If there was ever an issue close to Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray’s heart, it would be the condition of some of the city’s alleys.
For each of the past three years, while staff members drafted city budgets, the District 8 representative wanted to talk alleys. This year has been no different.
Gray even took a little light teasing from City Manager David Cooke about it. At a recent council budget workshop, Cooke raised the question “Does anybody want to hear about alleyway mowing?” glancing toward Gray..
“We have alleyways in District 2, and District 5, and 8 and 9 and 7, that belong to the city of Fort Worth, and we do not maintain them,” Gray said. “The grass is literally 6 feet tall and it’s a concern. It’s a concern that we need to take better care of the things we control as a city.”
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As we talk about revitalizing the central city, a big part of that is aesthetics.
Fort Worth Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray
An additional $75,000 has been proposed for the fiscal 2016 budget to bring funds for mowing alleys to nearly $410,000.
1,064 Blocks of alleys to be mowed by the city in 2016
Like many services whose budgets were cut during and after the Great Recession, alley mowing took a hit. By 2012, Fort Worth’s budget to mow alleys was cut in half, to $332,184, as was the number of alleys to be taken care of. That dropped to 832.
In addition to the extra funding this year, there’s a plan to mow the alleys twice a year instead of three times, which means crews can mow 241 more alleys. The total mowed would rise to 1,064 alley blocks. The city has about 3,000 blocks of alleys.
Quality of life
“As we talk about revitalizing the central city, a big part of that is aesthetics,” Gray said. “If I’m looking for a house in a neighborhood within the central city, I want to make sure that that community has all of the components of all things I need to be a homeowner. If my neighbor, i.e. the city of Fort Worth, is not being a good neighbor in that community, I’m going to look someplace else.”
Council members are asking for a better maintenance solution.
Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman wants an audit of all the city’s alleys to determine who owns them and what utility easements are on them. “That’s the first thing we need to do,” he said.
Jay Chapa, an assistant city manager, said that in 2004, the city considered treating alleys like the parkway on homeowner properties and changing the ordinance to make the property owner responsible for mowing.
“A lot of cities have done that across the state and country,” Chapa said.
The city also looked into deeding alley property to the adjacent property owner, but that would have meant millions of dollars for replatting and resolving issues over utility easements. The idea was dropped.
Most of the alleys now mowed were chosen because of crime and code violations. Because of that, Gray suggests that money from the Crime Control and Prevention District be used to mow more alleys.
“If you use crime statistics to ascertain which alleyways you’re going to mow, we should also be able to use crime-fighting dollars to help alleviate the blight we are creating,” she said.