by ANDY SEVILLA
A raucous audience was asked to leave the council chambers Tuesday night after loud discontent echoed in the room because of the city council’s decision to include only Bunton Creek Rd. improvements in a general bond election in November.
The city council effectively did away with four of the five street improvement projects that were to be put before Kyle voters in a November ballot. The decision came about after a council majority failed to gain approval to lump all five street projects into one package calling for the sale of $34.7 million in general obligation bonds.
Council Member Ray Bryant motioned to move forward with a November bond election calling for improvements only to Bunton Creek Rd., after a motion by Mayor Lucy Johnson which called for the Lehman, Burleson, Bunton, Marketplace, and Goforth street improvement projects to be bundled into a one package deal failed.
The original ordinance before council members on Tuesday called for a bond election issuing $34.7 million in general obligation bonds for five roads. Voters then would have had the opportunity to vote in favor of or against each road project based on its own merit.
The estimated cost of all five street improvement projects combined totaled $34.7 million, while improvements to Bunton Creek Rd. are estimated at $4.4 million.
“I’m very careful with how I spend my personal money,” Bryant said. “And I also have to be careful with how I spend the citizens’ money as well. I just have a problem, I can’t support having (all the roads) rolled into one (bond election package).”
Council member Samantha Bellows-LeMense and Mayor Pro Tem Diane Hervol also voiced concern with the “burden” property tax increases needed to pay for the street improvement projects would put on Kyle homeowners.
Johnson, however, argued that all five projects should be put before the voters as a one-package deal.
“I feel like it cannot be a good solution just to put forward one road,” Johnson said. “It cannot be a good plan for us to ignore our city street structure, our infrastructure as a whole and move forward with one road. At a certain point you have to trust the voters to tell us whether or not they are okay with the (tax increase) it would take to do all these roads.”
Council Member David Wilson also felt a one-package deal behooved the city as a whole.
“The reason you do a package like this is if one or two (roads) get cherry-picked, you don’t have a transportation system; it will have broken,” Wilson said. “If government doesn’t do roads and safety, I don’t care at what level, they have failed.”
Wilson said that although he dislikes tax increases, “we have to stand up and pay for things we need,” which includes putting together a package that will supply transportation needs into the future, and putting that package in front of the voters.
Wilson and Council Member Becky Selbera voted in favor of Johnson’s motion to present voters in November with a one-package bond election calling for street improvements on all five roads, but it failed to gain a majority after Bryant, LeMense, and Hervol dissented. Council Member Bradley Pickett was absent due to an illness.
LeMense said her concern with lumping all roads into a one-package deal was that “too much” was being put on the backs of citizens and she feared they would ask, “Oh my God, what did you do?”
She went on to say that addressing one road at a time made it a “manageable bite” for Kyle residents, and it afforded them time to get accustomed to the tax increases.
“The idea that we’re being financially responsible by waiting longer to build these roads, assumes that the roads will stay in the same condition that they’re in now for the next five or 10 years, which is not true,” Johnson said. “These roads are getting worse … and they will continue to get worse.”
Ultimately Johnson joined Bryant, Hervol, and LeMense, and voted in favor of moving forward with improvements to Bunton Creek Rd.
Johnson said she had to “go with what you can get,” because of how bad the road needs improvements.
“Even if it’s not a good way to go,” she added.
After council decided to move forward with only one street improvement project, the council chambers filled with loud dissatisfaction which prompted Johnson to ask the unhappy audience to take their conversations outside so council members could continue with city business.
Council members will take up the matter on second reading tonight.