Cleburne resident’s water bills may soon increase by about $1 per month to fund a city vegetative management fee. Assistant City Manager David Esquivel discussed the proposal during the workshop session of Tuesday’s Cleburne City Council meeting.
The fee would cover citywide tree trimming, street sweeping and right-of-way and median mowing and maintenance.
“Our ongoing tree issue will never go away and there’s not an easy way to fix it,” City Manager Rick Holden said.
Errant tree limbs in roadways have long wreaked havoc with fire trucks, school buses and other large vehicles. Property owners remain responsible for trimming low-hanging limbs encroaching into public right of ways. Enforcement is costly and time consuming considering the city’s limited staff, not to mention the potential hazards of homeowners setting ladders in the middle of the road to access problem limbs.
Officials, about a year ago, hired a tree trimming service, overseen by an arborist, to trim throughout the city. The problem, Holden and Esquivel recently said, is that trees grow back and will continue to do so.
The proposal calls for hiring a company to trim problem trees throughout the year, as needed, at an estimated cost of $32,000 annually. Other projects include street sweeping about six times a year at an estimated cost of $70,000 and maintaining medians and right-of-way areas at an estimated cost of $21,000. Esquivel, working in a contingency fee, estimated the total yearly cost of the projects at $135,300.
Esquivel proposed two options to fund the project. Option one, which council members seemed to favor, calls for $1 per month fee on all active city utility accounts, residential and business. Option two calls for a 50 cent per month fee on all accounts, with an additional 5 cent per linear foot charge to property owners with undeveloped frontage road property. Council members and city officials said the second option would likely prove difficult to institute and keep track of.
A vote on the proposal may come as soon as the next council meeting on Feb. 12.
Mayor Scott Cain called the proposal a matter of community pride, tying it into city studies and efforts under way to beautify downtown and prepare Cleburne for the growth expected in the wake of next year’s opening of Texas 121, a toll road linking Fort Worth and Cleburne.
“We have to take care of what we have if we want to attract people and rooftops,” Cain said. “And this could be a first step.”
Lake Pat dam
A recently discovered leak in a 30-inch intake line running through a concrete sleeve through the Lake Pat Cleburne dam requires immediate repair, Esquivel told council members, who subsequently approved the repairs.
The pipeline dates to 1963, when the lake opened, Esquivel estimated. The projects involve temporarily shutting down operations at Lake Pat and pulling water from Lake Aquilla. The project calls for cleaning, inspecting and then installing a heavy duty sleeve into the pipeline.
“It’s our assumption that the damage is in the pipe and the concrete sleeve is not compromised,” Esquivel said.
The project’s estimated cost, about $459,000, will come from cash reserves.
City leaders called upon residents to shop in Cleburne when possible.
Reports from the first two months of the city’s fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, show sales tax revenues lagging about $220,000 below budget projections, Finance Director Kim Galvin said, adding that the forecast looks bleak moving forward.
Officials acknowledged Cleburne’s lack of shopping options, but nonetheless urged residents to purchase local when possible.
“There are still a lot of things we buy elsewhere that can still be bought here,” Galvin said. “Yes, the H-E-B in Burleson is really nice, but you’ve got to realize that when you go there you’re taking your sales tax dollars to Burleson. That also ties into property taxes. The absence of sales tax revenue means we have to make those dollars up somewhere.”
The council, by a 4-1 vote, approved a resolution authorizing Holden to negotiate with Johnson County officials concerning a possible city-county partnership about Market Square.
Renovation of the county-owned square in downtown Cleburne is expected to be complete soon. City and county officials hope the renovations lead to increased use of the square by residents and tourists and draws more events to town. City leaders call the square an integral part in their hopes to revitalize the downtown area. The county paid for the majority of renovations, and the city paid for water connections and repair of the sidewalks, curbs and gutters surrounding the square. County Commissioner Rick Bailey proposed allowing Cleburne to assume maintenance and operation of the square once renovations complete.
The city, Bailey said, is better situated to maintain the area, issue permits for events and monitor usage of the square. At a recent commissioners court meeting, County Judge Roger Harmon said he would prefer the square remain under county control as it always had. Bailey’s fellow commissioners, however, said they are open to considering the possible city-county partnership.
Cain voiced support for the idea on Tuesday.
“Right now, someone has to deal with two levels of government red tape if they want to host an event,” Cain said. “I say look at which entity is better suited to deal with the maintenance, and I think any costs we incur are not going to be that much, especially for what we will get in the end for our downtown area.”
Warren disagreed and voted against the resolution.
“I don’t know, especially now, that we should be putting Cleburne tax dollars into a county property when we have a lot of things we need to do in the city,” Warren said. “Maybe if they give us half that road and bridge fund Cleburne residents pay but don’t see a dime of, we could deal with it. But I feel any $1 we spend there is a $1 we could have spent in the city fixing a pothole or some other project that needs to be done, especially in my district.”
Tuesday’s vote simply authorizes Holden to discuss the matter with the county, neither entity having put forth a concrete proposal as of yet.
The council approved Delek Renewables’ request for a three-year, 40 percent property tax abatement.
The company, which deals in diesel fuel production, plans to expand and modernize the existing plant, formerly occupied by Beacon Energy, to the tune of about $3.5 million, and add 12-20 new employees.
Council members also voted to hire Childress Engineers to demolish an existing 1 million gallon water tank on Mulberry Street and replacing it with a new tank for a cost not to exceed $262,000.