Friendswood bond authorization brings key improvements to city

More than a year after voters approved $24 million in bond projects for the city, Friendswood residents are beginning to see changes throughout their community.



About $9.6 million worth of community projects are in the works for Friendswood residents, including key recreational and mobility improvements. The projects are the result of recommendations from a citizen advisory group and the approval of a general obligation bond in November 2013 for the city of Friendswood.



"The bond program is an avenue to improve various components of infrastructure for the city over the span provided in each of the proposals for the library, fire stations, parks and streets," said Morad Kabiri, Friendswood assistant city manager. "The city in itself is a service provider to our citizens, and these are assets the community utilizes on a routine basis."



Work has begun on the first phase of approved projects with most of the projects still in the design phase. As soon as all have been completed, the city will move to the second and third rounds of projects from the bond authorizations. The second and third phases will feature several improvements, including the expansion of Fire Station No. 4, construction of a new fire station and reconstruction of Blackhawk Boulevard and Woodlawn Drive.



Friendswood Communications Specialist Jeff Newpher said he could not confirm an exact timeline for the projects because of their fluid nature. Newpher said weather can affect construction dates and the costs of materials can fluctuate, which can influence when the city makes a purchase.



"We have flexible expectations and timelines for all of the projects," City Manager Roger Roecker said. "What is most important is not completion, but doing each phase of each project correctly, using the funding and human resources in the most prudent way and providing the residents of Friendswood the best value and quality available."



Because the citizen advisory committee heavily researched projects before presenting them to the Friendswood City Council for approval, Roecker said, each project plays an important role in the lives of Friendswood residents who should all benefit from their completion.



"For example, a person who drives to the Friendswood Public Library on improved roads, later participates in a fitness class in a city park, then responds to a call as a member of the Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department, has the potential to come in contact with the major categories of all of the bond-funded projects," he said.



The projects were divided into four propositions that Friendswood voters approved in a vote in November 2013. Proposition No. 1 passed with 67.2 percent of the vote and included the issuance of $6.57 million in bonds for the fire station, while Proposition No. 2 passed with 66.6 percent of the vote and included the issuance of $2.53 million in bonds for the library improvements.



Proposition No. 3, which received 58.5 percent of the vote, included the issuance of $7.29 million in bonds for parks and recreation, and Proposition No. 4, which passed with 68.1 percent of the vote, included the issuance of $7.71 million in bonds for street improvements.



Recreation



A project that Kabiri called a "long time coming," improvements are coming to Lake Friendswood. As part of a partnership with the Friendswood Development Company, Kabiri said the FDC will create access to the lake from the West Ranch Subdivision.



Other improvements to the lake include about 60 parking spaces, a restroom and concession pavilion as well as an automatic gate at the park. Landscape architect Wilson McClain has been contracted to design the improvements, which will also include a walking trail, fishing piers and a canoe launch area.



As the design process continues, there will be opportunities for residents to provide input, according to city officials, although the timeline of the public input process is unknown.



"These upgrades will allow the city to provide better experiences for the residents who use these facilities," said James Toney Jr., director of community services for the city. "Having a great community gathering place is also important in helping to promote healthy lifestyles through recreation."



A basketball pavilion for Centennial Park is also in the design phase, with construction expected to begin later this year. Lighting improvements at the park's detention pond fields have already been completed.



A construction contract has been awarded for the final phases of the splash pad and pavilion at Stevenson Park, and design plans are underway for a bridge crossing at Coward's Creek. The Friendswood Sports Park will also soon see improvements, such as new restrooms, four softball fields and lighting upgrades, all of which are under design.



"[These] projects significantly improve critical infrastructure which is vital to providing safe, comfortable places for people to enjoy public recreation opportunities for years to come," Toney said. "Parks act to define the shape and feel of a city and its neighborhoods. Because Friendswood residents use existing parks so much, it is no surprise that they want more."



Public safety, streets



Mary Ann Drive, Shadowbend Avenue, Townes Road, Winding Road, Blackhawk Boulevard and Woodlawn Drive will all be reconstructed as part of Proposition No. 4. The reconstruction process essentially rebuilds the road, as it involves stripping the materials down to dirt.



The first round of roadway improvements—including Mary Ann Drive, Shadowbend Avenue, Townes and Winding roads—have been surveyed. The next step is for the city to reach out to a consulting engineer.



"[The road improvements] will greatly enhance drivability," Kabiri said. "Since the roadways will be rebuilt, potholes, pavement cracks and separations will be removed, greatly reducing maintenance needs for that section of road."



As part of the public safety proposition, the Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department will see improvements made to Fire Station No. 4 with the addition of more than 1,700 square feet of extra space. With the expansion, the station will become the department's official headquarters.



A new 6,650- square-foot fire station will be built near the Public Safety Building, at 1600 Whitaker Drive. Both the expansion at Fire Station No. 4, located at 111 Woodlawn, and the new station are under design and are expected to decrease response times, according to city officials.



Library improvements



Several improvements are lined up for the city's 50-year-old public library as part of Proposition No. 2. The list includes an expansion and renovation of the interior and exterior; the creation of more meeting, children and teen areas; more parking; and more technological resources for users.



Library Director Mary Perroni said residents are using the library more for activities, such as tutoring, studying and small-group activities, and the additional space is needed. The library will also receive better lighting, new carpet, a new family restroom and updated presentation technology.



"The library is a busy place," she said. "We've outgrown our existing space. Often, the largest meeting room is too small to seat everyone attending a library program. We've run out of space for expansion of the library collection."



The project is also in the design phase, and preliminary layouts have been completed. City staff continues to meet with the architect and is working with the Texas Department of Transportation on installing utilities for the library.



The city began advertising for construction bids this month.