The city of Missouri City will make headway this year on projects from its $85.85 million bond referendum that was approved by voters in November 2021.

The bond was split into three propositions allocating almost $51.62 million for street reconstruction and mobility initiatives, $11.22 million for facilities and almost $23.02 million for parks projects.

Since then, Missouri City City Council has approved issuing debt twice: last summer and again in December. This will allow the city to access about $24 million in bond funds after it receives the most recent issuance this spring.

Public Works Director Shashi Kumar said the city should receive the most recent round of funding in March, which will allow the city to pay for design and construction of various bond projects.

“[It] was always the expectation the projects and funding would be available roughly a year after because the intent when the proposition was passed was that there would be little or no impact on existing tax rates,” he said.

City Manager Angel Jones, who was hired in December, said in an email the status of the bond has not changed. She said she is assessing all operations, policies and procedures.

“When citizens see improvements throughout the community, excitement becomes tangible. I share the same excitement and anticipation for Missouri City and our citizens,” she said. “Being fiscally responsible and continuing to elevate the profile of Missouri City is paramount to me.”

Addressing aging infrastructure

Of the $24 million of debt Missouri City will receive from the bond, $15.9 million has been earmarked for mobility projects, Kumar said.

The city plans to create roundabouts or add traffic signals along Lake Olympia Parkway intersections, improve traffic signal cabinets citywide and begin reconstructing streets in five areas. Designs for Lake Olympia will wrap up in early summer, and the city will bid the project in fall or late 2023, Kumar said.

Other significant mobility projects planned include the roughly $7 million Lexington Boulevard reconstruction and the roughly $5.5 million Cartwright Road reconstruction, he said. Design is underway on both projects; construction is scheduled to begin in late 2023 or early 2024 for both as well.

A large chunk of the mobility portion of the bond is meant to rehabilitate older roads while also expanding roadway capacities to prepare for the future, Kumar said.

“The major emphasis on the bond projects in [2021] was street reconstruction projects; these are existing streets which are 30, 40, 50 years old and are at a point where you cannot put a Band-Aid,” he said.

With the cost of materials increasing, Kumar said the city is keeping an eye on costs of planned bond projects. He said prices peaked in 2022, and while the prices have not returned to prepandemic level, officials are seeing prices taper and come down.

While the city has not seen the cost escalation in 2021 bond projects so far, as many are only in the design phase, Kumar said the city is prepared to handle whatever may come with bond contingency funds.

“We may have to do some what we call pencil sharpening or creative project engineering changes ... to keep the cost down and control based on the funding that has been allocated,” he said.

Parks projects

Three major parks projects are slated to begin this year, said Jason Magnum, Missouri City Parks and Recreation director.Freedom Tree Park, located at 4219 Freedom Tree Drive, is set to be transformed into the park land that its name implies. The park will include gathering spaces, pergolas, a playground, a stage and space for public art.

The tree’s historical significance dates back to 1865, when African American slaves on the Palmer plantation were notified under the tree that they were free and given the option of continuing to work on the plantation, said Chris Godbold, chair of the Fort Bend County Historical Commission.

“It’s sort of the center of Juneteenth celebrations here in Fort Bend County,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s any other site quite like that in our county, where there was a large proclamation of that and the site of it is still there.”

So far, $700,000 has been allocated toward the project’s design with a total cap of roughly $3.5 million. Before any action can be taken on the park, however, Magnum said the city is working to resolve an easement issue.

The largest park project by far, however, is Sta-Mo Sports Complex, located off Moore Road. The project, which will overhaul the current park, will see the inclusion of facilities to accommodate a half-dozen sports fields as well as outdoor playgrounds.

“We have to totally raze everything, and we have to start with drainage, starting with the underground up,” Magnum said. “It’s a lot more than just the amenities that people see when they go to the park.”

So far, the city estimates the project to cost around $15 million, $10 million of which will come from the 2021 bond. The other $5 million will have to come from partnerships with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and grants from sport-specific organizations.Because of the size and scope of the Sta-Mo Sports Complex, design for the project is not expected to be completed for 12 months, Magnum said.

Conversely, $800,000 has been set aside for Ridgeview Park for general park amenities, to include pavilions, walking paths and infrastructure replacements.

In the future, some of the bond’s funding may go toward developing some of the city’s undeveloped park land, which Magnum said is greater than the amount of developed parks.