Stressing the importance of transparency and community support, West Lake Hills City Council decided to postpone a $20.26 million capital improvements bond until May 2020.
Council initially planned on going out for a November bond, but delays have moved realistic time frames into next year, and council decided to push the bond during the July 10 regular meeting.
The bond includes three sections, each separate voting propositions within the election: roadway repairs; drainage repairs; and the construction of new facilities, including a police department and City Hall building.
The potential projects include drainage repairs on Camp Craft and Laurel Valley roads as well as road repairs on Terrace Mountain Drive, Redbud Trail and Westlake Drive that would also undergo drainage repairs.
“What my fear would be is if people vote down drainage projects and approve roadways,” Mayor Linda Anthony said. “I don’t want to go fixing the surface problem with[out] the foundation problem.”
The unofficial list of pavement and drainage projects costs around $10.27 million, a figure City Administrator Robert Wood said includes factors such as inflation.
New facilities would allow for improvements for both police officers and city staff, according to Anthony.
In one example of facilities needs, the police headquarters has plumbing, electrical and space issues, police Chief Scott Gerdes said.
Officials estimate total facilities construction costs at $10 million.
“It doesn’t make sense to go through this time and trouble if you aren’t making an investment for the future,” Anthony said, adding West Lake Hills has chosen to use higher-grade materials than what the facilities are built from now.
The existing police department building was originally a residential property, and City Hall has experienced flooding, drainage, mold and building code issues.
Getting public input
Anthony said civic engagement has been difficult for City Council, and summer is a terrible time for outreach.
Council held a meeting July 9 to discuss the potential projects, and the only attendees were members of the press and the planning and zoning commission.
“We want to be transparent here,” Anthony said.
Additional meetings are set for Aug. 14 and 28. Council will also post newspaper notices and consider electing what Anthony called “a cheerleading committee” to increase resident engagement.
While council agreed the best approach would involve delaying the bond, it may result in cost escalation.
“One of the big eye-openers in all of this is inflation,” Anthony said. “We’re in a hot market. Labor and materials [costs] go up.”
Despite likely price increases even a few months later, council feels the benefits of postponing the bond outweigh the costs.
If council proceeds with a May 2020 bond election, funds could become available by late 2020, Anthony said.
“If you’re happy with this kind of infrastructure, that’s fine, but it’s only going to last a certain amount of time,” Anthony said. “Quick fixes will only be Band-Aids.”