City on spending spree

In News by Reporter News

Manvel City Council authorized the appropriation of funds for various departmental expenditures approximating $750,000 at its recent meeting. A significant piece of the extensive list of things to be acquired consists of $275,000 for the purchase of just over 7 acres of land on Corporate Drive. The subject property sets just west and across the road from the city’s current wastewater treatment plant. The expected use of the property will be to accommodate expansion of the current plant or possibly the construction of a new stand-alone plant to provide additional capacity to meet the need for future development. The acquisition of the land seems prudent as the city’s wastewater infrastructure is nearing capacity and is currently unable to accommodate a significant demand from new development. The lack of capacity led to a recent agreement between the city and the Lakeland development that resulted in the MUD servicing the project having to construct its own plant to meet their future needs.

Public Works will enjoy the greatest part of the acquisitions. It will receive a new F-350 truck valued at $45,000 that will replace a 2004 F-250. An additional $17,500 will be spent to obtain a new trailer that is able to accommodate the asphalt lay-down machine that the city acquired last year. Kyle Jung, Manvel’s city manager, explained to council that the current trailer used to transport the machine has incompatible ramp angles that require awkward loading and unloading of the machine. Public Works will see a permanent stand-by generator installed at its facility at a cost of $25,000 and will realize new radios at a cost of $15,000. Public Works employees will enjoy a new shower, bathroom, and locker facility that will be constructed at their current headquarters on Uzzell Road at a cost of $8,000. Public Works will also see $230,000 spent on its various lift stations, on water taps and meters, and on an “auto dialer” at its waste water treatment plant.

The police department will realize the next greatest part of the acquisitions. Chief of Police Keith Traylor will see his department get a new vehicle valued at $25,000; four new radios will be acquired at a cost of $12,000; four computers are to be purchased at $6,000; and a new laser radar unit will be acquired at $3,000. The chief defended the laser radar as needed to properly identify speeding vehicles on a heavily travelled multi-lane road such as SH 6. The chief explained that traditional radar is not able to isolate the speeding vehicle when it is part of a group of vehicles. The laser radar allows the officer to positively identify which vehicle is in violation in such situations. Traylor also defended the use of the laser radar as being for public safety and not as a toll to add to city coffers.

Remaining items include varied computer equipment, furnishings, and supplies for various departments. A sound system to be used at city council meetings that also will be portable for use at other venues will be bought at a cost of $10,000. Visitors at city council meetings regularly complain of an inability to hear the dialog among members and presenters. It is expected the sound system will resolve that issue.

The city manager justified the significant non-budgeted expenditures as being well within the city’s ability to afford explaining that the city currently enjoys a fund balance equal to 81% of expenditures. A fund balance of 25% is recommended for a city to maintain. The fund balance serves essentially as a reserve in case of emergency or for some reason city revenue is reduced. The recommended 25% means that the city would be able to fund its on-going operations for a period three months, or 1/4 of the year. Both the city manager and the city’s controller told council the reduction in fund balance resulting from the expenditures would have no adverse impact on the city’s bond rating.

In other council news, Member Larry Akery requested the city begin the process of annexation of approximately 275 acres that resides in the northwest part of the city’s Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). The land is bordered by CR 59 on the north, CR 48 on the west, the American Canal on the south, and the Southfork subdivision on the east. Akery feels the area is primed for development and if the city wants to have some control of what is developed there it must be in the city’s limits. Public hearings on the proposed annexation will be conducted as part of the City Council meeting scheduled for July 27 and a second will be held at the council meeting scheduled for August 10. The public hearings provide an opportunity for affected property owners and any other interested parties to voice their support or opposition to the proposal.

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