Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Council Meeting August 19th


Yesterday afternoon was a little interesting.  First, because a child was hit at the corner of Brown and Collins a school crossing was proposed and passed on the first reading.  My concern about this crossing is that traffic would be limited to 35 mph north of Brown on Collins all the time, even when the school zone is not in affect.  This concerned me because Collins/Brown is a major thoroughfare in our city, and I didn’t want to see further congestion in Arlington.  Normally changing this wouldn’t be a big deal, but since FM 157 is a state road, then we have to comply with state regulations.  I coupled our efforts with the traffic staff and we were able to remedy this situation, while complying with state regulation, without much change.

The second item of interest is that I put the subject of a senior recreation center on the floor as a future agenda item.  What I am trying to accomplish is to put this subject to the voters on the May 2015 ballot.  Funding for this center would be a 1/8th or 1/4 cent sales tax increase.  This would allow the center to be paid off in 3 yrs. or 1 ½ yrs. respectively.  The Citizen’s Bond Committee had little interest in this subject because it was not on the Parks Master Plan and of course who presents to that committee, Parks and Recreation.  So I will try to get this subject on the ballot for the people to decide if they want a facility like the Summit in Grand Prairie.  I want you to know about this subject and get organized and vocal if this addition to our community interests you. 

Last night there was an issue concerning a storage facility in the south 360 area.  Planning and Zoning put certain stipulations on the development and Councilman Shepard added to that list.  The vote was unanimous with the stipulations in place, however it is unclear whether the applicant will want to comply with those requests.

There will be a budget town hall meeting this Thursday night at the South Police Station at 6:00.  I suggest that anyone who is passionate about next year’s budget be there so that our City Manager Trey Yelverton can explain the budget and answer all of your questions.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Defeat

I want to thank all the people that either phoned the office or sent emails to Council Members, either in support of a Senior Center or in support of Hugh Smith.  Yesterday at the afternoon session of the Council Meeting, I had the support of the community to fund a senior recreation center in the west or northwest.  The problem is that between Kathryn Wilemon and me, we simply came up short on horsepower.

Let me just say that in my opinion, the arguments against the senior center were hollow.  The fact that there wasn’t a study done is moot.  The fact that we didn’t know exactly where we wanted to put the center is irrelevant.  We were there to fund projects not build them.  Dr. Cavazos doesn’t know where he will put the natatorium, but he has the funding for it.  That’s how bond issues work. 

The real reason for the defeat of the senior center is that it was not previously on the Parks Master Plan.  You see the Parks Department presented the senior center to the Citizens Bond Committee.  The Parks Department’s job is to fund the projects on the Master Plan and get them off the books and funded.  If someone comes along with a need that is higher than those on the Master Plan, it simply gets paid lip service, and projects on the Master Plan get promoted in the funding process.  That is what happened yesterday.  The fact that $50.2 million in capital funding went to two recreation centers in the east and southeast is of little consequence.  The fact that the utilization of Hugh Smith is abysmal, and that the Parks Department is hoping to return 49% at best in Operations/Maintenance costs was disregarded. The needs of the city and our seniors went neglected, again. 

We elevated the discussion of a senior center to the surface.  Now it is time to put it back on the table in a context that will be supported by the voters.  It will not set next to the bond election on the November ballot.  But we will bring this subject back to Council for the May election and I hope to allow the voters an opportunity to hear your voice again.    

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hugh Smith or Senior Center (2014 Bond Issue)

The time to determine the contents of the 2014 Bond Issue is at hand.  The Citizens Bond Committee has spoken and what they have determined through hours of diligent work is that the Bond Issue will be 193 million dollars.  In that 193 million, 133 will be for roads.  Of the 60 million that is left over, two large capital projects were selected to be accomplished.  1)  25 million for a recreation center in the southeast area of our city.  2)  25.3 million for a 67,000 sq/ft combination East Library and New Hugh Smith Recreation Center, in east Arlington.  This was the original plan for the Bond package until it got to Council.

When it got to Council, Jimmy Bennett proposed an additional year to the issue and the total increased to 242 million for a four year period.  The increase of 49 million will all go to roads, although this was not Jimmy’s plan.  So we still only have the original 60 million for capital projects.  One year ago I proposed a Senior Recreation Center to be constructed in the west or northwest, where majority of our seniors reside.  This center would be like the Summit over in Grand Prairie.  Right now we allow the YMCA’s to accommodate the need for our seniors at $30 per month.  I recognize this need and I’m trying to do something about it, but the Council needs your input.  So contact them.

My plan is to cancel one dead end road project at 5.4 million, cancel the energy efficient street light bulbs at 3.0 million and a parking lot renewal for River Legacy Park for 1.0 million.  If we do not move fire station one we can save another .4 million and take .3 away from the 25.3 for Hugh Smith and that would give us 10.2 million to knock down Hugh Smith and rebuild it to a size commensurate with it’s utilization.  The new library would go away until other funds could be located to add it to the construction project or we could partner with AISD as Dr. Cavazos has urged because they will be constructing a new library a couple of blocks down the road.

Then it would be my intention to take the 25 million and construct a 60,000 sq/ft Recreation Center for Adults that would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 per month for membership.  In the first year that the Summit was built, membership was 6,000.  It has been in existence for four years now and the membership has stabilized at 5,500.  It is a remarkably active and vibrant facility, and something that our seniors deserve.  In the last four years Euless, Grand Prairie and Irving have all met the need of their seniors by constructing Senior Centers. North Richland Hills has given the seniors lip service with their Multi-Generational Center.  Possible locations would be either a location central to downtown, Dottie Lynn area or Randol Mill Park.  With this location and the need of our seniors in Arlington, I would estimate memberships around the 8,000 level.  Please contact your City Council and let them know what Your desires are for this Bond Issue.    

Monday, July 21, 2014

Arlington Commons

It has been a little time since my last post for a couple of reasons.  1)  The Council is on vacation and doesn’t meet during the month of July, 2)  I have been on vacation for the last two weeks out of the country.  But as soon as I returned I had to find out what was going on with out apartment project on Lamar and report any progress.

I met with Bob Kembel this afternoon and got a one on one concerning his progress.  The asbestos abatement team showed up today and the long process of dismantling Huntington Chase has begun.  Each piece has to be removed, bagged, have Kembel’s name on it and placed in a special landfill.  This process will require that the demo of Huntington Chase take about 45 days and that is the bad news.  The good news is that the relocation of residents is ahead of schedule.  There is only one apartment that will require eviction in Huntington Chase and they will be gone on 1 August.  The Pointe and Country Wood will have their residents relocated by the end of August.  There is more asbestos in the stucco of the Pointe, so that will take even longer to get to the dozers.  All in all, construction will be moved back 90 days to the end of March.  Progress is slower than anticipated but the relocation process is running ahead of schedule.  Some additional news that I just received is that Mr. Kembel originally planned this project in the $160 to $178 million range and because of the upgrades and increased quality of the materials it is well over $200 million.   I have seen the architect's renderings and the project is extremely nice.  This will be a quality addition and redefine this neighborhood.

The Arlington Commons project is moving ahead and I’m positive that you will be pleased with the result, once Phase I is complete.

On a completely different subject:  The Mayor had a hip replacement this morning and is resting comfortably.  The operation was a remarkable success and we look forward to him getting up and around in the very near future.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ditto and TXDOT

Yesterday was very interesting and some things happened that you might not be aware of, so I will try to explain on this blog.  The afternoon session was of particular interest because some posturing was accomplished that was at my district’s expense.  Two weeks ago Jimmy Bennett suggested that the City’s Bond package should be extended from 4 yrs. to 5 yrs.  This was an effort to increase money available for roads and also to include an additional 12 million for the redevelopment of Ditto Golf Course.  Now I brought out that the city enjoyed over 140,000 rounds of golf last year.  46,000 were played at Ditto and 36,000 were played a Terra Verde.  Golf Advocate Magazine rates Terra Verde as the 7th best course in the Metro Plex, and the Texas Star course in Euless as 4th, while Ditto is ranked 42nd.  The expenditure of 16 million, 8 for the course and 8 for the clubhouse/banquet facility, would allow for tournaments to recoup our expenses while bringing the course up to top 5 status.  Then Ditto was dropped from the bond package alltogether, in exchange for more roads.  But I was assured that financing would come from elsewhere, and that this project would be funded because it is shovel ready.  This is yet to be confirmed, although people are working in earnest.  I will explain as much as I can this evening at the Ditto Citizens meeting starting at 6:30 at Sherrod Elementary.

The second thing of interest was the fact that the city started the process of purchasing the TXDOT property at the northwest corner of I-30 and Collins.  This property has been held by TXDOT for decades and they have finally decided to remove it from their property roles.  The City feels that this property is premiere and something very special should occupy that space, and we are proposing a simple land for cash exchange.  The City would like to entice businesses to invest in the land north of I-30, alluring people to come early and stay late.  This concept will require business offices, and leisure commercial establishments to coexist.  Once this transaction is complete and the land is wrestled from the state, we expect to be approached by developers of every level, hawking concepts from apartments to missile silos.  That is why it is important for the City to be able to control what establishments go on this property and the extent of their quality.  I am very excited for the North because TXDOT is finally on the move, and something good is going to happen there.  Call me an optimist.

Oh, and just as a side note, this site has gone over 31,000 views in a year and a half. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Narrowing Abrams St.

The narrowing of Abrams St. has been in the minds of the Downtown Arlington movement for several years.  It has to do with a term called “walk ability,” and making downtown a “destination.”  But the reality of the situation is that the Downtown movement only wants “walk ability” as it pertains to the government building area of downtown.  When it impacts businesses, they want “on street parking.”  So which is it to be, “walk ability or on street parking.”  Therefore, I see the argument as being a bit disingenuous. 

Now staff has done some great work when you add the information that was received through an independent study.  The study went to the effort of taking a look at the delays that would occur if the street were narrowed to three or four lanes.  The study’s conclusion was that four lanes, without dedicated left turn lanes, would take longer to transit than the three lane option with a dedicated left turn lane.  They are the pros and I am just a recipient of the study’s information.  As an engineering student I realize that passing any element through an aperture, water, sand, nuts and bolts or traffic, depends on the size of the aperture.  If an orifice is 4inches wide it should take 25% less time to pour a gallon of water through, than if the aperture is 3 inches wide.  Therefore, if lanes are 10 ft. wide, it should take less time to pass the same amount of traffic through a 40 ft. orifice than a 30 ft. orifice, even with traffic turning left without dedicated lanes.  That is simply physics applied to a common solution.  So I don’t buy the fact that a four lane scenario will take longer to transit than three lanes. 

Now let’s take a look at the problem as it applies to the situation.  I have walked the streets and looked first hand at the area in question.  I have noted that the setbacks on the north side of the street are significant enough to put pavers in and enjoy walk ability/the destination of downtown.  The problem is the south side of the street.  If we took out the center, or fifth lane, it would allow another 10 ft. that could be added to the sidewalk on the south side to increase the “walk ability” aspect and still have 40 ft. for traffic to transit.  But the study shows that this is the scenario that will cause the longest delays to transit. (Discussed above)  So this is the dilemma as I see it, and reasoning behind my decision to select the four lane option.  I think that drivers are people too and they pay just as much taxes as pedestrians.  Therefore, I will vote for the four lane option.