hwy. 6 area already exceed $80 million, and the project has progressed significantly with the formation of the Medical Corridor Advisory Committee (MCAC). The project team of Schrickel, Rollins & Associates (SRA) has conducted its initial site-mapping of the Medical Corridor study area and has presented this information to the MCAC. SRA continues to receive and process stakeholder feedback as well as conduct independent analysis of the study area. All costs associated with the administration of the Medical Corridor Study are covered by an existing contract with Schrickel, Rollins & Associates, Inc.

Royder Road & Greens Prairie Trail Improvements
Council  unanimously approved a construction contract with Knife River in the amount of $878,264.39 for the Royder Road & Greens Prairie Trail Reconstruction Project, which consists of improving Royder Road and Greens Prairie Trail in the vicinity of the Greens Prairie Elementary School that will open next fall.  The project is scheduled for completion in July.

A left turn lane and deceleration lane is proposed along Greens Prairie Trail. Royder Road Improvements will entail new concrete pavement to replace the existing asphalt and base material to provide better durability for the increased traffic once the school opens. In addition to these roadway improvements, the project will include curb and gutter, storm sewer, bike lane and sidewalks. The intersection at Royder Road & Greens Prairie Trail will be converted from a two-way stop to a four-way stop to help with safety adjacent to the school site.

Three firms submitted a response to the Request for Proposal. The proposals were ranked according to a published set of selection criteria that included a bid amount, experience and qualifications, references and reputation, current workload and schedule, key project personnel, financial resources and safety record. Knife River was ranked highest by the review committee based on the selection criteria.

The contract includes the base bid of $861,501.98 with one bid alternate.  The first alternate is the inclusion of an additional sidewalk along the south side of Greens Prairie Trail adjacent to the Greens Prairie Elementary School site. The cost for Alternative 1 is $16,762.41. Construction is expected to take approximately three months and the improvements are to be completed in time for the opening of Greens Prairie Elementary School in August. A total of $1,062,420 is budgeted for this project. Approximately $126,390 has been expended or committed to date, and a balance of $936,030 is available for construction and related expenses in the project budget. CSISD is contributing $300,000 toward the costs.

Regular Meeting Highlights

Consent Agenda
The council voted unanimously to approve all the consent agenda items, which are generally regarded as “housekeeping” items. Click here to view all the consent items. Here are some of the items that were approved:

Bike Loop Completion Construction Contract: Council approved a $257,443.64 contract with Fuqua Construction Company, Inc., for the 2005 Bike Loop Phase II – College Station Bike Loop Completion.  This contract is for the third segment of the original College Station Bike Loop project, which was an ISTEA grant proposal to construct a somewhat circular connection of bicycle facilities throughout the City of College Station linking several residential areas, commercial areas, city parks and municipal buildings.
 
The first segment involved striping and signage of bike lanes and routes in various locations throughout the city. The second segment includes off-street paths within Lemontree Park, Bee Creek Park, and Central Park. This phase will complete the portion of the Bike Loop within Bee Creek Park and will provide an important connection with the pedestrian improvements along Longmire Drive, linking the southern part of town to central College Station and the Texas A&M campus for multimodal users. The connection will also allow access to the Bike Loop from the hike and bike path under construction along FM 2818. In accordance with the Bike Loop Development Agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), this award must be conditioned upon TxDOT’s review and approval of the bid received.

The total budget for the Bike Loop project is $1,529,826. The budget includes $327,202 from the 2005 Bike Loop project, $169,000 from the Miscellaneous Bike Trails project, and $1,033,624 from the Hike and Bike Trails project. A total of $941,387.80 has been expended or committed to date for the development of this design, and design and construction of the 2005 Bike Loop – Longmire Improvements. Funds in the amount of $588,438.20 remain for construction of this phase of improvements. As part of Texas Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program, 80 percent of construction expense will be reimbursed by TxDOT.

Governor’s Criminal Justice Division Grant: Council approved the acceptance of a grant from the Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division (CJD).  The CJD’s mission is to create and support programs that protect people from crime, reduce the number of crimes committed, and to promote accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness within the criminal justice system. CJD focuses on the enhancement of Texas’ capacity to prevent crime, provide service and treatment options, enforce laws, train staff and volunteers, and the restoration of crime victims to full physical, emotional and mental health.

The grant provides 100 percent funding for the purchase of equipment necessary to outfit four additional part-time bicycle officers. The addition of these officers to the current four-officer part-time bicycle unit will allow for continual officer coverage of the Northgate Entertainment District during the peak hours of activity as well as allow for bicycle coverage in other areas of the city to focus on other problems such as burglary.

The grant also provides 100 percent funding for the purchase of digital cameras to be used by the patrol officers. There are many times during a patrol shift in which an officer needs a camera to take photos for evidentiary purposes. Though a few cameras are currently available, the numbers are limited requiring officers to share and deliver cameras from one location to another. This has a profound impact on efficiency in addition to posing the risk of losing evidence if a time sensitive situation arises such as a rain storm arriving that could wash away evidence or redness from an assault fading. There is no local match requirement for CJD, but grant funding will only be provided for the initial equipment purchase. Due to this, any other associated costs such as maintenance, repair, or replacement will be the responsibility of the grantee agency.

The equipment necessary to outfit four part-time bicycle officers will total approximately $19,420. Annual maintenance, repair, or replacement is estimated to not exceed $3000 for the entire eight- officer unit. The equipment necessary to provide each officer with a digital camera will total approximately $11,020. Annual maintenance, repair, or replacement is estimated to not exceed $2000.

Weingarten Settlement: Council approved a settlement agreement between the City of College Station, Ron Silvia, David Ruesink, Lynn McIlhaney, Ben White, Hugh Stearns and Dennis Maloney and Weingarten Realty Investors and Weingarten/Investments, Inc. to resolve the lawsuit Weingarten Realty Investors, et. al. v.The City of College Station, Texas, et. al. In November 2008, Weingarten Realty Investors and Weingarten/Investments, Inc. (WRI) filed a lawsuit against the City of College Station, Ron Silvia, David Ruesink, Lynn McIlhaney and Ben White in the U.S. District Court Southern Division of Texas related to the request to rezone undeveloped property located at the east corner of Rock Prairie Road and State Highway 6. WRI amended its complaint in August 2009 to add Dennis Maloney and Hugh Stearns to the lawsuit.

In 2010, WRI sold a substantial portion of the undeveloped property to Scott & White Healthcare for the development of a $90 million hospital facility, a $17 million clinic facility, and related uses. WRI currently owns/leases an approximate 9-acre remaining tract of land located at the corner of Rock Prairie Road and State Highway 6.

The terms of the agreement include:
1. The parties will agree to a mutual release and a dismissal of all claims in the lawsuit and releases of all other claims or potential claims that may exist.
2. WRI will submit an application to rezone the remainder tract to a PDD with certain meritorious modifications that have been negotiated with the city’s Planning & Development Services staff as provided under the city’s Unified Development Ordinance.
3. The city will agree to waive development fees associated with the remainder tract up to $30,000.
4. The city will pay to WRI a total amount of $1.6 million.

The funds for this agreement are proposed to come from the fund balance in the city’s general fund. A budget amendment to appropriate these funds in the FY 11 budget will come back to the city council prior to the consideration of the rezoning as outlined in the settlement agreement. In two years of litigation, the City of College Station secured a number of positive economic development initiatives, some directly related to the property in question.

Regular Agenda

Wellborn Annexation Public Hearing
Council conducted the second and final public hearing prior to initiating annexation proceedings for approximately 649 acres on the southwest side of the City, generally known as the Wellborn area. As part of the public hearing, staff presented an overview of the annexation service plan. The purpose of the public hearings was to give individuals the opportunity to express their views regarding the proposed annexation and the service plan. Of the 39 people who addressed the council, 23 were against the annexation and 16 favored it. The final annexation ordinance is scheduled to be heard at the April 14 council meeting.

Citizens for Wellborn’s proposed incorporation map

Annexation Service Plan

Links:
Video Archive of Council Meetings

Council Agendas and Minutes
(Official minutes of Thursday’s meetings will be available in two weeks)

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