As budget season looms, Princeton City Council members agreed to study infrastructure and facilities needs to keep up with growth as the Dallas suburbs expand to the east.
The council met May 26 to discuss projects to keep up with the city’s increasing population and sign off on a resolution granting Atmos Energy a rate increase.
City Manager Derek Borg initiated talks about immediate growth needs, pointing out that Princeton faces two issues, rehabilitating streets and providing adequate space to house city operations.
“This is really to get the conversation started,” the city manager said.
Borg pointed out that the top priority is street revitalization. The city has built several new streets in partnership with Collin County and the state, but now needs to work on existing streets that are either needing extensive maintenance or improvement.
Second priority is to properly house the public works department that currently occupies a 4,000 square foot building downtown that the department has outgrown and does not even have parking for employees.
Council members agree that a larger facility is needed that can house public works equipment and employees, now and in the future. Borg pointed out that a new facility should probably be located away from downtown, which would free up some space downtown for retail development and coincide with plans to make the area more inviting to retail stores.
Third on the priorities list is beginning work to build a city hall. Princeton currently leases a building on Hwy. 380 for city hall and the lease on the facility expires in 2017.
Borg pointed out that the city has an option to buy its current facility, but feels, and the council agrees, that it would be better to build a new city hall downtown and free up the current quarters for a retail business.
“I think this building would be better for retail,” Place 3 Councilman John-Mark Caldwell said. “I, personally, would like to see city hall moved to the downtown area.”
Moving city hall, which houses Princeton administrative offices, to downtown would encourage growth in the city center and compliment planned improvements such as a park honoring military veterans. The police and fire departments already are located in the downtown area.
“We don’t have the capacity to fund all of this, but we have the capacity to start,” Borg declared.
He suggested that the council look at the first two priorities on his list, rehabilitating streets and building a public works facility, as immediate needs and start the process for designing a new city hall.
Funding would require a bond election which could be held as early as November and there is a caveat declared repeatedly by Mayor Ken Bowers that the projects be undertaken without any adding to any taxpayer burden.
“I don’t want to raise any type of taxes,” Bowers said.
Borg believes that funding the improvements without a tax increase is possible because of growth, which is adding to the tax base and tax revenues.
Next steps in the process is for the city manager to visit with financial representatives to determine what the city can afford without raising taxes, and to start gathering information to put a price tag on the proposed projects.
The council approved of Borg gathering financial and construction numbers and plans are for the council to meet with financial representatives in a coming meeting.
After earning some concessions and to curtail increasing legal fees, the Princeton council approved a resolution that grants Atmos Energy a rate increase on the sale of natural gas in the city.
Princeton had been a party with a number of other Texas communities challenging Atmos rate increases sought for the past three years. The resolution is being presented to cities for approval to end the rate case.
Figures provided by the gas utility show that the average monthly bill for a residence will increase $1.14 under the new rate structure that goes into effect June 1.
The council approved a resolution to sell a piece of real estate at 216 E. Fifth Street for $12,601 to Chuck Hutcheson to satisfy an unpaid property taxes claim. Hutcheson was high bidder for the property.
Continuing a discussion that has ranged over a year, the council authorized Borg to solicit public comments for a new proposed re-design of decorative signage at the intersections of Hwy. 380 with Second Street and Fourth Street.
Signage presently includes stone walls on the corners of the intersections and landscaping. The new design calls for extending the walls, adding the city name to the walls and installing low maintenance landscaping.
The city manager informed the council that a joint meeting with Princeton Independent School District Board of Trustees is set for 6 p.m. Monday, June 15, at Clark Middle School. The joint meeting is for the two elective bodies to discuss possible joint projects and support.