WAXAHACHIE — The Waxahachie City Council tabled a right-of-way acquisition request by the Texas Department Transportation needed to complete the Viaduct project during its regular Monday night session.

The motion will be placed on the action agenda for the July 24 meeting.

The project involves the demolition and replacement of the existing U.S. Highway 77 viaduct with a northbound bridge and the construction of a new parallel bridge to the west of the viaduct for southbound traffic. The project would also reconstruct areas near Elm and Monroe Streets to provide a couplet system that would tie into the proposed bridges.

City Manager Paul Stevens told the council that TxDOT is moving forward with the project and bidding is expected to take place in June of 2019. Part of that process requires TxDOT to acquire the necessary easements and land for the project. The agency is looking at three tracts of land owned by the city.

According to a memo in the council packet, the first area is below the existing viaduct that features a section of the hike and bike trail. It has an appraised value of $33,271. The second area is below where the new southbound bridge will be located and also features a portion of the city’s hike and bike trail. It has a appraised value of $38,860. In both land sections containing the hike and bike trail, TxDOT would be responsible for reconstructing those.

The third piece of property needed for the project is the driveway area at the City of Waxahachie Parks Building located at U.S. Highway 77 and Madison. This property would only be used as a temporary construction easement. The value of the easement is $2,610.

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Singleton was concerned that if the city was the first landowner to concede in this process that it could affect other residents by setting a market value of the property.

City Attorney Robert Brown told Singleton that the city's decision would not have an effect.

“Whether the property for this project is purchased voluntarily or through condemnation, those prices can’t be used to set other prices. The state law says you can’t consider that. It is also called the project influence rule," Brown explained. “You don’t let the project influence the value of the property up or down. The law is set up in such a way that whatever we would do on these pieces of property, legally, should have no impact on the value of what Waxahachie property owners should get.”

Singleton stated he feels that some residents are ill-prepared with some of the questions being asked, such as "how do I rebuild” and “where do I comply with this extensive rule set?”

City Council Member Mary Lou Shipley stated there had been several public meetings over the years to address these concerns.

“My concern is for our commission to look at the city as a whole and not as individuals involved in this,” Shipley said.

Mayor Kevin Strength stated that he would like a little bit more time to look into the matter and speak with TxDOT.

Following the discussion, the council awarded the bid for the extension of Coleman Street to J&K Excavation. The street will extend Coleman to Farley Street and will serve the new police station that is currently under construction.

“This is going to be a street that is going to be running along the north side of the police station. It is going run from Farley and is going to connect with the existing Coleman Street,” Waxahachie City Engineer James Gaertner said. “It is going to be about a 1,400 feet of roadway.”

Gaertner stated bids were advertised and opened up on June 8. The city received bids from three companies that included J&K Excavation, McMahon Contracting and Pavecon. J&K Excavation had the lowest bid at $1,227,847.08. The proposal involves the construction of the street along with all of the drainage improvements.

In other business the council:

Approved a request from Tabitha Tabor for a specific use permit for a rooftop solar panel system to be located at 1588 Wildflower Dr. Approved a resolution denying Oncor Electric’s application to change rates. Named Tabatha Dotson as its honorary council member for July. *Portions of this article were reported Jan. 25 by Daily Light.

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