On the road again. . .
The council voted on Thursday, Feb. 17, to present voters with a $6.4 million bond package which, if approved, would fund large-scale improvements to 11th Street, a major artery for residents and tourists alike.
The vote nullifies action that the council took on Feb. 3 to offer up a $5 million package for 11th Street roadwork that wouldn’t have been as extensive.
Whether the $6.4 million plan is approved is now up to voters. Election Day is May 14.
At the Feb. 3 meeting, councilman John Price cast the lone dissenting vote on the $5 million option, saying that he wanted to present voters with a different option put together by city staff – the $6.4 million package. (Councilman Keith Donley was absent due to a doctor’s appointment, but he sent word that he also would support the $6.4 million plan.)
Price had the matter put on the agenda for the Feb. 17 meeting because, he said, he had seen a surge of public support for the $6.4 million proposal. He said he also wanted to ask council members to change their votes to go with the $6.4 million plan.
Council members who ended up voting in favor of the $6.4 million proposal were Price, Donley and council members Glenda Balentine, Steve Lanoux, Rick Pratt and Charles Bujan.
Mayor Keith McMullin voted no, saying that he worried that voters wouldn’t approve a bond issue with such a high price tag.
Price said the tax increase that comes with the $6.4 million plan wouldn’t be burdensome. He pointed out that 11th Street is vital to Port Aransas tourism, because it has such a large number hotels, motels and condominiums.
“When you listen to the people on this, I believe we must reconsider the options and offer them the opportunity to vote for a complete and first-class street,” Price said.
Another reason for offering voters the $6.4 million plan, Price said, is that it would better serve golf carts. Since it’s illegal to drive golf carts on State Hwy. 361, 11th Street is the only way, aside from the beach road, that carts can get from northernmost parts of Port Aransas to Island Moorings and other southern parts of town, Price said.
Balentine, Lanoux, Pratt and Bujan previously voted in favor of the $5 million plan, but they went for the $6.4 million proposal Feb. 17.
“Give the council credit,” Price said after the meeting. “It took a lot of courage for those people to change their votes. We’ve got a council with an awful lot of character.”
Lanoux said the council didn’t hear much from the public on the subject of 11th Street until after the Feb. 3 vote.
“I have to admit to a certain amount of arrogance in thinking we knew what was best,” he said.
Lanoux said he spoke to Port Aransans including those whose property is valued at less than the average amount and learned that they seem to support the $6.4 million concept.
“I have a mandate,” Lanoux said.
Bujan said good council members will change their votes when it’s the right thing to do. And, on Feb. 17, it was the right thing to do, he said.
Some city officials have said work on the section of 11th Street between Avenue J and Royal Palm Lane should be the highest priority because it’s the most densely populated, but Donley said the section between Royal Palm and Access Road 1A should be attacked first, because it’s in the worst condition.
Despite voting against offering the $6.4 million option, McMullin said he hopes voters will approve it. He said he would prefer that the entire road get the extensive facelift provided by the $6.4 million package, but he supported the $5 million option because he thought it had the best chance of being approved by voters.
“I really, sincerely hope council proves me wrong,” the mayor said. He said the council will have to work hard to sell it to voters.
Several citizens spoke at the meeting, all in support of the $6.4 million plan. One of the speakers was Suzette Freeman, president of Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce-Tourist Bureau.
“Do it right, while the time is right,” Freeman said.
Richard Arras of Minnesota said he loves Port Aransas but has “suffered greatly” from the condition of 11th Street. He called on the council to go for the $6.4 million plan.
Mary Goldsmith, who lives off 11th Street, between Royal Palm Lane and Access Road 1A, argued in support of the $6.4 million proposal largely because she sees a lot of traffic and pedestrians on 11th Street. Another resident of the area, Mike Roberson, echoed Goldsmith’s comments.
The city’s tax rate currently is 33.2023 cents per $100 valuation. If approved by voters, the $5 million option would have meant taxes would go up 3.087 cents, according to Darla Honea, the city’s finance director.
The average market value of a home in Port Aransas, with a homestead exemption, is $199,471, according to Honea’s office. With a 3.087-cent tax increase, that property owner would see $61.58 added to his tax bill, Honea said.
The $6.4 million option would mean a tax increase of 4.137 cents, which would add about $82.52 to the average homeowner’s tax bill, Honea said.
The $5 million plan proposed by city staff would have involved a full rebuild throughout most of the length of 11th Street, from Avenue G to Royal Palm Lane. It also would have meant inserting a center turn lane in that stretch.
The package also would have provided for installing underground drainage with curbs and gutters on the north end of 11th Street and building a concrete hike-andbike path along the east side of the street and a sidewalk along the west side, from Avenue J to Royal Palm Lane.
The section of 11th Street from Royal Palm to Access Road 1A would have received a new road base and new asphalt, but no underground drainage, no curbs and gutters and no center turn lane. It would have gotten an asphalt bike path along one side of the street.
The $6.4 million package would mean a complete rebuild of the full length of the street, with center turn lanes inserted and underground drainage, curbs and gutters installed from Avenue J to Access Road 1A. It would involve construction of a concrete hike-and-bike path on one side of the street and a sidewalk on the other throughout the entire length of the street, except for in a relatively small area where a sidewalk already exists.
Gas and water line work were expected to be involved in both plans, but more of it would be involved in the $6.4 million plan.