City Manager

Posting your own “No Parking” sign isn’t a solution

By Esmeralda, Casas, Neighborhood and Community Relations Coordinator

Have you ever returned home to your nice, quiet neighborhood to find an unfamiliar vehicle parked on the street in front of your house? Regardless of whether the car belongs to a neighbor or one of their guests, you find it inconsiderate and annoying.

You call the police and the city’s code enforcement department, but they both tell you that for them to take any action, the vehicle must be blocking a driveway, facing traffic, or be otherwise improperly parked. Neither your neighbor nor his guest has violated the law.

You’re a little miffed to discover you have no legal entitlement to public parking spaces in front of your house. While it may be a nuisance when someone else parks there, it’s not against the law.

In frustration, you post an official-looking sign near your curb. The words “No Parking” in big, red letters are clear for everyone to see.

Problem solved? Not by a long shot.

State law prohibits you from placing or trying to enforce traffic-directing signs on public streets. That means your neighbor hasn’t broken the law – you have. Only city employees can legally install such signs.

If you think that scenario doesn’t happen, think again. We’ve seen a significant rise in residents posting unauthorized signs, especially no parking signs.

The bottom line is that streets maintained by the city are for public use. Unless an authorized sign states otherwise, they are available for anyone to park along.

That doesn’t mean the problem has no solution. The most effective course of action is to have a friendly talk with your neighbor. In most cases, you can work something out.

To report unauthorized signs or improperly parked vehicles, contact Code Enforcement at 979-764-6363 or submit your concern to SeeClickFix.

 


About the Blogger

Esmeralda Casas is in her first year as the city’s neighborhood and community relations coordinator. She previously served as an education and outreach specialist with the Sexual Assualt Resource Center and as the communications coordinator for The Salvation Army of Bryan/College Station. A Rio Grande Valley native, Esmeralda earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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City manager to be deployed with Navy Reserve

City Manager Bryan Woods sent this message to city employees Monday night:

COCS Team,

We came together last Veterans Day to recognize this organization’s commitment to not only employing veterans but also to how our civilians willingly take on additional duties to allow coworkers to serve their country. That day and the service and support that are at the core of our organization are foremost in my mind as I write this message to you.

Some of you may know that in addition to getting to serve alongside you in this great organization, I’m an officer in the United States Navy Reserve. Late in 2019, I was informed I’d be recalled to active duty to mobilize with my unit. While the dates of my departure and return are fluid, I can tell you that I’ll be leaving in the next few months for training and won’t return until sometime in early 2021. The City Council and the Executive Management Team have been made aware and I can’t say enough about how supportive everyone has been.  I’d certainly not have chosen to deploy less than two years after joining you here, but I’m proud to get to serve our community in another way and do the job that I’ve been trained for.

My main goal in sending this email is to make sure you hear this from me prior to it becoming public information and to assure you that we’ll continue to strategically and deliberately transition my duties to the others in the City Manager’s Office before my departure.  I truly believe we run this organization as a team and I’m excited to see the outstanding things you’ll accomplish in my absence.

This city and our organization couldn’t be more fortunate than to have the leadership we do, and I’m confident it will shine in the months to come.  We’re also in a time of transition with a search for a new fire chief underway, a search for a new police chief beginning soon, and the opportunity to fill the vacant assistant city manager position.  I intend for these key personnel to be selected before I leave and that they will add to the leadership capacity we have as an organization.  As I’m able, I’ll continue to be engaged with the Council, Deputy City Manager Jeff Capps, Assistant City Manager Jeff Kersten, the CMO, and the rest of the organization to assist in any way I can, even after I’ve left for duty.

In closing, I again thank the Council, the community, and all of you for your support as I prepare for my deployment.  I know others will step up to take on additional responsibilities in my absence, and I’m truly grateful for the support this organization and community provides for service members and veterans.

I look forward to pushing towards numerous organizational accomplishments in the next few months and returning to work with you again soon.

One City, One Team.

Respectfully,

Bryan C. Woods, City Manager

– Public Communications Office

 


Discussion about short-term rentals set for Nov. 18

By Brian Piscacek, Assistant to the City Manager

The City of College Station invites residents to join city staff on Monday, Nov. 18, for a discussion about short-term housing rentals.

The informal gathering will be at 6:30 p.m. at the CSU Meeting and Training Facility at 1603 Graham Road. We’ll also serve light refreshments.

The idea of homeowners renting out their homes has evolved through online platforms such as Airbnb and expanded in College Station with the demand created by Aggie football weekends. The recent growth of short-term rentals across the nation has been dramatic, with Airbnb alone logging a half-million transactions last year in Texas.

Our discussion includes an overview of the short-term rental model and its impact on our community. We’ll address current conditions, solutions adopted by other municipalities, and elements of a prospective ordinance.

We’d like to hear not only from residents, but also real estate professionals, lodging operators, and short-term rental hosts. Elected and appointed city officials may be in attendance, but city staff will lead the activities, including small group discussions.

For more information, contact me at bpiscacek@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Brian Piscacek has been with the City of College Station since 2012 and has served as assistant to the city manager for special projects since early 2019. He was previously a community development analyst. Before coming to College Station, Brian worked for Texas Tech and the North & East Lubbock Community Development Corporation. He earned bachelor’s (2007, Political Science/History) and master’s (2009, Public Administration) degrees from Tech.


 

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Why don’t we have more cable and internet options?

By Brian Piscacek, Assistant to the City Manager/Special Projects

Contrary to popular belief, the City of College Station does not limit local cable television or internet service options.

So why doesn’t our community have more choices?

First, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) grants cable and telecommunications franchises at the state level. The city of College Station has nothing to do with it.

From there, market forces come into play. Generally speaking, new providers find it cost-prohibitive to enter a market where an established franchisee already has the necessary infrastructure in place. In our case, the local cable franchisee has built its vast infrastructure over many years.

That’s why Suddenlink Communications is our community’s primary cable TV and internet provider.

Suddenlink’s infrastructure is located in the city’s public right-of-way, a publicly-owned space through which authorized telecommunications and cable companies provide their services. In return, companies such as Suddenlink pay quarterly franchise fees to the city.

A competitor is free to invest in our market and offer those services. In fact, a handful of smaller internet and telecommunications providers are available in parts of our area.

If you have questions about your bill or concerns about your service, your best bet is to contact the company. Even the PUC doesn’t maintain regulatory authority over cable television service, despite issuing the franchises.

 


About the Blogger

Brian Piscacek has been with the City of College Station since 2012 and has served as assistant to the city manager for special projects since early 2019. He was previously a community development analyst. Before coming to College Station, Brian worked for Texas Tech and the North & East Lubbock Community Development Corporation. He earned bachelor’s (2007, Political Science/History) and master’s (2009, Public Administration) degrees from Tech.


 

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Monday’s inaugural community conversation: Thomas Park

By Barbara Moore, Assistant to the City Manager/Special Projects

On Monday, Sept. 16, the City of College Station will host the first of what we hope will be many community conversations. We invite you to join us at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at the Lincoln Recreation Center at 1000 Eleanor St. for the inaugural topic of Thomas Park.

We’ll serve light refreshments and provide childcare.

The primary goal of these conversations is to listen and share information about important community issues. To reduce the formality of these discussions, we’re hosting them away from city hall and removing the usual stressors of lecterns, gavels and speaker time limits. Let’s talk to and learn from one another.

While elected and appointed officials may be in attendance, the conversations will be led and facilitated by City Manager Bryan Woods and city staff.

A second community conversation, one that focuses on code enforcement, is being organized for early next year, and we’ll provide those details when they’re worked out. Because this is a continuing series of conversations on topics of importance to our community, we are open to your suggestions. Feel free to email me at bmoore@cstx.gov.

We hope to see a full room at our first community conversation to help us fully understand the issues that shape our city.

 


About the Blogger

Barbara Moore is in her 13th year with the City of College Station and her first as assistant to the city manager. Barbara served 12 years as neighborhood services coordinator. She previously was the executive director of Family Outreach of Bryan/College Station and was the director of faith-based relations for the Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity. Barbara is a 1992 graduate of Jackson State and earned her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington in 1996.


 

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City’s FY20 budget addresses current, future challenges

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The City of College Station’s proposed FY 2020 budget continues the city’s focus on public safety while providing resources for essential current and future infrastructure projects.

The $341 million budget was presented to the city council on Monday at the first of three dedicated workshops at the CSU Meeting and Training Facility. Additional workshops will be Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

General Fund RevenueThe proposed budget is about $19.7 million below last year’s budget because of the timing of capital project appropriations. The governmental fund’s budget totals about $105.2 million. This includes the general fund, which pays for public safety, public works, planning and development services, and administration. Enterprise budgets such as utilities are about $146 million and capital projects are just over $71.1 million. Special revenue fund budgets such as hotel taxes, community development, roadway maintenance, and impact fees total about $18.8 million and have restricted uses.

General Fund Expenditures

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.

The proposed budget includes a 2.8777-cent increase in the property tax rate to 53.4618 cents per $100 of assessed value. Electric and wastewater rates won’t change, but a 15% increase is recommended for water rates to meet our existing and future capital infrastructure needs related to growth, and to ensure the water fund remains at stable levels in the coming years.

The first public hearing on the tax rate will be Aug. 22 at city hall. The city council will conduct public hearings on both the tax rate and budget on Sept. 12, with adoption set for Sept. 26.

“We proposed this budget in a way to address the needs of a growing community, as well as to maintain the excellent quality of life for our current residents,” City Manager Bryan Woods said. “We must, of course, always be prudent with available resources. The proposed budget attempts to take a strategic approach to address our community’s short- and long-term needs.”

While continued growth is a positive thing, the rapid pace strains city services such as public safety, transportation, and utility systems, as well as other core services.

Here are seven major points to consider about the proposed budget:

  1. Since 2009, our population has grown over 30% (about 40,000). During the same period, the student population grew nearly 34%, not counting the RELLIS Campus.
  2. Perhaps for the first time in College Station’s recent history, FY20 will see sales tax revenues being less than property tax revenues. That’s not all bad news, but it does show how sales tax can be a cyclical revenue stream.
  3. SB2, which will affect all Texas cities beginning in FY21, will limit our ability to generate the revenue needed to keep up with current needs, and certainly won’t provide a sustainable funding path for future growth.
  4. While property values are up, and we’ve seen positive developments in all parts of the city, we have seen an increase in the amount of exempt property with more than $2 billion of value now exempt. Those exemptions include much of what’s owned by the state of Texas, places of worship and faith-affiliated hospitals, seniors over the age of 65, and more.
  5. Healthcare costs continue to rise. The city has also recognized these increases, which contributes to the need to ensure salaries and benefits remain competitive for recruiting and retaining a workforce that’s able to meet our citizens’ expectations.
  6. Our employees are being asked to do far more than ever as the number of city workers per 1,000 citizens has declined. And while dozens more police and fire professionals have come aboard in the last decade — yet still fall short of recommended levels — the overall number of city employees remains relatively unchanged during that time frame.
  7. Our recent citizen survey identified a long list of city services that remain important to our residents, yet they also say we have lost ground in terms of the quality of those services.

Population Growth

Continued growth in the city’s overall and student populations must be addressed and play a major role in the budget process.

From 2010-19, College Station’s has population grown 30.5%, from 93,857 in the 2010 U.S. Census to an estimated 122,162 in 2019. The continued growth factor used in the five-year forecast is 2.5% for FY 2020-24.

The college student population grew 33.5% from 2008 to the fall of 2018. The enrollment numbers don’t include the impact of the RELLIS campus opening last fall in Bryan.

Sales Tax Revenues

Revenue sources for the General Fund include property and sales taxes, fines, service charges, and a transfer from enterprises such as utilities that are city-owned.

The sales tax rate is 8.25%, of which 6.25% goes to the state, 0.5% goes to Brazos County, and 1.5% goes to the City of College Station.

Sales tax revenue is difficult to predict since it depends on how much consumers spend. Growth in the city’s sales tax revenue has slowed substantially, rising only 2.5% in the two years from 2017 -2019.

For FY 2020, the city is budgeting only a 1% increase in sales tax revenue, well below the expected inflation rate. FY 2019 sales tax revenue is projected to fall $600,000 below budget.

FY 2021-24 forecasts include increases in sales tax revenue by 1.75% in both FY 2021 and FY 2022, and by 2% in both FY 2023 and FY 2024.

Property Values

The total net taxable certified value of property in College Station for 2019 is about $9.9 billion, an increase of 5.79% from 2018. About $308.2 million in new value was added to the tax rolls, and existing values rose by 1.88%.

Single-family homes have made up 46.6% of the total market value since FY 2013, while Multi-family has increased by 2.4%, and commercial properties have decreased by 3.0%. Properties that are exempt from ad valorem taxes – such as Texas A&M and other government-owned properties — have increased 3.1%, which has had a significant revenue impact.

Property Taxes

The City of College Station’s existing property tax rate of $.505841 per $100 of assessed value is just over 22% of the total $2.362841 rate paid by local citizens. The College Station Independent School District’s rate is $1.37200 while Brazos County is at $.485000.

Since 2010, the city’s population has grown 30.5%, while inflation has (CPI-U Index) has been 18.16%. The tax rate in that period has grown only 13.91%.

Based on the final property value numbers received, the FY 2020 effective tax rate — the rate that will raise the same revenue on the same properties — is $.495757 per $100 of assessed value. The adjusted rollback rate – the highest rate allowed before citizens can petition to lower the rate to the rollback rate – is $.534618.

Proposed Tax Rate

Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation to change the cap on the rollback rate from 8% to 3.5% effective for FY 2021. It also reduced the franchise fees the city receives for the use of rights-of-way.

Starting last spring, department directors took a critical look at departmental expenses and made recommendations to the city manager about prioritizing needs and how to address the revenue limitations.

City management recommends a proposed rate of $.534618 per $100 of assessed value, an increase of 2.8777 cents. Under the proposed rate, the owner of a $280,000 home would pay an additional $8.58 a month. Each cent on the tax rate generates about $820,000 that can be spent.

The proposed rate strategically addresses funding for existing commitments as well as known future needs. Woods recommends that about one-third of the revenue generated by the tax rate increase this year be held in the fund balance.

Financial Stability

The fund balance is the city’s safety net for emergencies or a downturn. Over the last several years actual fund balance has been between 20-25% of expenses. Bond-rating agencies encourage us to keep a balance equal to approximately 25% of expenses to get the lowest interest rates on our debt. The proposed budget formally moves the budgeted fund balance requirement from 15% to 18%. This demonstrates a commitment to maintain healthy fund balance reserves.

The FY 2020 budget is strategically designed to generate additional funds of approximately $1.5 million to begin addressing current and future public safety needs, including additional police officers and initial staffing for Fire Station No. 7. A study earlier this year found that we need 23 additional sworn officers.

Fundamental Shift

Before this year, sales taxes were the largest source of General Fund revenue. In FY 2020, sales tax provides 34.5% of the budget, while proposed property taxes provide the largest source of General Fund revenue at 35.3%.

That marks a fundamental shift in the primary revenue source for funding the majority of city services such as police, fire, and roads. The shift is small, but it represents funding stability for our existing commitments as well as a stable revenue source to provide for the needs of the future.

If approved, the city’s overall property tax rate would still rank among the lower half of Texas cities with populations of 75,000-150,000. Only five cities in our population group have a lower operations and maintenance tax rate than College Station’s proposed $.313175.

City Workforce

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 city trimmed its budget significantly in the years after the 2008 economic downturn. While the police and fire departments grew in the last decade, most other services and departments remained relatively flat.

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 accounted for 44% of the general fund budget in 2009, but by 2019, those departments comprised about 51%.

Meanwhile, the number of city employees per 1,000 population has decreased significantly from 9.7 in 2011 to 8.4 people in 2019. Most of the new city employees in the last decade have been in public safety. The Police Department has added 49 positions (both sworn and civilian) since 2010, while Fire had grown by 42 employees.

The elimination of the jail in the new police facility allows us to reclassify the detention officer positions into three police officer and five police assistant positions. Two other officers are also included in the budget.

Overall, the proposed budget adds 24 full-time equivalent employees, with 16 in public safety.  The six new firefighter positions are contingent upon the award of a federal grant, which will be determined in late August. Half of the salaries of the two new employees in parks will be covered by the Hotel Tax Fund.

Since the city provides essential services, it stands to reason that the largest general fund expense is for salaries and benefits. It’s vital that the compensation plan and benefits attract and retain qualified employees in a highly competitive environment.

City Services

Increased growth puts demands on resources and results in the need for service level increases. Service level adjustment highlights include:    

  • Police Department: 5 patrol officers and 2 vehicles; 5 police assistants.
  • Fire Department: 6 firefighters using pending SAFER Grant Award; Station-4 building maintenance.
  • Public Works: Attenuator truck, corrective facilities maintenance.
  • Parks and Recreation: Southeast Park crew Leader, grounds worker, and maintenance equipment.
  • Municipal Court: New operating software.
  • Economic Development: Economic development coordinator.
  • Information Technology: Cybersecurity service, firewall refresh, replacement software for open records requests.
  • Electric Utility: Comprehensive cost-of-service study, asset management system for substations and protection and control devices, relay foreman and vehicle, electric project coordinator/designer.
  • Water Services: Water rate restructuring review concurrent with wastewater.
  • Wastewater Services: Wastewater rate restructuring review concurrent with water, collection flow monitoring equipment.
  • Solid Waste: Street sweeper vehicle and operator.
  • Northgate: Surveillance camera system maintenance, funding for the temporary Boyett Street closure on peak nights.

Capital Projects and Infrastructure

The $71.1 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.

Significant capital projects for FY20 include:

  • Final construction of the new police station.
  • Construction of a new city hall.
  • Royder Road Phase II.
  • Greens Prairie Road from city limits west of Woodlake to Royder Road.
  • Jones Butler intersection improvements.
  • Continued digital electric meter installation.
  • Final construction of the Graham Road Electric Substation.
  • Construction of the Rock Prairie Road elevated water storage tank.
  • Construction of Northeast Sewer Trunkline Phase III.
  • Improvements to the Carters Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant centrifuge.
  • Expansion of the Lick Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
  • Completion of Southeast Park Phase I.

The 2019-20 fiscal year is shaping up as another busy one for the City of College Station, which has many formidable challenges ahead. The proposed budget provides the resources to address these challenges while laying a firm and stable foundation for our future.

 


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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City of College Station launches new website Thursday

By Lacey Lively, Marketing Manager

When websites first became a big deal in the mid-1990s, a lot of folks thought they were just another technological fad. But about as fast as you can say “Gig ‘em, Aggies,” everyone realized that an organization’s web presence is its most important communications and marketing tool.

In the last quarter-century, websites have become essential to not only businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions, but all levels of government. The City of College Station’s website attracts more than 2.5 million views a year and provides essential information about the city’s activities, programs, and services.

The current website has been operating since 2007, and while 12 years may not seem long, it’s an eternity in the web world. The site has served our community well, but a change is long overdue. It simply has become stale, outdated, and out-of-touch with modern trends and technology.

Thankfully, we launch a fresh new website – featuring brighter graphics and user-friendly navigation with drop-down menus – on Thursday at the familiar cstx.gov. With so much of our web traffic coming from smartphones and tablets, the new site also is optimized for mobile devices.

Our web presence is vital since it’s typically among the first things anyone sees when searching online for information about College Station. Our priority was to develop the site from the users’ perspective, and the result is an easy-to-use, intuitive site that is also aesthetically pleasing. It’s much more secure, too.

Redesigning the website wasn’t a simple endeavor. Our Public Communications team led the effort with assistance from Information Technology staff and web administrators in the various city departments. The new content management system was designed and customized by CivicLive, an experienced national company that specializes in municipal websites.

The main sections of the new site are Departments and City Hall, Residents and Neighborhoods, Business and Development, and Our Community. An “I Want To” tab is a shortcut to find the answers to commonly asked questions. Other shortcut tabs take users to employment information, bids and proposal requests, utilities, maps, e-pay, and more.

The home page also features a prominent search bar, a meeting and event calendar, and the city’s latest news releases, blog posts, and podcasts. The new site will no longer allow users to subscribe to departmental updates (e-notify), although they can still subscribe to the events calendar and documents.

College Station’s population has grown by 50 percent since we launched the old website. The new site better reflects what our community has become. The best part is that it will continue to grow with us. Good websites are always a work in progress as new content is added and we explore new and better ways to communicate with you.

We’ll be tweaking the site and smoothing out rough spots in the coming months. The website exists for your convenience, and we encourage you to contact us with constructive comments and suggestions.

You can email comments or questions to me at llively@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Marketing Manager Lacey Lively has been with the City of College Station’s Public Communications Office since 2011. She previously worked as an internet marketing consultant for the Bryan-College Station Eagle and as a web designer. A native of Beaumont, Lacey earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism and communications from Texas A&M in 2009.


 

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Citizen survey provides valuable insight to city leaders

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

When I was a kid, I adored sports statistics. Batting averages, shooting percentages, passing efficiency – you name it, I ate it up.  I never dreamed I would someday be just as enamored by the vast array of statistical data in your average citizen survey.

National Service Research conducted the City of College Station’s survey in April, and we presented the 71-page summary report to the city council Thursday night. About 950 pages of the raw survey data sit on my desk.

What kind of stat nerd would spend hours of his life pouring over this stuff? Yep, this guy.

And despite what you might think, some of the numbers are pretty interesting, especially when compared to the rest of Texas.

In sports, a .325 batting average may be impressive, but what if the player only ranks 50th in the league? What if he hits .300 but ranks 8th? We compare sports statistics to give context to how athletes perform. Cities do the same thing with citizen surveys to achieve a similar context.

We had an outstanding response with 1,236 residents participating. All surveys and polls have flaws, but with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent, we’re confident the results of this survey fairly reflect the views of our population.

We conduct these surveys periodically as part of the city council’s strategic plan, so we’re able to measure and compare our performance over time. Before this year, our most recent surveys were in 2016 and 2012.

The 2019 survey also compares us to Texas cities that have conducted similar surveys in the last two years. We stacked up well against our peer cities in the state (those within 60,000 of our population of 122,000) and Texas cities overall.

What did the survey show?

On the affirmative side, about 8 of 10 residents rate the overall quality of city services and our water, wastewater and electric services as good or excellent. We’re also pleased that 85 percent give the city’s customer service a positive rating.

In addition, about 9 out of 10 respondents rated our community and their neighborhood as an excellent or good place to live and raise a family. That same portion would recommend College Station as a place to live.

The problem areas are what you’d expect, led by traffic congestion. Only 24 percent gave us an excellent or good rating for that, but the benchmarks show traffic being a problem everywhere in Texas, which reflects the rapid population growth in our state.

Of course, our police and fire services again rate highly with the public. Since 2016, we’ve had a nine-point increase in the percentage who feel safe in their neighborhoods, despite an 11-point rise in those who feel crime is increasing.

The five most important community characteristics to residents were the ease of car travel around town, the availability of medical and health care facilities, the availability of quality affordable housing, the overall appearance of the community, and job opportunities.

The survey is simply one of many tools that city management and the city council use to provide a high level of service to our residents. While it’s apparent that College Station stacks up well across the board, we also recognize we have many areas that need improvement — and that’s even more valuable to us than the positive ratings.

Check out the complete survey results when you have a chance and let us know what you think.

2019 Citizen Survey Results

As the survey illustrates, your opinion is always important.

 


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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Why our citizen survey is worth your time and effort

By Bryan C. Woods, City Manager

Few things annoy me more than reaching into my mailbox after a long day and finding junk mail or some long, tedious survey sent from some political party or group. Many of these surveys have no tangible benefit and, if you’re like me, you promptly file them in the nearest recycling bin.

The City of College Station’s 2019 Citizen Survey, which was mailed to about 8,000 randomly selected College Station addresses, is not one of those surveys.

Why is this particular survey worth your time and effort? The answer is simple: you’re helping us determine the best and most efficient use of your hard-earned tax dollars.

For us to compile accurate information, we need a high level of participation. As we move into our Fiscal Year 2020 budget process this summer, it’s imperative that we understand your preferences and what you think should be our priorities. The survey data will help us responsibly and effectively plan for the future while prioritizing our existing needs.

With our high rate of growth expected to continue, it’s crucial that we base our decisions on the best available information.

If you didn’t receive a mailed survey, I encourage you to participate in the online survey. The individual surveys are completely confidential and take only a few minutes to complete. The cut-off date is Tuesday, April 30, and we hope to have the results in hand sometime in June. You can email questions to survey@cstx.gov.

Take the Survey

Since surveys help us better understand your desires, they are the key to improving our performance and providing better value for your tax dollars. Our 2019 citizen survey is among the most productive ways you can participate in your local government.

Related Link:

 


About the Blogger

Bryan Woods has been College Station’s city manager since December 2018. He came from the city of New Braunfels, where he served as capital programs manager and then assistant city manager from 2014-2018. Bryan holds a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering technology from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a master’s from University of Missouri-Truman School of Public Affairs. He also serves as a civil engineer corps officer in the United States Navy Reserve.


 

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Citizen satisfaction survey open though April

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The City of College Station’s 2019 citizen survey will soon start arriving in some residents’ mailboxes. The city will use the survey to assess and prioritize a broad range of services and needs.

Any College Station resident – regardless of whether they received a mailed survey – is welcome to complete the online survey. Responses are limited to one per household. The anonymous survey takes about 15 minutes to complete.


Take the Survey


“With our rapid growth, it’s vital for us to receive feedback from our citizens to help us responsibly plan for College Station’s future and prioritize our needs,” City Manager Bryan Woods said. “We genuinely value our residents’ input, and a high level of participation will provide us with accurate survey results.”

Administered by Fort Worth-based National Service Research, the surveys are being mailed to 8,000 randomly selected households. Survey participants will rate various city services, quality of life issues and community characteristics. The survey closes April 30, with the final report available in June.

NSR also conducted College Station’s 2012 and 2016 surveys.

For more information, contact the city at 979-764-3768 or survey@cstx.gov.

 


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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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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Photos: McMahan sworn in as fire chief

Jonathan McMahan was sworn in Friday afternoon as College Station’s new fire chief in a ceremony at Fire Station No. 6.

Here are some photos:

Judge Ed Spillane administers the oath to Chief McMahan.

Judge Ed Spillane administers the oath to Chief McMahan.

Chief McMahan received his pin from Chief Michael Brandt of Arizona’s Northwest Fire District.

Chief McMahan received his pin from Chief Michael Brandt of Arizona’s Northwest Fire District.

City Manager Kelly Templin congratulates Chief McMahan.

City Manager Kelly Templin congratulates Chief McMahan.

(L-R) Councilman Jerome Rektorik, Mayor Karl Mooney, Councilwoman Linda Harvell, Fire Chief Jonathan McMahan, Police Chief Scott McCollum, Councilwoman Blanche Brick , and City Manager Kelly Templin.

(L-R) Councilman Jerome Rektorik, Mayor Karl Mooney, Councilwoman Linda Harvell, Fire Chief Jonathan McMahan, Police Chief Scott McCollum, Councilwoman Blanche Brick, and City Manager Kelly Templin.

College Station Fire Chief Jonathan McMahan.

College Station Fire Chief Jonathan McMahan.

Photos by Jon Carpenter

– Public Communications Office


Council reviews proposed budget during workshops

Budget4

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The College Station City Council had its final workshop about the proposed FY17 city budget on Tuesday at the CSU Meeting and Training Facility. The session primarily covered the city’s funding of outside agencies and the hotel tax fund. 

The Fiscal Year 2017 proposed net budget for the City of College Station totals $341 million for all funds, which includes $217.47 million for operations and maintenance and $108 million for capital projects.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation:

First, my apologies for not posting a blog from Monday’s initial budget workshop. I had to be out-of-town. Before we go into the details of today’s workshop, I’ll briefly recap Monday’s discussion of the general fund, tax rate, and road maintenance fee.

Monday’s Recap

The General Fund accounts for city activities typically considered governmental functions, including Police and Fire, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Planning and Development Services. Also included are the primary support services for these areas such as Fiscal Services, Information Technology, and administrative services in General Government.

Proposed FY17 General Fund revenues are $78.1 million, an 11.8 percent increase.

The total net taxable certified value of property in the City of College Station for 2016 is about $7.99 billion, an increase of 11.9 percent from 2015. The increase in value is due in part to $284 million in new construction and development being added to the tax rolls. Existing property values increased by 7.9 percent over 2015.

The FY17 Proposed Budget includes a tax rate of 47.25 cents per $100 assessed valuation, which includes 27.7161 cents for operations and maintenance and 19.5339 cents for debt service. That marks a two-cent increase from the FY16 rate of 45.25. For the owner of a $175,000 home, the new rate would raise the monthly tax bill by less than $3.

Based on the final property value numbers received – the effective tax rate for FY17 is 42.4282 cents. The effective tax rate is the rate that will raise the same revenues as last year on the same properties. The rollback tax rate of 47.2820 cents is the highest that can be adopted before citizens can initiate a petition to lower it back to the rollback rate.

The average tax rate for Texas cities with populations from 75,000-150,000 is about 58 cents. The 10 fastest-growing non-suburbs – excluding College Station – average about 59 cents. The City of Bryan has a tax rate of 62.9 cents, along with a monthly street improvement fee.

The budget also includes a proposed $10 roadway maintenance fee for residential utility customers. The fee would generate about $4 million each year for street and road maintenance, which was cited as a top priority in a recent survey of city residents.   

On Tuesday, the council focused on outside agency funding and the hotel tax fund.

Outside Agency Funding

Total proposed FY16 outside agency funding is $4.46 million. Requested from the General Fund is $1.25 million for these agencies:

  • Research Valley Partnership: $350,000 (operations).
  • Arts Council of Brazos Valley: $35,000 (operations).
  • Noon Lions Club: $15,000 (Fourth of July celebration).
  • Aggieland Humane Society: $235,000 (operations).
  • Brazos County Health District: $326,500 (operations).
  • Brazos Central Appraisal District: $288,661 (operations).

Requested from the Hotel Occupancy Tax Fund is $3.16 million:

  • B-CS Convention & Visitors Bureau: $2,122,616 (operations).
  • B-CS CVB Grant Program: $400,000.
  • Easterwood Airport Advertising: $102,690.
  • Arts Council of Brazos Valley: $91,000 (operations)
  • Arts Council of Brazos Valley: $348,400 (affiliate funding/marketing)
  • Arts Council of Brazos Valley: $43,500 (marketing/public support)
  • Veterans Memorial: $25,000 (development of Civil War memorial).
  • B-CS Chamber of Commerce: $25,000.

Keep Brazos Beautiful requested $51,190 from the Sanitation Fund.

Hotel Tax Fund     

The hotel tax allows the city to collect up to its current rate of 7 percent on rental income of hotels and motels in the city limits.Hotel tax funds can only be spent on specific items that promote tourism.

The FY17 budgeted hotel tax revenue is $5.4 million, a 2.5 percent increase from FY16. Hotel tax revenues are expected to increase due to a solid tourism economy and the addition of several hotels. Total city operating expenditures in the Hotel Tax Fund are increased by 36.4 percent to about $7.4 million, which includes two additional synthetic fields at Veterans Park and provides improvements to existing fields.

About $1.7 million is proposed for the initial phase of the Southeast Park project, and $690,000 is budgeted for the fourth preferred access payment to the Convention & Visitors Bureau for the use ofTexas A&M’s athletic facilities.

Court and Police Seizure Funds

The College Station Municipal Court collects a number of special fees authorized by the state legislature. These fees are the court technology fee, court security fee, efficiency time payment fee, juvenile case manager fee and the truancy prevention fee. Other fees collected specifically for child safety are collected in the General Fund and are used to pay for school crossing guards. These fees are paid by those who pay tickets at College Station Municipal Court.

The Police Seizure Fund accounts for items received through the Police Department as a result of criminal investigations. These funds are used for one-time equipment and other purchases to assist in police activities. Police Seizure Fund revenues are estimated to be $20,401 in FY17 with proposed expenditures of $20,000.

Cemetery Fund

The Memorial Cemetery Fund is a special fund that accounts for two-thirds of the sales of cemetery lots and other revenues through the Memorial Cemetery, which includes the Aggie Field of Honor. For FY17, proposed revenue earnings are $257,004.

Other Special Revenue Funds

  • Wolf Pen Creek TIF Fund: Accounts for ad valorem tax and other revenues that are accrued to the WPC Tax Increment Finance District. The fund also accounts for expenditures on projects that take place in the WPC District.
    • Fund Balance – $1.27 million
    • Expenditures – $5,000
  • West Medical District TIRZ No. 18: Established in December 2012, the West Medical District Tax Increment Refinance Zone encompasses the area near the State Highway 6-Rock Prairie Road Bridge and includes The Med and Scott & White Hospital. Development in this portion of the district is expected to meet or exceed $117 million over a 20-year period, which would yield about $8.4 million in tax proceeds. The funds will be used to support the required improvement projects.
    • Revenue: $230,135 – tax revenue and interest earnings
    • Expenditures: $0
  • East Medical District  TIRZ No. 19: Established in December 2012, the East Medical District TIRZ encompasses the area east of the State Highway 6-Rock Prairie Road Bridge and includes most of the district’s undeveloped properties. Development projects include Rock Prairie Road East, Barron Road, Lakeway Drive, potable water, fire flow water supply, greenway trails, sanitary sewer service, and other public works. New development is expected to meet or exceed $283 million over a 20-year period, which would yield about $30.8 million in tax proceeds. The funds will be used to fund the required improvement projects.
    • Revenue: $2,971 – tax revenue and interest earnings
    • Expenditures: $0
  • Public, Education and Government Access Channel Fee Fund: PEG funds are collected in an amount equal to one percent of Suddenlink Media’s gross revenues, per a new state franchise agreement that replaced a 10-year-old local franchise agreement. These funds, collected quarterly, may be used for educational and governmental broadcasting on Channel 19.
    • Revenue – $201,000 – cable franchise fees and interest earnings
    • Expenditures: $143,640
  • R.E. Meyer Estate Restricted Gift Fund: When Robert Earl “Bob” Meyer passed away in October 2013, he generously bequeathed 25 percent of his estate to the College Station Parks and Recreation Department with the gift restricted for the benefit of senior adult programs.

Electric Fund

The electric utility provides for the construction of new facilities needed to extend electrical service to new consumers, performs repairs and maintenance to the electric system, and installs and maintains street and traffic lights. Electric utility employees maintain over 20 miles of electric transmission lines, seven electrical substations, and more than 450 miles of overhead and underground electric distribution lines.

A one percent decrease in electric rates is proposed in the FY17 budget. Revenues of $102 million are projected with operating expenditures of $73.4 million and non-operating expenditures of about $31 million, which includes $16.8 million in capital projects.

Water Fund

As a city enterprise, the full cost of service for water production, transmission and distribution is recovered by charging customers for consumption on a per unit basis. 

No water rate increase is included in the FY17 budget. Revenues of $15.8 million are projected with operating expenditures of $8.2 million, non-operating expenditures of about $9.2 million, and $8.7 million in capital projects.

Wastewater Fund

Wastewater services are provided as an enterprise function with service-related fees paying for the cost of service. 

An eight percent increase in wastewater rates is included in the FY16 budget. Revenues of $16.7 million are projected with operating expenditures of $7.1 million, non-operating expenditures of about $13.2 million, and $14.4 million in capital projects.

Sanitation Fund

The Sanitation Division of Public Works serves the city’s solid waste collection needs, including curbside recycling, brush and grass clipping collection, street sweeping, removal of waste and the provision of residential containers. Commercial services are also provided to local businesses.

No sanitation rate increase is included in the FY17 budget. Revenues of $9.6 million are projected with operating expenditures of $9 million and non-operating expenditures of about $867,000 million.

Drainage Fund

Like all the city’s enterprise funds, the goal of the drainage fund is to provide a quality service at a reasonable cost. No rate increase is included in the FY17 budget, which projects expenditures of about $1.8 million.

Northgate Parking Fund

The Northgate Parking Fund accounts for parking operations in the Northgate District, including the surface parking lot on Patricia Street, the College Main Parking Garage and on-street parking. Revenues of $1.4 million are projected with operating expenditures of $1.3 million.

Internal Service Funds

The City of College Station is partially self-insured for property, casualty and general liability, workers compensation and unemployment compensation. The city became self-funded for employee and dependent health care in January 2004. The current program is administered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. These insurance funds are accounted for as Internal Service Funds.

  • Property & Casualty Insurance: $1.12 million in expenditures and transfers.
  • Employee Benefits Fund: $12.7 million in expenditures and transfers.
  • Workers Compensation Insurance: $678,000 in expenditures and transfers.
  • Unemployment Insurance Fund: $50,000 in expenditures.

Equipment Replacement Fund

The Equipment Replacement Fund is an internal service fund that provides equipment and fleet replacements. The FY17 budget projects about $6.2 million in expenditures and revenues of $6.6 million.

Fleet Maintenance Fund

The Fleet Maintenance Fund is an Internal Service Fund that receives revenue based on expected costs of departmental transportation and uses those funds to pay for maintaining the city’s fleet of vehicles. The FY17 budget projects about $2.1 million in expenditures and revenues of $2.2 million.

Utility Customer Service

The Utility Customer Service Fund is an Internal Service Fund that accounts for expenses associated with reading electric and water meters, completing connect and disconnect requests, and providing customer service activities including billing and collections for electric, water, wastewater, sanitation, and drainage utilities.

The FY17 budget projects about $2.8 million in expenditures and revenues of $2.65 million.

What’s Ahead?

A public hearing on the proposed tax rate of 47.25 is scheduled for 7 p.m. on August 31 at city hall. A public hearing on the budget and tax rate will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8 at city hall. Budget adoption is set for Sept. 22.


Colin KillianAbout the Author

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian)has been with the City of College Station since 2010. He previously served 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also done extensive volunteer work for the U.S. Olympic Committee and 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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FY17 budget focuses on public safety, streets and infrastructure

By Colin Killian, Public Communications Manager

The citizen survey conducted in April showed that most of our residents believe College Station is headed in the right direction. We’re proud to be one of the most livable and desirable cities in Texas.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of work to do.

According to the U.S. Census, College Station was the fastest-growing non-suburb in Texas from 2014 to 2015. In the last decade, our population has grown by a whopping 28 percent. With student populations at Texas A&M and Blinn continuing to expand, we can expect another 40,000 residents in the next 10 years.

Thanks to our rapid growth – not to mention substantial budget cuts in the years after the 2008-09 recession – we’ve fallen behind in some key areas, especially street maintenance. Although surveyed residents gave the city high marks for customer service and overall service quality, they made it crystal clear where they want the city to focus its efforts.

Better streets, less traffic congestion, adequate infrastructure and public safety services were at the top of the list. Unfortunately, none of those necessities are cheap.

Proposed Tax Rate

The proposed FY17 city budget presented to the city council Thursday night includes a modest two-cent increase in the property tax rate and an eight percent increase in wastewater fees. The council may also consider a roadway maintenance fee. The water rate would remain the same while the electric rate would fall by one percent, thanks to lower purchased power costs.

While property values continue to rise and bring in substantial new revenue, it’s simply not enough to provide the infrastructure and levels of service our current and future residents deserve. And the proposed tax rate of 47.25 per $100 valuation would still be far below what you’ll find in most other Texas cities, especially those experiencing the consequences of similar growth patterns.

The average tax rate for Texas cities with populations from 75,000-150,000 is about 58 cents. The 10 fastest-growing non-suburbs – excluding College Station – average about 59 cents. Even our neighbors to the north in the City of Bryan have a tax rate of 62.9 cents, along with a monthly street improvement fee.

If you have a $175,000 home, the increase would raise your monthly tax bill by about $3. You would be paying less than $69 a month for 24-hour police and fire protection, streets and traffic management, parks facilities, code enforcement and planning and development services.

That’s less than a typical monthly cell phone bill.

The proposed budget totals almost $341 million, including more than $108 million in capital projects required to meet our current and expected growth.

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. Part of the proposed tax increase would pay for seven new positions in the Police Department – five officers, a criminal investigations assistant, and a digital evidence technician.

The budget also includes $25 million for a new police station.

In addition, the new tax revenue would cover five new firefighter positions to complete the staffing and equipping of the city’s second ladder truck, which will go into service next year.

Core Services and Capital Projects

With more people coming to town as residents and visitors, we obviously need better traffic flow and properly maintained and expanded streets and transportation systems. The proposed budget includes almost $2.6 in new funding for street improvements and more than $24 million for street and transportation capital projects.

The massive amount of new development has also created tremendous strains on our Planning & Development Services Department, which needs to add a graduate engineer, an engineering construction inspector and a combination building inspector. Increases in development fees are proposed to pay for these positions.

The $108 million proposed for capital improvements 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 eight percent increase in wastewater fees would help pay for related capital projects in 2017 and beyond. The city is also considering implementing water, wastewater and roadway impact fees on new development. If adopted, these fees would help cover the costs of infrastructure in our high-growth areas.

City Services

That brings us back to meeting the demand of our residents for city services. You can’t provide high-quality services 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 who provide services to our residents and visitors.

Over $2 million is included in the budget for implementing the new pay plan and providing a pool for performance increases in FY 17. A 2015 salary survey resulted in a recommendation to implement a new pay structure to address performance and retain high performers.

The proposed budget includes a 3 percent pool for performance pay increases for eligible employees, a 3 percent increase to the step plan for sworn positions in the Police Department, and a 3 percent performance pay increase for the Fire Department.

Public Hearing Dates

The council will review the budget in a three-day series of in-depth workshops starting Monday, with final adoption of the budget and tax rate set for Sept. 22. A public hearing on the tax rate is scheduled for Aug. 31, followed by another public hearing on the tax rate and budget on Sept. 8.

 


Colin KillianAbout the Author

Colin Killian (@ColinKillian)has been with the City of College Station since 2010. He previously served 23 years as associate media relations director for the Texas A&M Athletics Department. Killian has also done extensive volunteer work for the U.S. Olympic Committee and 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.


 

Photo Copyright: underverse/123RF Stock Photo

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Podcast: Why our citizen survey results look like others in Texas

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

Last spring, the city of College Station conducted its first comprehensive citizen survey in four years. The idea, of course, was to measure how College Station citizens feel about the services and programs we deliver, along with other quality-of-life aspects. In the end, the data helps city council and staff make budget and policy decisions.

In this edition of the podcast, City Manager Kelly Templin discusses which survey results really stood out to him and why similar results are being seen in almost every Texas city.

Podcast Archive

Click below to listen. If Soundcloud doesn’t play in your older version of Internet Explorer, click here to hear to the audio file from your system.

 


csf_jsocolAbout the Author

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his seventh year as College Station’s public communications director. A 1991 graduate of Texas A&M. Jay has also been communications director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, public information officer for the City of Bryan, and news director at several Bryan-College Station area radio stations. He’s a native of Breckenridge.


 

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Podcast: One-time top cop “blessed” by new career

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

After a 25-year career that began with patrolling the Texas A&M campus and then the streets of College Station, Jeff Capps eventually became chief of the College Station Police Department. In 2014, he traded his badge and uniform for a decidedly different role in the city organization: assistant city manager.

In this edition of the city’s podcast, Capps talked about his most memorable moments from two decades in law enforcement, how tough it was to transition into city management and the irony of a former top cop now overseeing the fire department.

Podcast Archive

Click below to listen. If Soundcloud doesn’t play in your older version of Internet Explorer, click here to listen to the audio file from your system.

 


csf_jsocolAbout the Author

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his seventh year as College Station’s public communications director. A 1991 graduate of Texas A&M. Jay has also been communications director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, public information officer for the City of Bryan, and news director at several Bryan-College Station area radio stations. He’s a native of Breckenridge.


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Podcast: How Kersten evolved from lifeguard to budget man

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

If you start out as a lifeguard and work hard, then you, too, can someday become an assistant city manager of a mid-sized university community. That’s the true story of Jeff Kersten, longtime budget and finance savant for the City of College Station.

Kersten spent his first visit to the podcast guest seat talking about his career path, what it’s like to shift fiscal priorities whenever a new city council or city manager comes along, and what he sees as the city’s financial challenges in the future.

After a tacky start to the interview, Kersten and I got down to business.

Click below to listen. If Soundcloud doesn’t play in your older version of Internet Explorer, click here to listen to the audio file from your system.

 

Podcast Archive


csf_jsocolAbout the Author

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his seventh year as College Station’s public communications director. A 1991 graduate of Texas A&M. Jay has also been communications director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, public information officer for the City of Bryan, and news director at several Bryan-College Station area radio stations. He is a native of Breckenridge.


 

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Podcast: College Station’s Deputy City Manager Chuck Gilman

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

Some of College Station’s largest departments are Electric, Water, Public Works, Parks and Planning — and they all answer to the same guy: Deputy City Manager Chuck Gilman.

In this podcast, the civil engineer talks about his unplanned path to being second-in-charge, why he obsesses over unresolved issues he sees when driving around town, and how he’d love to find a way — in a perfect world — to stagger the start times of schools (including Texas A&M) to ease traffic congestion.

Podcast Archive (more…)


Podcast: Weathering the consequences of the oil crash

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

Oil prices are the lowest in a decade, which means the City of College Station is saving money on budgeted fuel costs. However, the downturn negatively impacts local sales taxes, hotel occupancy and more.

So, how does City Manager Kelly Templin continue to grow the city’s infrastructure and economy amid this volatility? Find out in the latest edition of our podcast.

Podcast Archive

Click below to listen. If Soundcloud doesn’t play in your browser, click here to listen to the audio file from your system. (more…)