City Manager

City of College Station reinstates ofo’s permit

The City of College Station on Friday reinstated the permit required for ofo — the Beijing-based dockless bike share company — to operate outside the Texas A&M University campus.

As long as the company continues to meet city requirements, ofo’s permit to operate in College Station remains valid through Aug. 23, 2019 — one year from its original issue date.

Texas A&M has an exclusive contract with ofo to operate the bicycles on its campus, but a city ordinance governs how dockless bike-share businesses operate beyond campus boundaries. A&M Transportation Services has indicated it will transition its dockless bike-share system to a new vendor after the fall semester.

ofo’s permit was revoked Oct. 12 due to multiple violations of College Station’s ordinance governing dockless bike-share programs. Among the violations was a lapse in automobile liability insurance coverage, which prevented ofo’s paid drivers from legally operating vehicles used to gather and relocate the yellow bikes.

In addition to its automobile liability insurance coverage reestablished, ofo also paid $5,785 in outstanding citations and replenished its $5,000 escrow account with the city.

– Public Communications Office

 

 

 


What to do when Ofo becomes an oh no

 

By Aubrey Nettles, Special Projects Coordinator

If you spend much time in College Station these days – especially near the Texas A&M campus – you’ve probably seen a bunch of yellow bikes.

Last spring, Texas A&M partnered with Ofo Bike Share Systems to offer the yellow bikes as an alternative mode of travel on and around campus. Naturally, it didn’t take long for users to venture beyond campus to city streets and neighborhoods.

As the popularity of the dockless bike share program grew, it became clear users needed appropriate guidance on responsible off-campus bike use. Riders are supposed the park the bikes in racks within a geo-fenced area, which includes the campus and a small radius beyond campus.

Unfortunately, the bikes have turned up in a multitude of unintended locations such as grassy areas, sidewalks, roadways – even treetops. Many of the complaints focus on the aesthetic impact of yellow bikes left around town, but they’ve also caused safety concerns.

College Station’s ordinance requires that the program operators must remove bikes reported to be parked incorrectly or left outside the geo-fenced area within two hours from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. or within 12 hours at other times. If they don’t, the company is charged a $125 relocation fee or issued a citation. City code enforcement officers will help enforce the ordinance.

Users can also lose their bike privileges for misuse.

Where to park your yellow bike

Users must park dockless bikes in an upright position in the geo-fence zone that encompasses the area in and around campus.

Dockless Bike Geo-Fence

The bikes should never be parked where they can create a hazard or otherwise impede vehicles or pedestrians.

How to report misplaced bikes

  • Report the issue using the subject line “Dockless Bike Share” on the city’s SeeClickFix code enforcement app. Make sure the location is as accurate as possible.
  • Call Code Enforcement at 979-764-6363. They will send a message to Ofo and the area’s code enforcement officer.
  • Send an email to codeenforcement@cstx.gov.

You can find additional reporting information affixed to the bikes.

As always, bicyclists are encouraged to wear a helmet, obey traffic laws, and yield to pedestrians.

Enjoy your ride!

 


About the Author

Aubrey Nettles is in her fourth year as special projects coordinator in the City Manager’s Office. She previously served as executive assistant to the Fort Bend County Commission and was a management analyst for Harris County. A native of Smithville, Aubrey earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Houston in 2012 and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Texas A&M in 2010.  


 

Photo Credit: OFO Uh-ohs of College Station Facebook Page

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Final FY19 budget workshop focuses on details

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The College Station City Council had its final workshop about the proposed FY19 city budget on Tuesday at the CSU Meeting and Training Facility. The 3-hour session covered special revenue funds, enterprise funds, internal service funds, hotel tax fund, and outside agency funding.

Monday’s initial workshop covered the city’s general fund and capital projects.

The Fiscal Year 2019 proposed net budget for the City of College Station totals $360.7 million for all funds, which includes $252.3 million for operations and maintenance and $108.4 million for capital projects.

Proposed FY19 Budget Document

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

Outside Agency Funding

The city helps fund select outside local agencies through the General Fund, Hotel Tax Fund, Community Development Fund, and Solid Waste Fund.

  • General Fund: Outside agency funding from the General Fund totals $1.45 million. Funded organizations are the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation ($350,000), Arts Council ($35,000 for operations), Noon Lions Club ($15,000 for 4th of July celebration), Aggieland Humane Society ($273,196), Brazos County Health District ($395,065), and the Brazos Central Appraisal District ($383,420).
  • Hotel Tax Fund: Outside agencies get abut $3.44 million from the Hotel Tax Fund: $2 million for the convention & visitors bureau for operational, sales/marketing, promotional, servicing and business development elements; $588,950 for the CVB Grant Program; $114,376 for Easterwood Airport advertising; $290,000 for Arts Council operations and maintenance; $362,476 for Arts Council affiliate funding; $35,500 for public art support through the Arts Council; $25,000 to the Veterans Memorial; and $25,000 for the Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce.
  • Community Development Fund: Outside agency funding from the Community Development Fund totals $228,000. Funded agencies are Big Brothers Big Sisters ($29,216), Brazos Maternal & Child Health Clinic ($30,000), Brazos Valley Food Bank ($21,247), Catholic Charities ($5,000), Family Promise ($30,000), Brazos Valley Rehabilitation Clinic ($24,753), Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority ($30,000), Project Unity ($30,000), Twin City Mission ($27,000), and Voices for Children ($30,000).
  • Solid Waste Fund: Keep Brazos Beautiful receives $49,190 from the Solid Waste Fund.

Special Revenue Funds 

  • Roadway Maintenance Fee: The Roadway Maintenance Fee is paid monthly by residents and businesses to help fix potholes and properly maintain streets. Preventive maintenance also reduces the need for costly road reconstruction. Revenues and expenditures for FY19 are projected to be $4.89 million.
  • Water Impact Fee: The Water Impact Fee is assessed for permits issued for new water connections to fund existing and future capital improvement projects that serve new developments. FY19 revenues are expected to be $301,933, which will be transferred to the Water Fund for the debt service payment for projects related to Well No. 9.
  • Wastewater Impact Fee: The Wastewater Impact Fee is assessed for permits issued for new sewer connections. FY19 revenues are projected to be $1.81 million. A transfer of $328,881 to the Wastewater Fund is proposed for debt service payment for the Lick Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion.
  • Roadway Impact Fee: The Roadway Impact Fee funds existing and future capital improvement projects that serve new developments. Four separate funds were created for the four service territories where the fee is collected. Fees collected in a service area must be used for capital projects there. FY19 revenues are expected to be $683,000, which will be used for the Capstone/Barron Realignment project, and the rehabilitation of Fitch Parkway from Rock Prairie Road to Tonkaway Lake.
  • Community Development: The Community Development Fund is used to account for grants received from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by the city for use in revitalizing low- and moderate-income areas and addressing the needs of low and moderate income citizens. Grant amounts in FY19 include $1.73 million in Community Development Block Grant funds and $783,993 in HOME Investment Partnership Grant funds.

Enterprise Funds

  • Electric: No electric rate increase is proposed. FY19 revenue is estimated to be $105.1 million with a $76.1 million operating budget. Planned electric capital projects are expected to be about $20.4 million.
  • Water: FY19 revenue is estimated to be almost $17 million with an $8.5 million operating budget. Planned water capital projects are expected to be about $17 million.
  • Wastewater: A 5 percent wastewater rate increase is proposed to support significant capital projects. The FY19 operating budget is $7.3 million with revenues estimated at $19.2 million. Planned wastewater capital projects are expected to be about $29.3 million.
  • Solid Waste: The Solid Waste Fund accounts for collecting and disposing of residential and commercial refuse. FY19 revenues are estimated to be $10.9 million with an operating budget of $8.7 million.
  • Northgate Parking: The Northgate Parking Fund accounts for revenues and expenditures from Northgate parking facilities. FY19 revenue is estimated to be $1.5 million with an operating budget of about $1.3 million.

Property Tax Rate

The council voted unanimously to conduct public hearings on the proposed tax rate on Sept. 5 (7 p.m.) and Sept. 13 (6 p.m.) at College Station City Hall, along with adoption of the tax rate on Sept. 27.

The FY19 proposed budget includes a tax rate of 50.5841 cents per $100 assessed valuation, which includes a 0.8341-cent increase on the General Fund side to offset a five percent homestead exemption approved by the city council earlier this year. The proposed operations and maintenance side of the tax rate is unchanged at 28.5502, while the debt service side stays at 22.0339.

Under the new rate, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $84 per month. The average tax rate for Texas cities with populations between 75,000-150,000 is about 59 cents. The City of Bryan has a tax rate of almost 63 cents.

The effective tax rate for FY19 — the rate that will raise the same revenues as last year on the same properties —  is 47.8968 cents. The rollback tax rate of 52.2313 cents is the highest that can be adopted before citizens can initiate a petition to lower it back to the rollback rate.

Hotel Tax Fund

The Hotel Tax allows the city to collect up to its existing tax rate of 7 percent on rental income of hotels and motels. Projected Hotel Tax Fund revenues are about $5.7 million. About $6.73 million in hotel tax funds will cover the new synthetic fields at Veterans Park, Southeast Park development, sports tournament promotions, qualifying parks programs and events, and the preferred access agreement payment to Texas A&M.

Insurance Funds

The City of College Station is partially self-insured for property & casualty and general liability, workers’ compensation, and unemployment compensation.

  • Property & Casualty: Total proposed revenues for the Property & Casualty Insurance Fund are about $1 million with $1.3 million in expenses.
  • Employee Benefits: Proposed income in the Employee Benefits Fund are $13.5 million, which includes a 5 percent increase in city-paid employee health insurance premiums. Other proposed expenditures include $465,689 for the Employee Health Clinic and about $1.1 million for the Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust.
  • Workers’ Compensation: FY19 proposed revenues are $590,000, and proposed expenditures are $537,651.
  • Unemployment Insurance: FY19 proposed revenues (investment earnings only) are $3,500 with claims costs of $60,000. Revenues typically are collected as a percentage of each employee’s salary, but in FY17 the decision was made to forego collection due to increased working capital in recent years. That decision was extended to FY18 and FY19.

Other Internal Services Funds

  • Equipment Replacement: In FY19, $7.4 million is proposed for the replacement of various equipment, including $6.6 million for city vehicles.
  • Fleet Maintenance: FY19 estimated revenues are projected at $2.5 million with expenses of $2.4 million.
  • Utility Customer Service: Revenues and expenditures of $3.2 million are proposed for FY19.

What’s Ahead?

A public hearing on the proposed tax rate is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sept. 5 at city hall. A public hearing on the budget and tax rate will be at 6 p.m. on Sept. 13 at city hall. Budget and tax rate adoption is set for Sept. 27.

 


About the Blogger

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also been a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.



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City budget focuses on growth and public safety

2019 budget graphic

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The proposed FY19 city budget presented to the College Station City Council on Aug. 9 totals $360.7 million, about $5 million less than this year.

Yes, you read that right. The city plans to spend 1.37 percent less in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. But before you fret about cuts in our high-quality services, let’s take a closer look.

The decrease is all on the capital projects side. We’re still investing about $108.4 million in vital infrastructure projects, but that includes multi-year projects that were appropriated in FY18 and are still in progress. The operations and maintenance part of the budget includes a $1.9 million boost to address growth and maintain our high level of service.

The General Fund, which pays for public safety, public works, parks, planning and development services, and administration, totals about $83.7 million. The overall budget focuses on core services and maintaining and building the infrastructure for a city that’s grown by more than 25 percent since the 2010 census.

The proposed budget also reflects the 5 percent homestead exemption the city council adopted in June to shift some of the property tax burden off permanent residents. The budget offsets the lost revenue with a property tax rate increase of less than 1 cent, raising it to 50.5841 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The only proposed change in utility rates is a five percent wastewater increase to be used for system improvements needed to keep up with our growth and to replace aging infrastructure.

Tax Rate Remains Low

While property values continue to rise and bring in new revenue, it’s not enough to provide the infrastructure and levels of service our current and future residents need and deserve.

College Station’s proposed tax rate would still rank among the lowest in Texas and would be about a dime less than the state average among similar-sized cities. It’s far less than what you’ll find in other fast-growing areas, including Bryan, which has a tax rate of almost 63 cents.

If you have a $200,000 home in College Station, you’ll pay about $84 a month for 24-hour police and fire protection, streets and traffic management, parks facilities, code enforcement and planning and development services.

That’s a great deal when compared to what you typically pay for cell phone or cable television service.

Public Safety

The mission of the police and fire departments, along with emergency medical services, is to provide a safe community for us to live in and raise our families. The police and fire departments account for more than half of the city’s General Fund budget.

The proposed budgets for the police and fire departments includes funds for new equipment along with pay increases to maintain competitiveness in the local market and increase retention.

Capital Projects and Infrastructure

The $108.4 million proposed for capital improvement projects come from various sources, including general obligation bonds authorized by voters, certificates of obligation supported by tax and utility rates, cash reserves from the General Fund, utility funds, and hotel tax fund.

The capital budget includes about $16.2 million for street and transportation projects such as the extensions to Greens Prairie Road and Greens Prairie Trail, phase three of the Royder Road project, and the relocation of the Cain Road/Deacon Drive railroad crossing.

Facility projects include the expansion of the library, the new police station, initial phases of a new city hall, and renovations to create a senior and community center in the old Arts Council building at Dartmouth and Colgate.

Utility projects include the implementation of smart electric meters (Advanced Meter Infrastructure), the Graham Road electric substation, and the expansion of the Lick Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Parks & Recreation

The parks budget covers significant facility improvements and repairs along with the construction of Southeast Park near the old Rock Prairie landfill and the new synthetic fields at Veterans Park & Athletic Complex. Also included are a new grounds worker and an upgrade to the lightning detection system used throughout our parks system.

City Services

That brings us back to answering the demand of residents for high-quality services, which aren’t possible without the city’s most valuable resource — our workforce. Maintaining a competitive pay and benefits structure allows us to attract — and keep — well-qualified employees to serve our residents and visitors.

The proposed budget includes a 2 percent pay scale adjustment for all positions, a 1½ percent pool for performance pay increases, and a 5 percent boost in the city’s contribution to employee health care premiums.

Public Hearing Dates

The council will review the budget in a series of in-depth workshops from Aug. 20-22, with final adoption of the budget and tax rate set for Sept. 27. A public hearing on the tax rate is set for Sept. 5, followed by a public hearing on the tax rate and budget on Sept. 13.

 


About the Blogger

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also worked as a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.


 

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CSU’s smart meters will be safe and secure

By David Coleman, College Station Interim Assistant City Manager

College Station Utilities customers have grown accustomed to workers entering their backyards to read the electric meter. No one looks forward to the monthly intrusion on their privacy, but the work is necessary to get an accurate measure of your electricity usage.

The situation is as uncomfortable for our readers as it is for our customers. You don’t like the invasion of your privacy; our readers don’t like encountering startled Rottweilers. If only a better, less intrusive way existed to check your monthly electricity usage.

Well, it does. And CSU and its electric customers will soon have access to it.

Last month, the College Station City Council directed CSU to move forward with implementing Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI), commonly called smart meters. The process will take about three years to complete. The change will apply only to electric meters, while water will continue to install AMI-ready meters for future implementation.

Smart meters record energy usage just like traditional meters but send and receive the data through wireless communications technology. That eliminates the need for us to enter your property on a regular basis. The new system will not reduce our workforce, either, since we’ll hire meter and system technicians to replace the readers.

Since 2010, AMI use has doubled with about half the nation’s electricity customer accounts now using smart meters. In 2016, Texas added the most residential smart meters of any state. Bryan Texas Utilities (BTU) successfully implemented its AMI system more than six years ago.

The council’s decision has raised some questions about the pros and cons of smart meters. Even though the city hasn’t yet requested proposals from potential contractors, we can still address many of the issues.

In addition to being less invasive, the meters will provide timely data that helps us generate more accurate utility bills by reducing human error. We’ll be able to better monitor system performance, control energy theft, provide greater reliability, and pinpoint and respond faster to outages. The system also will make it easier for you to identify ways to save energy and trim your monthly bill.

Since College Station is home to one of the nation’s largest universities, our electric utility handles an extraordinary number of service connects and disconnects. Because of the transient nature of much of our growing population, College Station Utilities processed about 70,000 connection and disconnection work orders last year.

During the peak move-in and move-out times in May and August, what should be a simple service can take several days. We’ll soon be able to handle those 70,000 annual connects and disconnects remotely, which will significantly improve our customer service capabilities and recover about 700,000 miles logged by our service trucks each year, providing substantial savings and environmental benefits.

Privacy and Security

Our top priority has always been providing reliable and safe electric service, which includes safeguarding your privacy and protecting your data. Since we must know how much electricity you use to bill you accurately, that’s all the smart meters measure — not how you use the electricity. Only consumption data is transmitted, nothing more. At the same time, the system’s firewall protects us against external hacking threats.

Moreover, privacy laws require us to protect consumer data. We can’t share that information without your permission, so rest assured it won’t end up in the hands of marketers.

Radiation

Our most likely communication system would use radio frequency, which produces no microwave radiation. Research shows that standing next to the AMI meter exposes you a fraction of the electromagnetic radiation produced by cell phones or baby monitors.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas recently concluded that “decades of scientific research have not provided any proven or unambiguous biological effects from exposure to low-level radio frequency signals. In reviewing all available material, (PUC) staff found no credible evidence to suggest that smart meters emit harmful amounts of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) radiation.”

Costs

For several years, the leadership of our electric utility has prudently set aside adequate funds in CSU’s budget for potential capital projects such as an AMI system. That means the new meters won’t cause an increase in electric rates. The up-front, one-time cost of implementing the AMI system is expected to be about $9.2 million, with annual operations and maintenance costs of about $660,000.

If the meters have a life of 11-12 years, we’ll likely break even on the costs and benefits of the new system. Any shortfall would simply be the cost of doing business and providing better service.

We encourage CSU electric customers to participate in the discussion when an AMI contract is presented to the city council early next year.

 


About the Blogger

David Coleman serves as College Station’s interim assistant city manager after 14 years as the director of water services at College Station Utilities. He also served 21 years as a civil engineer corps officer in the U.S. Navy. Coleman earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M in 1981 and a master’s in construction engineering from Stanford.


 

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CSPD’s Harris named city’s 2017 employee of the year

Employee of the Year Kevin Harris and Mayor Karl Mooney

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

College Station Police Department Sgt. Kevin Harris was named the City of College Station’s 2017 Employee of the Year during a ceremony Thursday at the city council’s workshop meeting.

Harris was among 13 candidates who were nominated by their peers. The nominations were reviewed and judged by a panel of employees representing a cross-section of the organization.

Harris, an eight-year veteran of CSPD, is assigned to night shift patrol. Among his many duties, Harris serves as administrator for the Brazos Tech ticket-writing software and is part of the implementation team for the Tri-Tech Computer-Aided Dispatch and Records Management System — also known as CAD/RMS.

Employee of the Year Nominees (L-R): Gerald Borths, Diana Clendenin, Cecilia Browder, Bo Deal, Julia Franz, Kevin Harris, Amber Johnson, Tom Jordan, Cheletia Johnson, Lacey Lively, Cody Mays, Joyce Parish, Jennifer Springer.

Employee of the Year Nominees

Gerald Borths, Crew Leader (Water Services)

Cecilia Browder, Staff Assistant (Public Works)

Diana Clendenin, Generalist (Human Resources)

Bo Deal, Firefighter (Fire)

Julia Franz, Telecommunications Supervisor (Police)

Kevin Harris, Sergeant (Police)

Amber Johnson, Staff Assistant (Planning & Development Services)

Cheletia Johnson, Lincoln recreation Center Supervisor (Parks & Recreation)

Tom Jordan, SCADA Systems Analyst (CSU Electric)

Lacey Lively, Marketing Manager (Public Communications)

Cody Mays, Systems Analyst (Information Technology)

Joyce Parish, Customer Service Representative (Utility Customer Service)

Jennifer Springer, Office Manager (Utility Customer Service)

 

Service Awards

The city also recognized its employees who have reached 20, 25, 30 and 35 years of service.

Employees who reached the milestones of 5, 10 and 15 years of service were recognized at departmental events.

20-Year Service Awards (L-R): Neil Black, Billy Couch, Jennifer Nations, Brandy Norris, Gilbert Urrutia. Others listed below were unable to attend.

20 years

Neil Black, Network Systems Analyst (Information Services)

Billy Couch, Assistant Chief (Police)

Stacy Lee, Electric Compliance Officer (CSU Electric)

Jennifer Nations, Program Coordinator (Water Services)

Brandy Norris, Assistant Chief (Police)

Kenneth Petereit, Sergeant (Police)

Christopher Poole, Captain (Fire)

Noe Rincones, Officer (Police)

Timothy Sullivan, Captain (Fire)

Gilbert Urrutia, Mechanic (Public Works)

 

25-Year Service Awards (L-R): James Woodward, Celia Hernandez, Kyle Patterson, Debbie Raley. Tim Hamff was unable to attend.

25 years

Tim Hamff, Captain (Fire)

Celia Hernandez, Executive Assistant (City Manager’s Office)

Kyle Patterson, Sergeant (Police)

Debbie Raley, Customer Service Representative (Fiscal Services)

James Woodward, Sergeant (Police)

 

30-Year Service Awards: Ben Accurso, Jr. Randall Harmon was unable to attend.

30 years

Ben Accurso, Jr., Meter Services Supervisor (Water Services)

Randall Harmon, Lieutenant (Fire)

 

25-Year Service Awards (L-R): Deborah-Grace-Rosier and Louis Solis.

35 years

Deborah Grace-Rosier, Staff Assistant II (Planning & Development Services)

Louis Solis, Apparatus Operator (Fire)

 

Congratulations to all and thank you for your service and dedication!

 

 


About the Blogger

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian) has been with the City of College Station since 2010 after serving 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also worked as a reporter and editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Lewisville News. A native of Hobbs, N.M., he graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/political science.


 

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