Mayor’s forum updates community on City projects

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Throughout Mayor Rick Hall’s campaign for the post last spring, he promoted the idea of regular town hall meetings to help the city better connect and reach out to citizens.

Tuesday, he brought that plan to life in his first community update. The event was designed to provide an update on City projects and allow for a dialogue between citizens, the Mayor and city staff.

About 20 people attended, and Hall gave a 20-minute presentation covering 10 current projects and an explanation of the pending work planned with Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO).

Throughout the presentation, Hall implored those in attendance to attend meetings and speak up with concerns.

“Every time we have council, which is the second and fourth Monday of the month, we have time for public comments,” he said. “Those are times you guys can come and speak about anything that is on the agenda or not. This is how we hear what you guys want or don’t want. That’s another reason why I am doing these meetings to try and get input from our citizens.”

The presentation slide show is set to be updated regularly and soon to be available for residents to access on the city website.

“In between these meetings, as we update it, you will be able to go and see about any of these updates we have going on,” Hall said.

Among the projects discussed, Hall gave the most attention to downtown traffic issues, talking specifically about the Stubblefield extension, the one-way streets and the proposed roundabout.

“I know a lot of the concerns are the one-way streets that is{sic} happening and this would help eliminate some of the traffic we have with the one-way streets,” Hall said of the Stubblefield project that is in the design phase. “It will give two ways to go around that intersection instead of having to go through that intersection.”

He added that the trouble with the one-way streets downtown was that the project was finished so much sooner than Stubblefield.

“The one-way streets got done a lot faster than what we expected and this is getting done a lot slower, so the timing of that is just off and we apologize for that,” Hall said. “We are working to get this up and running as quickly as possible so we can eliminate that traffic.”

The roundabout, which is still in design phase as well, is something Hall said he hopes the community will look at once the design is complete and offer more feedback.

“This is something here where there is a lot of controversy,” he said of the roundabout proposal. “I’ve heard people say we don’t need a roundabout, so again, we have to get this designed, laid out and then really get the input from the city, from the folks here in town, about what we need to do. This is something that once it is all designed we will have it at a council meeting and you are more than welcome to come.”

At the conclusion of the presentation, Hall fielded about a half-dozen questions, most of which were focused on the yet to be resolved issue of complaints from downstream residents about the outflow from the water treatment plant.

The issue is still being looked at by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the City has sent a response letter to the TCEQ regarding its report findings from last spring. The City has also hired an attorney, and Hall was hesitant to go into much detail on the issue in the forum.

He did promise the frustrated residents that the City Council would hold a public meeting focused solely on that issue where engineers from Steger Bizzell Engineering and the City’s attorney would be present to discuss the issue. He also said he hoped to bring in a representative from TCEQ.

“This has been going on for several months now,” Hall said. “Since then we have hired a environmental attorney that is working through all this with us. They have been helping us get with TCEQ to get questions we have answered. We are also working with our city engineers to make sure that what is happening is not coming from us. I really can’t say a lot because we have hired an attorney, but I have already spoke to the council and what we are going to do is set up a special meeting that is going to be nothing but this subject.”

The next update Hall has planned is schedule for Feb. 12, 2019, and he hopes to continue the effort quarterly.

“This allows us to have that two-way conversation,” Hall said. “I’ve seen some of y’all in council meetings that come up and I’ve had to ask you to stop talking after three minutes. This is more of an open feel, and I’m hoping as we go on that every seat is full and we can have this communication back and forth with the citizens, with the staff and with the council.”

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