This blog is a summary of the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Thursday, June 23, 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
Click here to watch the entire workshop meeting. Click on individual agenda items listed beneath the video window to view a specific segment.
Capital Project Funding
The council heard a presentation from the city’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Kersten, on how capital projects are funded. Kersten explained that every five to seven years, a citizens advisory committee is formed to identify potential capital improvement projects that can be funded with General Obligation (GO) Bonds, including street and transportation improvements, park and recreation improvements, municipal facilities such as fire stations and other enhancements to public infrastructure. Capital projects are identified and prioritized. Funding for the identified capital improvement projects is determined and an analysis is done to determine the impact on the tax rate. These items are then presented to the voters, who may authorize the general obligation bonds. Once the bonds have been authorized, staff will annually prepare and update a five-year Capital Improvement Program, review and adjust project timelines based on council direction and evaluate and determine funding sources, including cash, debt and grants. The capital improvement budget then is presented to the council for review and approval.
In addition to GO bonds, the city can issue certificates of obligation or utility revenue bonds. Projects typically funded with CO debt include street and park improvements, municipal facilities improvements, technology and equipment, or utility infrastructure improvements. CO debt does not require voter authorization. The advantage to issuing bonds include financing projects over their useful lives, allowing future beneficiaries to pay their share for services, allowing the city to grow and meet future infrastructure needs, and low cost financing due to tax-exempt features. Other funding sources include existing cash resources from utility projects, drainage projects and general funds, tax increment financing (TIF), grants, contributions from developers and impact fees. The council will consider authorizing the publication of Notice of Sale for Certificates on July 14. On August 24, the city will award the bonds through a competitive bid process and proceeds will be received in September. The 2011 bond sale will be for approximately $11 million.
Community Development Action Plan
Director of Community Development David Gwin presented the FY 2012 Community Development Action Plan and budget. Gwin also reported on the Down-Payment Assistance Program, which helps families lower monthly payments to afford a home. The program requires applicants to use a private lender, offers up to 15 percent of sales price as a 0 percent interest deferred loan, and calculates the amount of assistance for each family based on individual situations. This program has proven to be highly successful with zero foreclosures in the 135 loans completed since 1997.
Gwen dispelled several myths regarding the program:
• It is not a grant program
• It is not competing against private lenders
• It is not placing families into situations they cannot afford
• It is not a liability to the surrounding neighborhood
• It is not a poor investment of public funds
Program meets or exceeds neighborhood building standards and has created lasting homeownership opportunities. The program has supported single-family construction that has outpaced or stayed with neighborhood and city residential values.
The FY 2011/FY 2012 Action Plan and Budget focuses on the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME). These programs fund housing, infrastructure, public facilities, economic development, code enforcement and public service activities. While CDBG funds may be used for a variety of community development activities, HOME funds may only be used for affordable housing activities. The Community Development Budget was presented to Council with a proposed total of $5,012,773. Staff is proposing funding five local public services: Twin City Mission, Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority, Brazos Valley Rehabilitation Center, United Partners-Project Unity and Voices for Children. Recommended public facilities to be funded include Cooner Street rehabilitation, Wellborn Road sidewalks and University Drive sidewalks.
Initiatives planned for 2011-2012 are the disposal of the Holleman property, initiation of a senior housing development, partnering with non-profits for new affordable houses, two sidewalk design projects and one street rehabilitation project. A formal application will be made to HUD and will come back before the council for consideration in July.
State of the Fire Department
Fire Chief R.B. Alley updated the council on the State of the College Station Fire Department. Alley said the design for Fire Station No. 6 is complete and new fire apparatus has been ordered. He also reported there were 6,648 emergency responses last year and provided a breakdown on the types of emergency responses. Alley said the fire department has been designated a Storm Ready Community by the National Weather Service. The CSFD includes 121 staff positions for fire operations, fire marshal’s office, fire administration and emergency management.
State of the Police Department
Police Chief Jeff Capps updated the council on the State of the College Station Police Department. Capps said the department has 121 sworn officers and 61 civilian positions. The department also uses 14 seasonal employees such as school crossing guards. Capps said the department’s community engagement efforts include the Citizens Police Academy, Take 25, Blue Santa, Easter Egg Hunt and National Night Out. CSPD also participates in the Lock, Take, and Hide program, and 101 signs have been deployed at 78 locations across the city. The department received 77,230 service calls in 2010.
Regular Meeting Highlights
Click here to watch the entire regular meeting. Click on individual agenda items listed beneath the video window to view a specific segment.
The council unanimously approved all the consent agenda items. This is not a complete list of the consent agenda, so click here to view all the consent items.
Lick Creek Nature Center Advisory Committee
The council approved the formation of the Lick Creek Park Nature Center Advisory Committee to provide oversight and input into the design, amenities and programming for the $2.5 million nature center approved by voters as part of the 2008 bond election. The committee will provide input regarding design features, amenities and programming, and will be disbanded when construction begins. The 11-member committee will consist of three citizens, one city council member, two Parks and Recreation Advisory Board members, one Planning & Zoning commissioner, two College Station Independent School District representatives, and two representatives from Texas A&M University.
Wastewater Master Plan
The council unanimously approved a $90 million Wastewater Master Plan that will provide the sewer infrastructure needed to keep pace with the city’s projected growth in the next two decades. The city owns, operates and maintains a wastewater collection, treatment and disposal system for close to 84,000 residents and businesses, which does not include the Texas A&M campus. The city projects that about 20,000 dwelling units serving 40,000 new residents will be constructed in the next 20 years. The Wastewater Master Plan study concluded that the city’s collection system and treatment plants will require significant capital investment to meet demand. College Station’s existing treatment and disposal is provided by the Carters Creek and Lick Creek treatment plants.
Eastgate Neighborhood Plan
The council unanimously approved the Eastgate Neighborhood Plan, a component of the city’s Comprehensive Plan that addresses community character, land use, neighborhood integrity, mobility and sustainability. The plan is the second in a series of neighborhood, district, and corridor plans that are being created to implement the city’s Comprehensive Plan vision to create, promote and enhance places of distinction. The Central College Station Neighborhood Plan was the first plan adopted in June 2010.
One of the oldest areas of College Station, Eastgate is largely a single-family neighborhood that includes aging commercial and multi-family properties along its perimeter. The neighborhood is generally bounded by University Drive East, Texas Avenue South, Dominik Drive and Munson Avenue, and is anchored by College Hills Elementary School and Thomas Park. The Eastgate plan includes 97 action items to be implemented over the next five to seven years. Example strategies include coordinated public investments, effective neighborhood organization training and support, and ongoing service evaluation and indicator systems.
Through the implementation of these strategies, the city aims to help stabilize and protect the Eastgate neighborhood while encouraging appropriate redevelopment opportunities around the perimeter of the neighborhood. The plan was developed over the last nine months through extensive engagement with residents, including a 14-member Neighborhood Resource Team made up of citizens who represented different geographic areas and interests.
UDO Amendment for Wellborn Area
As part of its ongoing efforts to integrate the Wellborn area into the city, the council unanimously voted to amend the city’s Unified Development Ordinance to provide temporary and limited protection for existing businesses and homes in the recently annexed area. The amendment is intended to offer temporary relief to businesses and homes until residents and city staff begin developing a small-area plan and new zoning later this year. These changes to the UDO enable existing businesses in the newly annexed area — ones that currently aren’t in compliance with this zoning — to expand up to 25 percent of their building area without board or commission approval, as well as allow qualifying existing homes to utilize residential zoning district setbacks. As with other such non-conforming uses, expansions or deviations beyond those noted above will continue to require approval by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Bird Pond Road Rehabilitation Project
The council unanimously approved a $167,000 contract with Mitchell & Morgan, LLP for professional engineering services for the Bird Pond Road Rehabilitation Project. The project will rehabilitate an approximately 7,200-linear foot section of Bird Pond Road from Rock Prairie Road to the city limits. The $1.8 million budget will be financed with funds remaining from the Barron Road Widening Phase II project. The rehabilitation will be done as a major two-lane collector of a rural/estate cross section in accordance with the city’s comprehensive plan. Bird Pond Road eventually is expected to be a four-lane residential arterial. Preliminary design will provide for the vertical and horizontal layout to meet this future need while incorporating as many of the future design elements into the construction of the two-lane facility.
Funding Agreement for University Drive Pedestrian Safety Project
The council unanimously approved an Advance Funding Agreement for $274,540 with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to pay for a portion of the features included in the University Drive Pedestrian Safety Project. The project is a cooperative effort among the City of College Station, TxDOT, Texas A&M and Northgate merchants to improve pedestrian safety in the Northgate area. In March, the city council approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and the Northgate Merchant Association that outlined improvements to be made by the city to help offset the potential impact of the removal of parking along University Drive. The project design is under review by TxDOT, which is scheduled to advertise the project for construction bids in August. Construction is expected to begin in mid-December when Texas A&M’s fall semester is complete.
The city’s $274,540 portion of the costs will be transferred from the Discovery Drive project, which was completed under budget. Additional features added by the City of College Station and paid through the AFA include retractable bollards to allow for emergency vehicle access, a traffic barrier along University Drive between College Main and Boyett, and powder-coated signal poles at Boyett and University Drive. The council will soon consider a second AFA from TxDOT to cover the cost of improvements to the College Main Promenade and the intersection of Lodge and Patricia streets. Additional funds remaining from the Discovery Drive project are expected to pay for those improvements.
Sunset Advisory Commission
The council unanimously approved an amendment to allow the immediate appointment of council members Karl Mooney, Jess Fields and Dave Ruesink to the Sunset Advisory Commission, which was created in February to determine whether a public need exists for various city boards, commissions and committees. The council has charged the committee to have its review completed by July, when board, commission and committee appointments will be made.
Council Agendas and Minutes
(Official minutes of Thursday’s meetings will be available in two weeks)