By ANDY SEVILLA
Frustration was tangible on the dais as council members shot down a proposed bond election on second reading that would have improved Bunton Creek Road and laid the groundwork for future street improvement projects.
Council members were tasked with discussing and acting on a previously unanimously approved ordinance that called for a $6.4 million bond election to improve Bunton Creek Road, plus engineering costs for future road improvements.
The bonds would be allocated at $4.4 million for Bunton Creek Road improvements and $2 million for engineering costs.
Council Member Ray Bryant, who wasn’t present for the initial vote, said last week that he supported improving Bunton Creek Road, and was in favor of the added $2 million for engineering of future street projects. Bryant added that he found difficulty going along with an ordinance whose proposition and ballot language failed to spell out the specific roads that would undergo the engineering.
Bryant’s qualm with the proposition and ballot verbiage reverberated amongst Mayor Pro Tem Diane Hervol and Council Members Bradley Pickett and Samantha Bellows-LeMense, effectively eliminating the possibility of a bond election in November. Pickett was absent for the first reading of the ordinance.
Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson assured the dissenters that the $2 million for engineering costs would go toward the original roads proposed for improvement by the city’s visioning process that included Lehman, Burleson, Bunton Creek, Marketplace and Goforth.
Johnson moved for approval of the ordinance calling for the $6.4 million bond election, with the caveat that city staff present council members at their next meeting with a resolution outlining the specific roads the $2 million would address. Council had to pass the ordinance as written, without amendments, because state law requires the election be called by Aug. 20, and they would not have had time to publish notice in the newspaper of a third reading of the ordinance.
Still not convinced by Johnson’s assurances, a majority of council wanted explicit language at the ballot box. Hervol, Bryant, Bellows-LeMense and Pickett voted against calling a bond election in November, while Council Members Becky Selbera and David Wilson voted in favor of the mayor’s motion.
“I feel that it is a disservice to the citizens to not fully inform them of what they are voting on,” Pickett said.
Johnson, however, felt voters would have received adequate awareness of which roads would receive engineering for future improvements through a council resolution, publication in the newspaper, the city’s website and the city’s newsletter, amongst other sources.
“I’m really disappointed,” Johnson said about council shooting down the bond election. “I’ve never seen council unwilling to move forward on projects, large or small, because of technicalities. I feel that the side of the council that wanted to (move forward with the bond election in November) made every (option available) for (the other council members) to be able to have their fears calmed about the vagueness in some of the wording on the ballot.”
Pickett said that for him, transparency was important. He said voters need to see in writing what specific roads would benefit from the engineering money, and he went on to agree with Bryant’s point that an estimated tax rate should also be included in the ballot language.
“There was a large contingent that had a problem with how the (Austin Community College) vote went, because of the language,” Pickett said. “While I was in favor of (ACC), I also understood their point of wanting to know what tax rate was in the voting booth, not in the newspaper and not hearsay or on a website somewhere; but in the voting booth, be able to see how that’s going to affect their bottom line… I think we’re doing a service (to voters) by doing the right thing, by making sure the citizens know all of what their money is being spent for.”
Johnson, however, felt that council’s decision against a bond election was a disservice to Kyle residents.
“I think one of the largest issues, if not the largest issue, that we’ve had to confront as a city is our infrastructure needs,” Johnson said. “We have been growing too fast, population wise, to keep up with our road infrastructure. The result is what every driver, every commuter in Kyle can see. We have horrible roads – Burleson, Bunton, Goforth, Lehman – and horrible connectivity. We don’t have a lot of the best connections to get to (Interstate) 35 or to get to (Highway) 21 or to get to the west side. And for this council not to be willing to move forward with any sort of plan to address this, based on what they felt was an issue with vague verbiage, I think it’s kind of ridiculous.”
City Manager Lanny Lambert said that for now, the maintenance fund in the city’s public works department would be used to address potholes around the city, specifically patching those on Bunton Creek Road, because that’s the “worst street of all.”
Future road projects in Kyle are not dead yet. Council members voiced interest in working toward a roads bond election for May.
Pickett, who has advocated for a bond election in May since the beginning discussion, said council does want to get road projects underway, but it has to be done the right way. He said a bond election in May would allow for several months of planning and discussion, and could possibly be called for two road improvement projects.
Pickett said Wilson brought up a good point in that improving Bunton Creek Road alone would do nothing for traffic flow; it would only make a dangerous road safe. And although that’s important, he said, moving forward with Bunton Creek Road improvements in May and adding Goforth Road to the improvements all the way to Lehman High School would be a solution to a problem.
“So we could do two things in May, instead of just the one, as well as make sure we’re more specific in our language and give the voters all the details that they could possibly want,” Pickett said.
Johnson said that the bond election as proposed already was a compromise, because it didn’t improve all the five roads that affect a majority of Kyle, and although it wasn’t the “best plan” she went along with it because “one road is better than zero roads.”
“I’m willing to move forward on road projects in any way possible,” Johnson said about a potential May bond election. “… I will continue to push for us to expand and repave our roads for the safety of Kyle residents, and for their transportation needs and their mobility needs. And I’ll do it in any way that I can.”
- Kyle council takes up bond package 08/15/2012
- Kyle bond package will focus on Bunton Creek Road improvements 08/8/2012
- Kyle road bonds? Maybe 12/12/2012