June 17, 2014

Arlington council explores bigger bond package

The City Council informally decides to add a fifth year to a proposed November bond package that would allow $46 million more worth of projects, including recreation centers.

Facing a lengthy list of road, parks and recreation needs, the City Council informally decided Tuesday to add about $46 million worth of projects to the $192.5 million bond proposal recommended by an advisory committee.

The Citizens Bond Committee came up with a list of high-priority public works, parks, fire and library projects, including two new recreation centers, numerous road rebuilding projects and a second dog park, that should be included in a four-year bond program.

The council made no decisions Tuesday regarding those recommendations, but members said they support expanding the bond program to a fifth year so even more projects could be tackled.

“We can afford to take on these additional projects, allow our development to go on more efficiently while at the same time eliminating some of the gaps that may have existed after the four-year program was completed,” said District 7 Councilman Jimmy Bennett. “They are projects we would have done anyway. It makes a lot of sense to plan for them and execute them in a coordinated effort. The five-year program allows us to do that.”

Bennett would like to see more street improvements in south Arlington and full funding for a $16 million Ditto Golf Course renovation plan in north Arlington.

The council expects to have a final list of proposals ready by Aug. 6, when it will decide whether to call a bond election in November. If the estimated $238.5 million bond package passes, Arlington’s property tax rate would not be affected, city officials said.

“Arlington has been fortunate in that many of the projects voters previously approved have been completed,” Bennett said. “It’s time to look to our future to those things that we need to address.”

Proposed projects include a $25 million recreation/aquatic center for southeast Arlington and a $25.2 million combined recreation center and library branch in east Arlington. That new facility would replace the Hugh Smith Recreation Center, which was built more than 50 years ago, and the East Branch Library, which opened in the 1970s and is the oldest and busiest of the city’s branch libraries.

Other park proposals are $3 million toward renovations at the 35-year-old Ditto Golf Course, $500,000 for an off-leash dog park near Rush Creek and $4 million to install lighted soccer fields, concession stands, restrooms and other amenities at the Harold Patterson Sports Center.

The council is also exploring a $25 million senior recreation center and a $40 million multigenerational recreation center that did not make the list turned in by the Citizen Bond Committee.

Public works proposals include an $11 million plan to widen Collins Street between Park Row Drive and Pioneer Parkway; $14.4 million to rebuild and widen Matlock Road to six lanes between Bardin Road and southeast Green Oaks Boulevard; and $13.7 million to rebuild and widen Turner Warnell Road to four lanes between Matlock Road and Cooper Street.

The Fire Department is seeking $4.9 million to partially rebuild and remodel Fire Station No. 1 downtown and $3.5 million to remodel the fire training center. The library system is seeking $395,000 to remodel the 15-year-old Woodland West Branch Library.

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