San Marcos seeks suggestions on how to spend $8.7 million in new federal disaster recovery funds

Heavy flooding left areas of Central Texas, including Hays County, under water twice in 2015. An evacuee watches rising water near the San Marcos Activity Center, where residents in flood-prone areas of the city were sent for safety during flooding Oct. 30 of that year. According to the city of San Marcos, 92 properties in the city were destroyed during floods in May. No properties were destroyed by the October 2015 flood, according to the city.

Heavy flooding left areas of Central Texas, including Hays County, under water twice in 2015. An evacuee watches rising water near the San Marcos Activity Center, where residents in flood-prone areas of the city were sent for safety during flooding Oct. 30 of that year. According to the city of San Marcos, 92 properties in the city were destroyed during floods in May. No properties were destroyed by the October 2015 flood, according to the city.

Three people showed up Thursday night to hear San Marcos staff members present options for how to spend $8.7 million in new federal funding on recovery efforts from the 2015 floods.

The city of San Marcos is required to amend its action plan now that it has more grant funds to spend.

The disaster recovery funds, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, has promised San Marcos, have restrictions on what projects they can be spent on.

The city is asking the community how it should use the remaining HUD funds for other project needs.

One of the recommended projects that did not make the cut during the first allocation of funding was the Blanco Riverine project, which would cost $11.5 million and would accommodate a 25-year flood event. The city has a $1.9 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board to start the project and has designated $9.6 million in its 10-year Capital Improvements Program for it, but Director of Engineering and Capital Improvement Laurie Moyer said the city's preference would be to fund the project partly using HUD funds.

"We can't handle a 100-year storm going down the Blanco River," Moyer said, adding the city would have to build a pipe 28 feet in diameter through Blanco Gardens in order to handle the Blanco River's peak flow, which is 60 times more than the San Marcos River.

"This is an older area," she said. "The drainage is system is not up to our current standards."

Stacy Brown, who runs the Development Block Grant Action Plan, said the area requires bank improvements and additional channel capacity. She said the community stressed the importance of working with natural flow patterns. She said while this would not stop a 100-year flood—which has a 1 in 100 chance of happening in any given year—it could prevent up to a 45-year flood by reducing flooding from the Blanco River.

Other projects proposed to be funded through the $8.7 million HUD money include business assistance—in which commercial properties that suffered damage can rebuild—and additional housing rehabilitation and reconstruction projects.

Brown said the city has six years to complete whatever projects the City Council decides to fund with the $8.7 million.

The city can spend the funds on the following projects:

Housing

  • Single-family, owner-occupied, and single and multifamily rental unit housing rehabilitation, reconstruction or new construction and buyouts or property acquisition


Infrastructure

  • Improvements to roads, bridges, water treatment facilities, sewer lines, water lines and drainage

  • Dam failure improvements

  • public facility repairs, replacements or relocations

  • Erosion control


Economic development/revitalization

  • Providing loans and grants to business that suffered damage from the 2015 floods

  • Funding job training

  • Making improvements to commercial/retail districts

  • Financing other efforts that attract/retain workers in devastated communities


In early 2016, the city received $25 million from HUD and the City Council allocated the money to four drainage improvement projects after receiving a recommendation from consulting firm AECOM. The city has pledged to spend $7.5 million on housing; $12.5 million on infrastructure; $3.8 million on planning, which includes funding the feasibility study; and $1.3 million on administrative costs.

The $12.5 million infrastructure projects selected were:

Midtown/Aquarena Springs
This project would improve ditches from the intersection of I-35 and Aquarena Springs Drive south to Davis Lane. The intersection of Aquarena Springs and I-35 is especially prone to flooding, and because of the proximity of a nursing home, which must be evacuated during flood events, improving flood resiliency in the area is a high priority, city officials said. The project would benefit 82 structures, according to the consultant’s analysis. The improvements would accommodate a 25-year flood event (see sidebar).

Timeline: Design starts in 2017; construction would begin and end in 2018
Cost: $850,000 ($650,000 disaster recovery funds, $200,000 city funds)

Blanco Gardens
The project would construct a new storm sewer through the Blanco Gardens neighborhood near I-35 and River Road. The storm sewer would be built along part of Barbara and Conway drives. The project would benefit 420 structures, according to the consultant’s analysis. The storm sewer would be able to accommodate the 25-year flood. The Woods Apartments, located just south of Blanco Gardens, was shown to have increased flooding in some nearby homes, according to a 2016 engineering report. The apartment’s ownership has committed $500,000 to the city to assist in drainage projects in Blanco Gardens.

Timeline: Design starts 2018; construction would be set for 2019-21
Cost: $5 million ($4.45 million disaster recovery funds, $550,000 city funds)

Clarewood/Barbara Drive
The project would add a storm sewer on a portion of Bugg Lane and Clarewood Drive near the Blanco Gardens neighborhood and would include regrading Barbara Drive. The project would benefit 76 structures, according to AECOM’s analysis. The project would accommodate a 25-year flood event.

Timeline: Design would begin 2018; construction would would be set for 2019-21
Cost: $2.5 million ($2.3 million disaster recovery funds, $200,000 city funds)

Uhland Road
The project would regrade the existing roadway on County and Uhland roads, just north of Aquarena Springs Drive. The project would benefit 166 structures and would accommodate a 25-year flood event.

Timeline: Design would begin 2017; construction would be set for 2019-21,
Cost: $4.2 million ($1.1 million disaster recovery funds, $3.1 million city funds)

The city of San Marcos is seeking suggestions for how to spend $8.7 million in federal funding for drainage improvements.[/caption]

So far, the city has been accepting applications from homeowners and renters who would like to be considered for rehabilitation, new construction, reconstruction or buyouts of their homes. The city will accept another round of applications in November, and all of the housing projects are due to be completed within two years.

Brown said the city has received 52 applicants thus far, two of which have been from rental properties.

"Nobody's really jumping at it," she said, adding she expected to have 200 applications.

She said she expects the number of eligible applications to be cut in half thanks to the federal government's stringent eligibility requirements. The city will review applications through December.

Albert Sierra, who works for the San Marcos Housing Authority, said he was concerned about those residents who have already spent their own money reconstructing their homes who might not be eligible to receive some of the federal funding.

"If there were some needs met, I think they were partial," he said.

Brown said residents who fixed their homes could still qualify for the city's rehabilitative housing program.

The city will hold a public hearing to collect suggestions for how to spend the new money at a City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 17. It is also collecting feedback via mail and email. Citizens can send comments to CDBG@sanmarcostx.gov or 630 E. Hopkins St., San Marcos, through Oct. 17. More information can be found at www.smtxfloodrecovery.com.




Additional reporting by Brett Thorne.
By Marie Albiges
Marie Albiges was the editor for the San Marcos, Buda and Kyle edition of Community Impact Newspaper. She covered San Marcos City Council, San Marcos CISD and Hays County Commissioners Court. Marie previously reported for the Central Austin edition. Marie moved to Austin from Williamsburg, Va. in 2016 and was born in France. She has since moved on from Community Impact in May 2018.


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