BY RUSSELL HUFFMAN
STEPHENVILLE (May 4, 2016) – Good news for motorists and their tires – Stephenville is geared up for street repair after the city council voted to spend $1.1 million Tuesday night as part of its regular monthly business meeting.
According to some residents and officials, Stephenville is way behind the curve when it comes to preserving and maintain its streets. And catching up on street repairs is the purpose of the Pavement Management Plan unanimously approved by the council. The plan maps out a cost effective set of practices that extend pavement life and improve safety and motorist satisfaction, while saving public tax dollars.
Freese and Nichols, Inc. modeled three strategies for Stephenville’s streets and compared the cost of each toward a 10, 20 and 30-year time span. Stephenville’s “pavement condition index” (PCI) is an average of 56 for its 87 miles of asphalt and brick streets in town.
That 56 rating is pretty low with the targeted score well over 70. The 2016 phase of the project will address preservation first with 17.5 miles, or roughly 20-percent, of Stephenville’s streets targeted for work.
Going along with the pavement management plan is Stephenville’s Street Maintenance Program and City Engineer, Eugene Calvert, presented his recommendations as to which streets need to be prioritized. A total of 77 streets will be receiving some type of preservation or rehabilitation.
WATER AND NATURAL GAS RATES TO RISE IN STEPHENVILLE
Stephenville city water customers are going to see an increase in their water bill this month with the cost of 1,000 of water rising from $3.75 to $3.95. The council’s vote to raise those rates appears to the first of a four-year rate hike plan that is focused on raising funds to battle an aging sewer infrastructure.
The council viewed a series of photos showing leaking and broken sewer pipes and numerous areas where storm water is entering the system, which in turn then also has to be treated at the sewer plant at additional cost.
Stephenville’s sewer system is nearly at capacity already and with increased building and growth in town, city officials said the demand is only going to make things worse. At this time, there is no increase in sewer rates.
Councilman Doug Svien had a short presentation showing a very dim future for Stephenville’s aging infrastructure if the city does not act now. He also pointed out obligating taxpayers to more bond debt is not the answer as all money will end up paying loans.
“Borrowing is not the answer,” Svien said. “We need to fund it.”
(Svien is providing The Flash Today his presentation for a future story on the state of Stephenville’s sewer system and more.)
In addition to the water rate increase, residents will also be paying more for their natural gas this next year as Atmos Energy Corp. continues to recoup capital improvement funds. Representatives report the rate hike should cost the average residential customer around $1.26 per month. Commercial customers should see a $3.81 per monthly increase, while industrial customers will see a hefty increase of more than $100 per month.
RESTAURANT GETS SPECIAL — USE PERMIT
After being tabled for a month due to concerns over possible downtown parking shortages, a special use permit was granted by a unanimous vote for a new restaurant to be located in the old bus station at 223 E. College Street.
Last month there was debate over noise, trash and parking by the council, who instructed city staff to study the area. Stephenville City Administrator Pat Bridges reported he, Chief of Police Jason King and Director of Planning and Building Services Noah Cullis pounded the pavement surveying the area.
Bridges reported 146 potential parking spaces without any additional marking of spaces. No changes for parking in the downtown area are expected at this time. However, city staff will be monitoring the area for possible changes in the future.
STEPHENVILLE SEEKING HISTORIC DESIGNATION FOR DOWNTOWN DISTRICT
The council approved a $17,000 proposal from Mary Saltarelli to prepare a nomination for Stephenville’s downtown district to the National Register of Historic Places. Saltarelli will be compiling and verifying a study done last year by students in Dr. T. Lindsay Baker’s class at Tarleton State University.
Dr. Baker is retiring next year and there are no current plans by the university to continue the compiled work, which included a 25-square block area of the Stephenville’s Downtown District.
Being in the registry can potentially open up big savings in taxes and credits for rehabilitation and repairs. The savings can be significant and there is no obligation of private property owners to take part, nor are there restrictions on use.
The measure passed with only one against it. Councilman Rhett Harrison voted no after suggesting continuing to seek help to pay for the nomination process from Erath County, The Stephenville Chamber of Commerce and the Stephenville Economic Development Foundation. Bridges informed the council he had received a negative response or no response from those entities.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVE POLICY
The first reading of Stephenville Economic Development Policy showed more work needed to be done in regard to definitions of business sizes. Mayor Kenny Weldon asked Stephenville Economic Development Authority (SEDA) board member Shelby Slawson how the organization was progressing with its policy.
Slawson informed the council that while work was progressing, an executive director is still very much needed for guidance. Stephenville contracted with a “headhunting” firm last month to fill the vacant position.
CITY SECRETARY CINDY STAFFORD HONORED
Mayor Weldon opened the meeting with a proclamation honoring City Secretary Cindy Stafford as part of Municipals Clerks’ Week. Weldon brought Stafford before the council and thanked her for the many years of outstanding work she has done for the city.
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