Granite Shoals road project gains elbow room

In addition to its succession of budget sessions and executive session city manager interviews, the City of Granite Shoals has a town hall meeting scheduled for an annual review of the Wildlife Committee Urban Deer Program.




By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander


When the Granite Shoals City Council last Tuesday night, July 10, it was with options on the table for work, scheduled to begin July 21, on the road bond project.

The council had hedged their bets in the planning stage, leaving some options open in case prices rose above estimated costs. A look at specifics for expanding on the conservative base bid specifications are on the agenda for this Tuesday night, July 17.

“This afternoon eight bids (for Phase II of the arterial road bond project) were opened and all but one came in well below your estimated costs for the project,” Greg Haley of KC Engineering, Inc. reported at the council’s special Thursday, July 5.

With the low bid from Fuqua, Inc., at $1,179,224, vetted for the Tuesday meeting, the council was assured of more than $750,000 of elbowroom from the estimated cost for improved features, as well as the possibility of an early reduction of the principal owed on the $3 million bond debt.

Haley elaborated Thursday, explaining that four bids had come in under $1.3 million, two in the $1.4 million range and one at $2.5 million.

Those bids included improvement of paved intersections but on the short list of additional work possible will extending approaches for 20 feet rather than the 10 feet requested for the bid, reinforcement to handle trash truck traffic there, similar work on unpaved intersections, more work on Prairie Creek Road and moving and bringing up to current standards an old water line (now under the roadway) that could threaten future road stability.

“If we can get all that done and have money for the principle it would be great,” said council member Todd Holland Thursday.

Although councilwoman Anita Hisey lives on the west side of town, she has been especially sensitive to drainage problems tied to Elm Creek along Prairie Creek Road and asked why some funds could not be directed there.

“When we were considering a $7 million project, we proposed curb and gutter and channeling runoff straight to the lake across the airport,” said Haley. “That also would have involved a study for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and working with the LCRA (Lower Colorado River Authority) rules against (wastewater) into the lake.”

Hisey was reminded of the expense of right of way purchase that also was tied to the decision to abandon a major drainage project.

“We don’t know if a change in one place will effect another,” said Haley.

Assistant city manager Peggy Smith noted that a key factor in the problem is heavy run-off from the elevated Ranch to Market Road 1431, overgrowth in the creek bed and refuse including an old car in the channel. While the city has worked with property owners to try to alleviate some of those problems, work has continued with street department funds for at least three projects in other areas to improve drainage.

The bid for Phase I to lay the groundwork for Phillips Ranch Road was let to the Pro Dirt, Inc. at the June 26 meeting for at $738,869.64. That also was below the estimated allowance of $850,000 for preparation of Phillips Ranch Road.

Phase II encompasses reconstruction, hot mix overlay and pavement markings for all three major north-south arteries, Valley View Lane, Prairie Creek Road and Phillips Ranch Road. The council instructed Haley to prepare estimated cost proposals for change orders for additional roadwork and for the water line work.

Also approved was payment at county overtime rates for Homer Will, Burnet County Precinct 4 road superintendent to participate in project oversight.

Johnny Campbell, executive director of the Marble Falls Area Emergency Service (MFAEMS) presented a contract proposal to the council.

“We are just ending a three-year commitment with Granite Shoals and, historically, three-year contracts have worked very well here,” he said. “For the renewal beginning in October, we propose a six percent increase to $74,000 (for 2018-19), a five percent increase for 2020 and four percent for 2021.”

He said Granite Shoals represents 9.5-10 percent of annual calls—this year estimated to be more than 4,000 calls in the south Burnet County and southeast Llano County area served—most of which originate at the EMS station a the city fire hall. Donations by utility customers are divided among the Granite Shoals Police Department, the Child Safety Fund and MFAEMS and the EMS reimburses the city of the use of the ambulance station.

The city contract payments would amount to about 2 percent of the MFAEMS annual budget.

Campbell noted that AirEvac is a separate, for-profit helicopter ambulance service, “but your $69 a year membership is a good bargain if it comes to a $50,000 air lift.”

Citizens addressed the council during the Thursday meeting mostly concerning animals.

Richard Spell spoke to the problem of unrestrained dogs that threaten walkers and their pets on leashes; even suggesting an additional animal control officer to cover evenings and weekends.

James Tiemann said they were a threat to feral cats as well. He and Sharon Drake touted support of the Hill Country Cats trap, neuter and release program.

The road bid report occupied only a small part of the Tuesday meeting. The council devoted an executive session to interviews with city manager candidates. That will continue at another special called meeting Tuesday, July 17.

Also proposed for the July 17 meeting is a continuation of the budget process.

On that topic Tuesday night, the council heard a preview of the third quarter financial report from finance director Wendy Gholson. Most departments are operating at or well below the 75 percent expenditure level appropriate for the third quarter.

Amendments to the current 2017-2018 budget will effect the numbers council members hear in the final quarterly report, she noted.

At the meeting the council approved retroactive payment of $17,000 in holiday pay for full-time firefighters and for part-time firefighters, when they work a holiday.

Also, they said yes to an amendment related to the increase in the municipal clerk salary, based on full time, rather than part time.

Still to be considered are other modifications to the city personnel policy.

Members of the Street & Water Advisory Group appeared at the meeting to urge the council to devote all income from the water department to essential projects. Holland went so far as to call transferring money from the water department to the general fund budget as “robbing the cash cow.”

Such a change would reverse the accounting procedure of allocating time from other administrative and work departments devoted to utilities, a choice previously made to clarify how city funds were spent.

Interim city manager Marvin Townsend again urged the council to consider annexations as a path to revenue. Holland has been a lone voice in strong opposition to that, insisting the city has little to offer someone new to the fold and he said so again Tuesday night.

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