This blog is a summary of the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, May 12, 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
External Audit Review
The city council unanimously approved the City of College Station’s annual audit reports and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2010. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Kersten informed the council that the city’s net assets totaled $402,731,641, an increase of $15 million from the previous year. Unrestricted net assets were $76 million, and restricted net assets were $11 million. Capital assets amount to $314,762,842.
The city’s independent auditor, Jimmy Ingram of Ingram, Wallis & Company, said his firm issued an unqualified opinion, which is the equivalent of a clean bill of health. The city’s charter, fiscal and budgetary policies — and state law — require the city council to designate a qualified public accountant or accountants who, at the end of the fiscal year, make an independent audit of accounts and other financial transactions of the city government.
Parks and Recreation Master Plan
New Parks and Recreation Director David Schmitz and Planning and Development Director Bob Cowell presented an overview of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, which identifies the city’s parks and recreation needs for the next decade and the goals, strategies and actions needed to address them. A joint committee comprised of two Planning and Zoning Committee commissioners, five Parks and Recreation Advisory Board members, and a staff resource team have been working to update the plan, which last was revised in 2003.
Cowell said that parks, open space and recreation matter because they contribute to neighborhoods and community character while enhancing property values and tax revenues. Cowell added that proximity to parks increases property values/revenues and can also increase marketability. Parks and open space also contribute to the health and wellness of the community. He cited studies that show 40 percent of College Station residents visit a park once a week or more, and 34 percent use a walking or biking trail at least once a week. Since 2003, visits to swimming pools have increased by 9,000 and visits to the Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater have increased by 136,000. College Station has 7.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, and Cowell said there are cities in Texas with much higher ratios of parkland to residents. A 150-acre deficiency is projected by 2020. Goals for the plan include:
- Resource conservation and city character
- Health and wellness
- Economic sustainability
- Connectivity and mobility
- Parkland and neighborhood character
- Diversity in recreation and cultural programs
- Responsible governance
Staff will look at a physical framework, fiscal framework, recreation and programming framework, and administration and operations framework.
Deer Control in Foxfire
The council unanimously authorized the College Station Police Department to collaborate with homeowners and wildlife management experts on options to control the burgeoning deer population in the Foxfire Subdivision. Assistant Police Chief Scott McCollum reported that the subdivision has a quality habitat for white-tailed deer and is adjacent to a large, unimproved woodland area. Many residents are concerned about traffic hazards, landscape and garden damage, habitat degradation, declining deer herd health, public safety and Lyme disease.
McCollum said that obstacles to effective control include deer adaptability, aesthetics, safety and liability, conflicting social attitudes and perceptions, hunting and firearm restrictions, and public relations concerns. A study solicited responses from 172 households and 123 responded. Of those, 50 percent felt the number of deer was just right and 50 percent felt there were too many. The survey revealed that 25 respondents said they feed the deer. According to wildlife experts cited by McCollum, the recommended population is one deer per 15 acres. Foxfire consists of 236 acres, which means it can sustain no more than approximately 16 deer. However, a conservative estimate based on the study‘s projection and homeowner observations determined an approximate total of 35 deer.
State Wildlife Biologist Timothy Siegmund recommends that the city identify where deer are coming from, then the homeowners association can either pass deed restrictions prohibiting the feeding of deer, or the city can pass an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of deer. Deer management options include hunting on adjacent properties, employing sharpshooters, trap/transport/release, trap/transport/process, and prohibiting feeding.
McCollum said no simple solution exists and it’s likely that a combination of techniques will be necessary to achieve the desired results. The solution requires significant stakeholder input and cooperation with long-term planning and commitment. He cautioned that such measures can be expensive and the overall benefits would have to be weighed against the costs. McCollum said the police department’s position is that this specific situation is more of a nuisance than a public safety issue at this time and that the department’s animal control unit is not currently staffed or equipped to either conduct a deer management study or to manage such a program.
Regular Meeting Highlights
The council unanimously approved all the items on the consent agenda, with the exception of the resolution supporting the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Feasibility Study, which was pulled for a separate vote. This is not a complete list, so click here to view all the consent items.
Electric Utility Exemption to Competitive Bidding
The city council unanimously passed a resolution adopting procurement procedures for the City of College Station’s Electric Department as an initial step to allow the city to participate with BTU in the methane gas-to-electricity project planned for the Rock Prairie Road Landfill. Adoption of these procurement procedures would allow CSU to participate in the contract already developed by BTU for the purpose of constructing the gas engine plant necessary to produce electricity and purchase the methane gas.
Safety Improvements at FM2818 and George Bush Dr.
The council unanimously adopted an Advance Funding Agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for safety improvements at the FM 2818 and George Bush Drive (FM 2347) intersection. The estimated cost of the city’s participation is not to exceed $17,160.
The Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and the Federal High Risk Rural Road (HRRR) Program have funds available through TxDOT to make these improvements, which will include high-level signal heads for FM 2818, flashing yellow arrow for permissive left turns, confirmation (enforcement) lights, and radar vehicle detection. Other improvements to the intersection will include new video detection cameras, internally-lighted street name signs, a new battery back-up system, and bronze powder coat poles and mast arms.
After the new equipment is installed, the city will be allowed to re-use the existing signal equipment — valued at $15,600 — at other locations. The existing battery back-up system can be installed at another high-volume intersection in the city and the LED signal heads can be installed at one of the city’s nine remaining intersections that use incandescent light bulbs.
The portion of the budget allocated for the internally-lighted street name signs and related mobilization — estimated at $8,926 — will come from the traffic system safety improvement funds approved as part of the 2003 General Obligation Bond. The part of the budget for the bronze powder-coated poles and mast arms and related mobilization — estimated at $8,234 — will come from traffic system funds budgeted for public works traffic operations in the general fund.
Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Resolution
The council adopted by a 6-to-1 vote a resolution supporting the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Feasibility Study, which was initiated by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to evaluate transportation improvements along US 190 and Interstate 10 from El Paso to the Texas-Louisiana border. These improvements are intended to enhance the connection between major U.S. Army installations and the ports of Corpus Christi and Beaumont. The study will assess the feasibility of improvements such as widening existing highways and upgrading highway sections to meet interstate standards.
The study’s primary focus is on an east-west route that would follow Interstate 10 eastward from El Paso and then follow US 190 from Pecos County to Killeen and Fort Hood. From Killeen, the route would follow US 190 and Interstate 35 to Temple, then follow US 190 and other existing routes to College Station. The route continues on to Interstate 45 and Huntsville and US 190 through East Texas. The total stretch of proposed highway upgrades is approximately 860 miles.
Gary Bushell, who represents the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition, provided the council with an update on the concept and its current status. Wilbur Smith Associates, working with TXDOT, conducted public meetings in eight cities along the route from El Paso to the Texas-Louisiana border. This route is approximately 900 miles in length and crosses twenty-five counties. Bushell said the I-14 Phase 1, which would connect Fort Hood, I-35, I-45 and I-69, will be environmentally beneficial by circumventing certain air sheds. The coalition also wants to provide interstate access to the Texas A&M system campuses. I-14 would eventually cross five states.
The Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition was formed in 2001 to promote these improvements and has worked closely with the TxDOT and numerous cities, counties, economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, and regional councils of governments. The approved FY11 budget included $5,000 for annual membership costs associated with the coalition.
VOTE: Jess Fields voted against the resolution, citing his reservations about the membership costs going to what appears to be a lobbying group.
BioCorridor Inter Local Agreement
The city council unanimously approved the final draft of the Inter Local Agreement between the cities of College Station and Bryan for the joint development of the Research Valley BioCorridor, and authorized the city manager to make any changes that are non-substantive. The approval is contingent on the City of Bryan approving the agreement by the end of May. The agreement was reached through a third-party legal counsel and represents the input and policy guidance of the BioCorridor Policy Committee, which consisted of the mayors and mayors pro tem of both cities.
The agreement establishes the initial size of the development, provides for Ad Valorem revenue sharing on real and personal property, and will exist only in a defined area. It also incorporates current economic development guidelines, adopts joint building/site design standards and provides for phased roadway infrastructure. The Research Valley BioCorridor is shaping up to be a transformative project that will have a positive economic impact on the Brazos Valley for many decades.
Council Agendas and Minutes
(Official minutes of Thursday’s meetings will be available in two weeks)