Paul Stevens reported to the Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council on Wednesday that the city has made great progress in improving the quality of life for residents.

The areas the city has focused on public safety, infrastructure and economic development.

“As far as public safety goes we have been able to invest in some new police cars. We had to make the transition over to Chevrolet because the Ford Crown Victoria does not make the police package any more. The sergeants that are on duty have the Chevy Tahoe’s to drive,” Stevens said. “We are also going through a police building assessment. Everyone knows were the police department is right now. They are really cramped for other space. We are going through the process of an assessment to see what kind of building that we need and what our future needs will be for a police station.”

Stevens said the city added four new police officers to the budget this fiscal year.

At the fire department, the city hired a new fire chief, Ricky Boyd, who came from the Irving Fire Department. Boyd, who began service with the city in November, replaced former Fire Chief David Hudgins who retired. Through Boyd’s recommendation the city council has approved adding four new lieutenant positions to the department. Three of these lieutenants will staff the ladder truck and one will become an inspector. The city also opened a new fire station on Cleaver Street in November, added a new fire truck and a brush truck.

Stevens said one of the big projects underway right now is the northeast trunk sewer capacity project. This project will not only replace aging infrastructure but also will allow more commercial and residential development to take place. Circle H Contractors out of Midlothian was awarded the $1,726,878.04 project in December.

Some of the original sections of this line were built in the 1960s and 1970s and have not been upgraded. Areas where this project will take place include parts of Jefferson Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Parks School House Road and a section between Marvin Gardens and Farley Street.

Another project that the city is working on is the Cantrell Street Sewer Siphon Project, which involves relocation of an existing creek crossing sewer line. The city is also removing an existing sanitary sewer lift station located in the 1000 block of Grand Avenue and replacing it with a gravity sanitary sewer. Removing the lift station would reduce sewer overflows that take place during heavy rain events around the intersection of Kirvin Street and West Ross Street.

Stevens said the city has acquired the easements for the Grand Avenue projects and are preparing to bid out that project within the next month. Construction should begin in the summer.

“We received an increased city bond rating the last time we issued bonds. The city has a major role as a regional economic center, a strong financial position and has a strong management practices. We have a moderate size and diverse tax base. We also have a healthy fund balance,” Stevens said. “In talking about bonds we are going to issue some bonds later this year for some major street programs. The first ones are Gingerbread Village, which is under construction and Kirven Street, which is under design right now. Every year in the operating budget we do a street rehabilitation program. We just recently bid that out and the council awarded the bid on Monday. The bid came in at $1.4 million and we were estimating $1.7 million. Austin Bridge and Road got that contract.”

Stevens said the city plans to issue $12 million in street bonds over the next three years. The city has seen an increase in sales tax for the past 24 month except for one month. Sales tax for the last fiscal year was up by 22 percent and it is expected that it will be up 9 percent this year from the previous fiscal year.

Work will begin this summer to install medians along U.S. Highway 77 and the replacement of traffic signals by the Texas Department of Transportation to improve safety. Public meetings on this project were held in October.

Stevens said this project will limit the unprotected left turns and will make drivers turn left only at the intersections.

The medians will run from Kirksey Street to U.S. Highway 287 Bypass. On the northern side of the deceleration lane in front of Target will be extended down to run in front of the Olive Garden Restaurant. Along with the deceleration line additional street striping will be added in that area. The estimated cost of the project is $900,000. The estimated date of completion of the project is November or December.

Other construction projects that are underway in the city include the construction of the Southwestern Assemblies of God University World Communication building, which will house a performance arts auditorium and television and film studios, Navarro College is adding a 20,000-square foot building for classroom space and an 8,000-square foot maintenance facility.  

The MKT deport located south of city hall on Rogers Street is now leased by Dennis Horak who is opening up store for outdoor grills, kitchen and culinary items. The store will open up later this year. The Texas Theater in downtown is the new home to Zulas Coffee. Taco Cabana is under construction on U.S. Highway 77 as is QuikTrip on Interstate Highway 35E.

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