Voters say yes to Arlington’s $236 million bond package

Voters gave a big thumbs up Tuesday to the largest bond package in the city’s history, approving $236 million worth of proposed improvements in streets, parks, libraries and fire facilities over the coming years.

Arlington’s bond package included four propositions, all of which garnered at least 65 percent approval.

“Every four to five years we have to finance major improvements to the city, including roads and parks, things that people really depend upon,” Mayor Robert Cluck said. “Without regular infusions of cash, the city would not live up to the expectations of our citizens. This is what this is all about.”

Arlington did not raise its property tax rate because of the bond package. The debt will be repaid over 20 years with property tax revenue. The city’s last previous bond election was in 2008.

The package’s largest proposition included more than $160 million to rebuild roads, address broken and missing sidewalks, and make other improvements to alleviate congested roads. Of that, about $40 million is designated to redesign and rebuild residential streets that are too deteriorated to be repaired through techniques covered by the city’s street maintenance sales tax. An additional $5.5 million will go to rebuild crumbling and uneven sidewalks and to build new sidewalks and ramps along streets to improve accessibility for disabled people.

The proposition received 75 percent of the vote.

Voters also approved $60 million for 16 park projects, including a second off-leash dog park and new recreation centers with pools in east and southeast Arlington. More than half of the authorized park bond money will go toward renovating existing facilities, such as neighborhood parks, Ditto Golf Course and the Harold Patterson Sports Center.

Patrick Wilson, who cast his vote at Odeal Pearcy Elementary in southeast Arlington, said he supported for all four propositions.

“One of the things I noticed is that the infrastructure is more maintained than where I came from,” said Wilson, who moved to Arlington three years ago from Baton Rouge, La. “It’s because of propositions like this.”

In southeast Arlington, $25 million will eventually build a 60,000-square-foot recreation/aquatic center, most likely at Webb Community Park.

An additional $19.5 million will rebuild the Hugh Smith Recreation Center, which opened more than 50 years ago in east Arlington and has significant maintenance and space issues. The proposed 67,000-square-foot center will offer the same types of fitness, recreation and senior services available now, including an indoor pool, but it will also have space dedicated for library services. Voters separately approved nearly $5.7 million to go toward creating a new East Branch Library that will be housed inside the future facility.

The city also plans to add amenities, such as walking trails and a playground, to the undeveloped Julia Burgen Park near downtown, create a dog park in west Arlington and use $1 million to buy land in south Arlington for a new neighborhood park. The dog park, which is expected to feature three fenced-in areas, lighting, shaded seating areas and obstacles for the dogs to interact with, will eventually open at the former Willows Condominium site on Pioneer Parkway. The city bought and tore down the condos, which were left uninhabitable because of flooding in 2010, using storm water fees.

The park bond proposition received 67 percent of the vote.

Public safety improvements were also on the ballot. Voters approved nearly $10 million to build a modern downtown fire station and upgrade the city’s aging Fire Training Center to better prepare firefighters for hazardous material spills, gas well leaks and fires, and other emergencies.

The city will use $5.3 million to replace the 60-year-old Fire Station No. 1.

An additional $4.5 million will help expand the Fire Training Center and enhance its technology. The training center, at 5501 Ron McAndrews Drive in west Arlington, has maintenance problems, and its classrooms no longer meet the department’s needs for space and technology. The department will also repair the smoke and fire simulators at the training center’s five-story burn lab, where all 300 firefighters participate in regular drills, and replace worn-out training props at the nearby drill field. Fire officials say they also plan to add new training props, such as a simulated chlorine-filled tanker car and more realistic natural gas well site equipment, so firefighters can be better prepared to handle realistic public safety threats.

The public safety proposition received 77 percent of the vote.

East Arlington residents will one day have a larger branch library thanks to $5.7 million in approved bond funding.

The current 10,000-square-foot East Branch Library, which opened at 1624 New York Ave. in the 1970s, has become too small to provide the services residents demand.When the city rebuilds the Hugh Smith Recreation Center in the coming years, a significant portion of that building will be dedicated to the new East Arlington branch. It will be the city’s first combined recreation/library facility.

In addition, $395,000 will allow the city to create a new public entrance for the Woodland West Library.

The proposition received 66 percent of the vote.

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