February 11, 2014

Arlington council will pick from menu of capital ideas

Arlington’s capital budget for 2014 includes about $43 million in water utilities projects, about $30 million in public works projects and $3 million in parks projects.

A new bridge over Interstate 20, land acquisition for neighborhood parks and installation of brighter, more energy efficient street lights are among $83.6 million in planned capital budget projects the city of Arlington expects to begin this year.

The Arlington City Council has not made a final decision on which proposals will be funded this year. Most of the projects, excluding the Center Street bridge over I-20, were approved by Arlington voters in past bond elections.

This year’s capital budget includes about $43 million in water utilities projects, about $30 million in public works projects and $3 million in parks projects.

If approved, these proposals would exhaust the last of $140 million in bonds authorized by voters in 2008 to address flooding and improve the city’s infrastructure, public buildings and amenities, Jim Parajon, community development and planning director, told the council Tuesday.

That debt is repaid through the city’s tax revenue and fees.

“It’s an investment in the public infrastructure that we use every day, whether it be roads or park facilities or fire station improvements,” Parajon said. “Our capital program is a systematic approach to making sure we have a sound investment in maintaining our infrastructure.”

Mayor Robert Cluck said that he wants the council to evaluate this year’s list and compare it with items on other wish lists, such as attracting a new full-service hotel to the entertainment district or building a larger Central Library closer to City Hall.

Parajon gave the council an option Tuesday to take $11 million currently proposed for residential street reconstruction, energy-efficient street lights and parkland purchases in this year’s plan and put it toward the $25 million downtown library instead. Or the city could ask voters for the entire $25 million for the library as part of a bond election that could be held as soon as November, Parajon said.

The 40-year-old library downtown has numerous maintenance problems and lacks the meeting space and technology infrastructure that residents say they want.

“Libraries of the future are going to be much more about technology, and they are also going to be much more about people,” said Libraries Director Cary Siegfried. “Our current Central Library was constructed as a warehouse for books.”

This year’s capital budget also includes $4.6 million to wrap up the Tri-Schools Streets project in south Arlington that voters approved in 1999 and 2003, Public Works Director Keith Melton said. If the council approves funding, construction could begin this year to widen and make other safety improvements to sections of Ledbetter, Russell and Calender roads near Carol Holt Elementary, Cross Timbers Intermediate and TA Howard Middle School. Another proposal is for $3.5 million to rebuild Center Street from Arkansas Lane to Timberview.

The plan additionally includes $14.5 million to extend Center Street south of I-20 to Bardin Road, which requires construction of a four-lane bridge. The city will pay for the road extension by issuing certificates of obligation and then repay that debt with property taxes collected in the Arlington Highlands tax increment reinvestment zone. The Texas Department of Transportation could begin work as soon as this summer, city officials have said.

This includes material from Star-Telegram archives.

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