All the marbles
Port Aransas City Council members have decided to sell all $6.4 million in voter approved bonds for planned 11th Street road work even though a construction firm’s winning bid on the project was about $1.1 million less than that.
The extra money will be used to pay for additional road and drainage projects around town and possibly for “change orders” – additional needs that unexpectedly might crop up as part of the extensive 11th Street reconstruction work.
The council voted 5-2 to take this route. Voting yes were council members Glenda Balentine, Charles Bujan, Keith Donley, John Price and Steve Lanoux. Voting no were Councilman Edwin Myers and Mayor Keith McMullin.
McMullin and Myers reasoned that the bond was promoted to voters before the election as being for 11th Street, with no mention of the possibility that other road and drainage projects might be undertaken with any of the money.
“I sold this as an 11th Street bond, so I feel compelled” not to support spending the money on anything else, Mc- Mullin said.
The rest of the council said using the extra money to fix additional road and drainage problems will be for the good of the city. With interest rates at historic lows, now is the time to get the city an especially large bang for its buck, council members said.
For at least the past five years, every bond issue approved by voters has ended up with extra money involved, and councils always have used the funds to get additional public works projects done, according to Assistant City Manager Dave Parsons.
Donley emphasized that council members weren’t being cavalier with taxpayer money. He said the council gave the issue careful consideration and is trying to get Port Aransans the best deal they can get to improve the town’s infrastructure.
Port Aransans voted on May 14 last year to approve the bond issue to pay for the rehabilitation of 11th Street, a bumpy two-lane road that is lined with condominiums, houses and feeder streets leading into various neighborhoods. The project will extend throughout the length of the road, nearly two miles.
In December, the city decided to hire Island Construction to take on the project. The firm submitted the lowest bid, at $5,437,026.
If the council hadn’t chosen to use the extra money for additional projects, it would have meant that voters wouldn’t be paying as much in city taxes for the bond. At the council meeting, the city’s finance director, Darla Honea, said she hadn’t calculated the potential savings, but she estimated that it would be only “fractions of a penny.”
The city’s tax rate is 33.2023 cents per $100 valuation. At the time of the election, city officials said voters’ approval of the bond package would mean a tax increase of 4.137 cents, which adds about $82.52 to the average homeowner’s tax bill.
Asked about impacts on Friday, Jan. 20, Honea said the exact impact won’t be known until new property appraisals are done and the city knows the precise interest rate the city will get when it sells the bonds next month.
“I do not think the tax impact will be as much as initially estimated, because interest rates have come down,” Honea said.
Also, she said, the city could use impact fees to offset debt payments. Impact fees are charged to developers to compensate for the damage to city streets that occurs during construction.
No decisions have been made about what other road and drainage projects might be undertaken with the $1.1 million windfall from the low bid on 11th Street. The council has a long time to think about it. Additional projects won’t be undertaken until after the 11th Street project is finished, Parsons said.
Eleventh Street will be expanded to include a center turn lane. A concrete hikeand bike trail will be built on one side of the street, and a sidewalk will be laid down along the other side.
New gas, water and sewer lines also will be installed as part of the project.
City Engineer Jim Urban said work on the road will begin between Feb. 6 and Feb. 15. The work will be done in phases, with the first phase starting at the south end of 11th Street, said DeAngelo Reyes, the project engineer, of Urban Engineering.
Phase One will stretch from Beach Access Road 1A to a point near Royal Palms Lane. Officials are hoping to be almost completely finished with Phase One by July 4, Reyes said. Two-way traffic will continue 99 percent of the time during construction, he said.
The full length of the 11th Street project probably will be done in a total of three phases, but it could be broken up further, Reyes said.
Work on the phases after Phase One will not go as fast as Phase One, because the more northerly parts of 11th Street are more densely populated, Reyes said.
By contract, Island Construction will be required to finish the entire project within 20 months, Reyes said.
(Watch the South Jetty’s Web site, www.portasouthjetty.com, for breaking news on the 11th Street project over the next several months, with notices posted when traffic and access to homes will be affected by construction.)
Questions? Comments? Contact South Jetty reporter Dan Parker at (361) 749-5131 or email@example.com.