by Walker County News Today staff
At Tuesday’s Huntsville City Council Finance Committee meeting the committee discussed and voted on a variety of agenda items. The committee’s recommendations will go to Huntsville City Council for their review at the December 6th council meeting.
One-Way Streets and Parking Meters
The Committee voted to recommend that the city convert three additional city streets to one-way traffic in order to expand the paid parking spaces near Sam Houston State University. The committee hopes that narrowing the traffic to one lane will allow the current parallel parking spaces to be converted to diagonal parking spaces which would significantly expand the number of paid parking spaces near the university.
However, City Manager Matt Benoit, who favors the proposed plan, said that he spoke with a representative from SHSU regarding this issue; the university was not in favor of either the additional paid parking or of the proposed one-way streets.
While the original 2015 plan to convert Bobby K Marks Drive and Bearkat Blvd were planned as part of an agreement with SHSU to improve pedestrian safety on those streets, this expansion of that plan may be more about revenue than safety. For the 2015 plan the city initially budgeted $60,000 for the project and was expecting to take in about $300,000/yr in parking fees. The proposed expansion to include parts of Avenues I and J, University Avenue and 15th Street would increase the cost to $150,000. The 180+ additional paid parking spaces would then be in direct competition with paid parking in the SHSU parking lots.
Bond Related Capital Improvement Projects
This item was a proposal to create and fund three Capital Improvement Projects to begin to implement Bond Propositions 1 (Public Safety) and 3 (Water and Sewer). The initial funding for these projects will be paid for out of existing cash or anticipated cash inflows as opposed to having to float the bonds now to get these projects started.
For Proposition 1, a total of $1.4 Million will be transferred from existing General Fund cash reserves to pay for Engineering Design of the new public safety facilities. Once the design is set and the cost firmly estimated the bond debt will be issued to cover the remaining costs including land acquisition and facility construction.
For the Proposition 3 water projects, engineering design will be paid for by the anticipated additional cash inflows to be created by the recent TDCJ Ellis and Estelle water rate increases. All later costs will be paid for by the bond debt for these projects.
Elkins Lake lift station
Minor budget adjustments were made to fund two smaller sewer projects near The Hitchin’ Post and near Elkins Lake.
The Rita B Huff Animal Shelter recently cancelled their contract with the city to shelter animals picked up by the city’s animal control officer. The committee voted to propose that the city use the $650,000 that received from the previous sale of real estate to design and build an animal shelter. The committee did not make a recommendation on how the shelter would be operated.
Though the city appears to be operating in violation of it’s own ordinance which requires that animals be removed under certain circumstances, the committee did not appear to offer any solutions to bring the city into compliance with it’s own rules in the short term.