Bond election plans progress

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City OKs committee to help decide street improvement projects

Plans for a Nov. 6 bond election to pay for Denton street improvements took another step forward Tuesday as the City Council officially created a committee to help decide projects.

The council unanimously approved a timeline and charge for the 21-member advisory committee and finished appointing members after making initial selections last month. The committee is expected to meet through June to help decide street projects to include in the planned $20 million bond package.

The council appointed Marty Rivers, a banker, and Tim Crouch, who runs a marketing and public relations firm, as co-chairmen.

The committee will also help decide whether the election should include funding for public art. The city had planned a streets-only bond program before staffers unearthed a 2006 policy that requires bond elections to set aside 2 percent to 4 percent of total funding for the arts.

If the city applies the policy this year, public art projects would be in line to receive $400,000 to $800,000.

The policy has yet to apply because Denton hasn’t held a bond election since 2005. Some council members have suggested delaying the requirement until 2015, when the city plans to call another bond election to fund a wide range of projects.

The planned election this year is part of a broad strategy to increase funding for streets over time, said Bryan Langley, the city’s chief financial officer.

The budget passed in September increased street maintenance spending to $3.5 million, up from $2.8 million last year. The council also approved the creation of a separate fund with two dedicated income streams designed to nearly double annual street maintenance spending to $5.8 million in five years.

However, a 2011 consultant’s report said Denton’s street quality rating would keep falling until the city spends at least $10 million on maintenance each year. A streets-only bond package would supplement annual budget allocations by providing $4 million annually to reconstruct existing streets over five years.

Earlier Tuesday, the council heard details of a proposed new food establishment ordinance that, among other things, would allow and regulate mobile food trucks.

Council members asked for multiple revisions to the proposal during a nonvoting work session, and it was unclear when a vote might occur.

Among other restrictions, food trucks would have to be in zoning districts that allow restaurants and couldn’t locate closer than 300 feet from an existing restaurant or 1,500 feet from a public school during school hours.

City staff members said the regulations would ensure that food served at mobile establishments was safe, and that food trucks and traditional restaurants compete on level ground. But council members questioned whether some proposed rules, including the setbacks and mandatory criminal background checks, were fair to food truck owners.

As written, the proposal would treat food trucks as more dangerous than natural gas wells, which can be 1,000 feet from schools, council member Dalton Gregory said.

Council member Chris Watts said he saw no need for the zoning limitation, which could prevent food trucks in residential areas. The proposal already requires food truck owners to get permission from a property owner before setting up, which should be enough to control their location, he said.

“The whole point of mobile food units is to take the food to the people instead of people coming to the food,” Watts said.

The meeting did not settle the fate of most of the proposed regulations, but staff members said the 300-foot buffer between trucks and traditional restaurants would probably be removed for legal reasons.

El Paso withdrew the same provision from its ordinance after it was challenged in court, City Attorney Anita Burgess said.

LOWELL BROWN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is lmbrown@dentonrc.com .

IN OTHER ACTION

Also Tuesday, the Denton City Council:

•  Approved the sale of up to $49.325 million in certificates of obligation — bonds that don’t require voter approval — for various general government and utility projects. The more than $4.8 million in general government projects includes roughly $2 million for vehicle replacements, $1.6 million for a facilities maintenance program, $445,000 for an initial phase of a new animal care and adoption center, and $410,000 for traffic signals, according to documents prepared for the council. The bond sale will also provide $2.5 million for Denton Municipal Electric to continue installing automated meter reading infrastructure, or “smart meters,” throughout Denton. General Manager Phil Williams said about 10,000 of the utility’s 45,000 customers have smart meters, and the bond sale would fund another 10,000 to 15,000 meters over the next 18 months.

•  Approved the sale of up to $42 million in general obligation refunding and improvement bonds. The action includes refunding $35.26 million of existing debt and selling about $4 million in bonds remaining from a 2005 election, according to documents prepared for the council. The sale will provide about $2.8 million for streets, $499,400 for the Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center and $694,700 for “wayfinding” signs and entrance markers.

•  Reappointed Pete Kamp, Bob Moses and Marty Rivers to the downtown tax increment finance district board.

— Lowell Brown

 


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