San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

June 22nd, 2010
P&Z approves $122M plan for capital improvements


Left to right, San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commissioners Bill Taylor, Curtis Seebeck and Sherwood Bishop at the May 25 meeting of the commission. Photo by Sean Batura.

News Reporter

The San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) has unanimously approved a list of projects for the next three years that includes doubling the size of the San Marcos Public Library, relocating the Holland/Academy Street fire station to the area of RR 12 and Craddock Avenue, and moving downtown overhead electric lines underground.

The city estimates projects in the Capital Improvement Program’s (CIP) three-year “fiscally constrained” plan will cost $122 million — $31,933,042 in 2011, $57,532,141 in 2012, $32,412,508 in 2013. The funds requested for the projects exceed the estimated available funds by $78 million — $15,364,142 in 2011, $47,441,601 in 2012, and $15,681,133 in 2013. Funding categories in the plan include those of drainage, electric, water/wastewater, general funding, airport, parks and public buildings, public safety, and streets.

“‘Fiscally constrained’ means that we’ll be able to fit (the projects) into the proposed budget based on debt issuance,” said San Marcos Assistant Planning Director Matthew Lewis. “The debt hasn’t been issued yet.”

At the P&Z meeting on May 25, some commissioners such as Jim Stark and Bucky Couch expressed discomfort with recommending projects without taking cost into account. The controlling legislation regarding P&Z and the three-year plan is found in the city charter, which empowers the P&Z to “submit annually to the city council, not less than one hundred and twenty days prior to the beginning of the fiscal year, a list of recommended capital improvements found necessary or desirable.”

Lewis said other funding mechanisms may be available, such as grants, cash input, and developer-driven projects.

“Our city has become addicted to only paying for all this stuff with debt,” said P&Z Commissioner Randy Bryan. “And I would love to see us taking some — maybe having a few hard years of moving away from debt … But I’d love to see us moving away from looking to debt to do everything, to where we got to where we’re getting more bang for our buck, really, to be putting actual cash into things. That’s my comment and I’d like to send that to city council.”

P&Z Commissioner Sherwood Bishop advised his colleagues not to “get too caught up” in the financial aspect of the three-year fiscally constrained plan.

“The question of whether things are funded also gets really complicated, I’ve seen, because we have funding streams that come in from so many different places and a lot of those funding streams are not there right now,” Bishop said. “We have money that comes in from not just the city sources, but from state agencies, from federal government, from other possibilities, and sometimes some things come through that we hadn’t counted on. So we got money to build the new airport tower that came in through the stimulus funding. We have other things that we may think we’re going to get that we don’t get … So, when you get looking much ahead in the future, it sort of becomes meaningless, I think, to try to say ‘Is this funded or not?'”

San Marcos Fire Department (SMFD) Chief Les Stephens told commissioners he has no plans for the Holland/Academy Street fire station once it is abandoned.

“This fire station is in Sector 3, and there currently are not any neighborhood parks anywhere in Sector 3,” Bishop said. “No swing sets or anything of that nature, no picnic tables. So when the fire station does move out of that facility — and I support you all getting the larger facility that you need — I hope the city will consider maintaining ownership of that property, and that it could be used as something like a neighborhood meeting place — kind of like we do now with the fish hatchery and Dunbar Center, with a little bit of park land around it, something similar, rather than the city selling it.”

Costs associated with relocating the Holland/Academy Street fire station total $360,000 and $2.4 million for 2011 and 2012, respectively. Additional costs for public safety-related projects approved by the P&Z include $150,000 (2011) and $750,000 (2012) for the Hays County Combined 911 Communication Center, $ 50,000 (2011) $25,000 (2012) and $25,000 (2013) for a fire department training field, $654,630 (2012) for a fire department truck equipped with multi-purpose light&air/heavy rescue apparatus, $627,000 (2012) to replace a fire engine at Broadway Station and equip it with an air foam system and large-diameter hose, $500,000 (2012) and $300,000 (2013) to relocate Fire Station No. 4 to the area of SH 123 and Wonder World Drive, $500,000 (2012) for two-three acres for a future outlet mall fire station on Centerpoint Road and east of Interstate-35, $250,000 (2012) and $675,000 (2013) for a 700 megahertz public safety radio communications system to be in compliance with Federal Communications Commission 2013 rules, and $80,000 (2013) to replace a 13-year-old city fire department brush truck.

Three-year estimated projects related to parks and public buildings include:

• Reconstruction of the parking lot, playground structure, lighting, and basketball court at City Park for $1.2 million (2011).
• Replacement of lighting, entry road and parking along C.M. Allen Parkway, and a basketball court, lighting, and trail work at Rio Vista Park. Phase I costs $1 million (2011) and $800,000 (2012).
• Improvements to neighborhood parks, including playground structures, trails, fencing, lighting, and basketball courts at existing parks for $700,000 (2011) and $59,513 (2013).
• Renovation of 15-year-old San Marcos Activity Center for $600,000 each year of the plan’s three years.
• Repairs to the Activity Center’s roof to prevent future roof failure and the addition of solar panels to save energy for $500,000 (2011).
• Construction of a recreation hall at the existing Lion’s Club tube rental on West Laurel Street for $500,000 (2011).
• Stabilization of San Marcos River access and exit points, and replacement of concrete with natural rocks for $400,000 (2011) and $1.8 million (2012).
• The addition of 27,000 square feet to the San Marcos Public Library and the renovation of existing space to accommodate a city population of 90,000 for $150,000 (2011) and $929,347 (2012).
• Rehabilitation of the Cephas House in the Dunbar Historic District for $355,000 (2012).
• The development of parks acquired through development dedications for $350,000 (2012) and $175,000 (2013).
• Implementation of a city habitat conservation plan involving reconditioning and re-vegetating riparian areas in order to address environmental issues while making the San Marcos River more user-friendly for $250,000 (2012) and $250,000 (2013).
• Provide landscaping for gateways throughout the city for $240,000 (2012).
• Replacement of downtown items including street lights, trash cans, and benches for $100,000 (2012).
• Development of a trail along the Purgatory and Willow drainage creeks, which is intended to provide access for neighborhoods to the downtown central business district, for $2.4 million (2013).
• Renovation of a city softball complex for $1,653,125 (2013).
• Renovation of the SH 80 regional park for $1.2 million (2013).
• Improvements to Veramendi Plaza Park and Bicentennial Park, including replacement sidewalks, trails, lighting, and picnic amenities, making the gazebo Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible, renovations of the fountain and parking lot, and will fixing drainage issues from the parking lot, for $714,151 (2013).
• Improvements to the city cemetery located off of RR 12 for $600,000 (2013).
• Addition of 5,000 square feet to and remodeling of the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter to add training room offices and change adoption areas to make them more inviting and user friendly, for $365,000 (2013).
• Construction of a multi-service center to house City of San Marcos water, wastewater, public works, and electric departments to eliminate duplication and facilitate coordination.
• Updates and maintenance to existing facilities for $150,000 each year for the next three years.
• New landscaping and signage for subdivision improvements pursuant to the Rio Vista beautification project for $146,250 (2011).

“(The three-year plan) is probably one of the most important items that the commission reviews because it is a budgeting item for development, which either can implement the city’s master plan,” Lewis told commissioners. “That’s the intent of the document, to implement the goals of the master plan — making sure infrastructure matches the land use plan and the densities that the transportation plan is implemented, which is consistent with electric, water, wastewater and parks and streets and drainage. So, all of those items are addressed in here.”

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0 thoughts on “P&Z approves $122M plan for capital improvements

  1. We already more than doubled our long-term debt and obligations during the past 5 years and now we want to keep on spending beyond our means? It seems like nobody in a position of authority is putting the brakes on excessive spending. Who is representing the little guy, the taxpayer who ends up holding the bag? Why do we keep spending more than we can afford? Does everybody think we can keep stiffing our future generations with this mounting liability?

  2. Steve: it seems to me that the city is hoping that with the “bad” growth they have allowed will somehow foot the long term bill. Multi-family complex bring in a bunch of tax payers and the overvalued overpriced homes existing and yet to be built will have the overvalued tax price. It seems to me…?

  3. Ironic – in 2005, $122M represented just about all our long-term debt and obligations. Now it’s around $300M, and then we read about all this additional tax burden proposed by our leaders. Why are people afraid to talk about this?

  4. Don’t worry guys – Daddy Sherwood says the money will magically be there. I hope when this mess gets to council Ryan Thomason will pick it apart and kill some of this feel-good crap. Most of it is unneeded. These agencies come to P&Z every year trying to get their piece of the pie.

  5. I hate to be tacky, Lord knows. However, if indiscriminate spending worked so well for GW and his
    Congress (helping the US go from a $5B surplus to where we are now), and if it has worked for Tricky Ricky and his Lege (same story, present deficit $11B-$13B, Texas first only in bad categories of comparison, lagging other states in the good ones), why should we not do the same? We can use projects to feed our friends and build our pyramids, since others will pay the debt out…maybe…someday. That MUST be the moral way to proceed from here, with our future of unlimited income.

    The questions here and at P&Z and at Council should perhaps be: What do we really NEED, especially for the “health, safety and general welfare” of the community? What do we WANT, that would improve our quality of life? What can we AFFORD, given a full and honest account of our budget prospects? How can we spend to INVEST, either in cost avoidance or return on the investment? Finally, what among the desired projects need to be moved out at least a year, maybe more, to give us a chance to collect our pennies and our breath? Objectively, I mean, and based on solid facts.

    Maybe we need to call in more consultants to help us decide these matters, like many others. Maybe we are too dumb and too power struck to choose on our own anymore.

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