Council to select projects for upcoming budget

Published 9:52 am Saturday, July 30, 2016

By Dawn Burleigh


Orange City Council is considering long and short-term projects for the upcoming fiscal year budget. While seven projects are under consideration, the council is expected to approve one to three at a future meeting.

“Nothing is cast in stone at this point,” City Manager Dr. Shawn Oubre said during the budget workshop on Wednesday. “The city can’t do all the projects in a three to five year span. The council needs to pick the projects the citizens and the council want.”

The council and city staff discussed 12 projects for public works, quality of life, marketing/rebranding and streets. Some of the projects, if approved by the council, will need to funded through General Obligation Bonds, requiring voter approval, or Certificates of Obligation.

A general obligation bond (GO) is a municipal bond backed by the credit and taxing power of the issuing jurisdiction rather than the revenue from a given project. General obligation bonds are issued with the belief that a municipality will be able to repay its debt obligation through taxation or revenue from projects.

With certificates of obligation, voters have the option to petition for an election on whether the certificates should be issued, according to Texas Municipal League.

Street lights along 16th Street to improve visibility and aesthetics is one option. The cost of the project is estimated at $599,300 for approximately 24 streetlights.

“These are for lights such as they have in Bridge City,” Director of Public Works and Engineering Department James B. “Jim” Wolf said. “There are several obstacles underground to overcome and we would have to get TxDoT approval. It would be an engineering challenge.”

Councilman Bill Mello said the base of the lights appeared to right in the middle of the sidewalk along 16th Street.

Wooden poles would need to remain, according to Oubre, due to electrical, cable and phone lines.

“The area would look congested with the old poles and the new ones,” Councilman Annette Pernell said.

Two locations for sidewalks were discussed. Sunset Drive between 16th Street to and including 28th Street as well as Park Avenue from 28th Street to 16th Street are under consideration.

Cost for sidewalks on Sunset Drive is approximately $581,691 while sidewalks on Park Ave. are estimated at $191,750. Each would allow pedestrian accessibility and enough right of way for the sidewalk without acquiring easements.

Director of Economic Development and Assistant City Manager Jay Trahan said rerouting underground utilities was a possibility with either project.

The council is also to consider a possible revenue-generating project to allow businesses and industries to advertise with a logo on the city’s water towers.

If decided upon, policies such as cost and length of time for the space will need to be considered.

In continuation of improving the 11 city parks, the construction of a Skate Park at Sunset Park located on 16th Street is another project. The cost is estimated at $131,795 without a fence. Councilmembers expressed a need for a fence. At least only the park facing 16th Street for safety, so the cost may increase. Funding for the skate park will come from Community Development Black Grant (CDBG) funds.

Councilman Larry Spears Jr., using his cell phone, said, “Just doing a quick search, I found some beautiful ones [fences] that would work. I am not sure of the cost.”

Four councilmen who asked for fencing were Essie Bellfield, Patrick Pullen, Annette Pernell, and Larry Spears Jr.

The city is also considering a landscaping and beautification project to plant an estimated 180 crepe myrtles of assorted colors at up to 15 locations to be determined at a later date, if the project is approved. The cost for the project is $10,000, which includes the trees and labor. Cost for the project would come from General Fund operating budget, Economic Development Corporation and/or the Hotel Occupancy Tax Fund.

To improve the quality of life for residents, the council is also considering replacing the covered shelter located at Lions Den Park. For consideration, two options were provided. Option one is estimated at $103,730 while option two is approximately $304,175. Both include the cost of some electrical work and the demolition of the current shelter.

Councilman Wayne Guidry suggested adding a fence around the area to deter vandalism.

Funding for the project would come from General Fund operating budget, GO bonds, or Certificates of Obligation.

Another pavilion project under consideration is a covered pavilion at the City of Orange Boat Ramp for use by the public, fishing tournament officials and boat race officials.

Two options were provided for the project, which would allow two fronts allowing for events located on the parking lot side of the structure or for ones located in the field near the boat ramp. Option one is estimated at $209,300 and option two is approximately $589, 375. Both include comfort stations and would help increase revenue brought into the city with the 5,000 square foot area.

Funding for the project would be provided through General Fund operating budget, GO bonds, Certificates of Obligation or tax notes.

Tax notes (also called an “anticipation notes”) are a debt instrument that a city may sell to finance the construction of public works, the purchase of supplies, land, and rights of way for public works, to pay for professional services, to pay operating expenses, or to payoff cash flow deficits. Tax notes used to pay for public works or professional services must mature before the seventh anniversary after the notes are approved by the attorney general. Tax notes used to pay operating expenses or to fund a city’s cumulative cash flow deficit must mature before the first anniversary after the notes are approved by the attorney general, according to Texas Municipal League.

A splash pad at a yet to be determined location is also under consideration. The 6,000 square foot project is estimated at $995,000. For comparison purposes for size, the splash pad opened earlier this year at Navy Park is 2,400 square feet.

Councilman Pernell questioned if the project would be free or would a fee be required to access the park.

Funding for the project would be through GO bonds or Certificates of Obligation.

It is one question the council will need to further discuss while considering the project.

An athletic complex is also on the table for discussion. The project could cost $7,942, 00 plus either $4,418,000 for the Riverside location or $837,000 for a new location. The difference in cost is due to the clearing of land and raising the elevation at the Riverside location.

The hotel occupancy taxes expected to generate for the complex is estimated at $99,750 a year.

The complex would host nine youth football fields, one adult football field, one adult soccer field, 12 youth soccer fields, a splash pad, four baseball fields, and four softball fields. The parking area would hold approximately 1000 vehicles.

One proposed site is on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

“It would help development in that location,” James B. “Jim” Wolf said. “It would also have artificial turf.”

The project would be constructed in phases.

“The project is based on a revenue stream because of the debt,” Shawn Oubre said. “It will add employees to the payroll for schedulers and ground maintenance.”

A marketing/branding project under consideration is installing flags along 16th Street.

Depending on the size of the flags and the poles used for displaying the flags, the project ranges from $1,875 – $10,000.

Council considered an option of seasonal flags, while the project initially was priced for displaying American flags. The city would need to have TxDOT approval to place the flags in the right-of-way. Funding for the project would come from the General Fund Operating Budget.

“I know it means something to our family when we see the angels go up,” Guidry said.

The council will also consider a Market Research project, which would include citizen input for rebranding of the city, and logos. The cost of the project is $50,000.

Funding options are the General Operating Funds, the Hotel Occupancy Tax, and/or the Economic Development Corporation.

A $2,000,000 street project is also on the list of options.

“We cannot neglect our roads,” Oubre said. “This project is for the improvements of the roads.”

Funding for the project would be through GO bonds or Certificates of Obligation.

The projects will need to be selected by the council before the final budget.