Fort Worth

Parks, street repairs top needs for record Fort Worth bond package

Road construction in Forest Park is part of city bond program. The Fort Worth City Council’s planned 2018 bond program includes $258 million for street and transportation projects.
Road construction in Forest Park is part of city bond program. The Fort Worth City Council’s planned 2018 bond program includes $258 million for street and transportation projects. Star-Telegram archives

Eight new neighborhood parks, a fire station in far north Fort Worth and citywide street repairs are among the projects to be included in a proposed $399.5 million bond program the city plans to bring to voters next year.

The Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to city staff to start rolling out details of the bond program, which would be the city’s largest. District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens said the proposed bond package is “the most exciting ever.”

Next month, dates for public hearings are expected to be picked and then each council member will weigh in on the proposed plan and projects. The council will vote on a final project list in December and the election would be on May 5, 2018.

Already, some have noticed the lack of new pools on the proposed list.

“Looking at pools and looking at partnerships on the pools is going to be critical,” Mayor Betsy Price said.

The program would be a 37 percent increase over the last bond package in 2014, when voters approved spending $292 million on city projects.

During planning for the 2018 bond program, department heads said the city has nearly $1.6 billion in needs, said Jay Chapa, an assistant city manager.

The bulk of the 2018 bond money, $258 million, or 65 percent of the total, would be used for street and transportation projects. That’s a $40 million increase from the amount approved in 2014. The city soon will issue $10 million in seven-year tax notes to pay for engineering studies on some of the proposed street projects in advance of the bond election.

The city staff said the amount will allow the city to keep up with growth while maintaining existing infrastructure.

“We have a very good problem to solve,” City Manager David Cooke said, “meaning that people like Fort Worth; they keep moving here. Businesses keep expanding here and other businesses move here. That creates a challenge on infrastructure.”

About $65.5 million is needed just to maintain existing streets, according to the proposal. The city, though, for the first time has shifted the maintenance of park roads to the transportation department. The program also recommends spending $12.5 million to revitalize established thoroughfare corridors such as West Seventh Street and University Drive, something the city hasn’t done before.

Moreover, the city will present to voters more defined categories regarding how the money will be spent. For example, the city wants to spend $12.5 million fixing and buying new traffic lights, $10 million to buy new street lights and $5 million on improving neighborhood and school safety.

Also proposed in the bond package is spending $120 million to add street and intersection capacity.

Behind streets, $84.6 million will be used for the parks and recreation department.

Among the various projects proposed are eight new neighborhood park projects, completing the expansion of five community parks, building two 25,000-square-foot prototype community centers and renovating two others. New hike-and-bike trails are recommended, as is lighting for some athletic fields and buying more parkland.

It will include $6.6 million to build a clubhouse at Rockwood Park, the renovated golf course the city plans to reopen this summer.

Also recommended is $10.5 million to replace the Wedgewood Library, $7.8 million for a new fire station in far north Fort Worth and $6.1 million to replace an obsolete fire station in far south Fort Worth.

The bond program would include $13.5 million for the construction of a 30,000-square-foot animal care and control center in north Fort Worth approved by voters in 2014 and $17.7 million to build a police headquarters on the south side to centralize police operations in that part of the city.

Voters will consider the bond program under six propositions, broken down by streets and transportation; parks, recreation and community centers; library system improvements; fire safety improvements and animal care and control facility improvements.

Beginning in 2015, the city began issuing debt from the the 2014 bond program. So far, $143 million has been spent on projects. The city doesn’t anticipate issuing any debt this year on the 2014 bond, rather it will issue the remaining $149 million in 2018 and 2019.

Cooke said the proposed 2018 bond program can be handled under the current 83.5 cents per $100 assessed valuation property tax rate. Of that, 17.35 cents is put toward the city’s debt service.

The projects, though, will add to the city’s budget beginning in fiscal 2020. By fiscal 2023, $7.2 million annually will be added to the operating budget to run the facilities.