BELTON — A divide may be emerging among leaders here on how to fund future drainage projects.
More than $1.2 million in projects are planned for the next five years — and that figure does not include the cost of construction for some of the proposed improvements.
Those include improving the drainage around the Liberty Hill subdivision; on Mesquite Road; near Blair Street and Fourth Avenue; and studying potential solutions to problems around the Mitchell Branch area.
“We have studied a lot as you can see here in this fiscal year ‘19,” Public Works Director Angellia Points said of the four drainage studies that cost a total of $45,204 this budget cycle. “I think it’s time for us to start breaking ground and actually making some improvements. Unfortunately, construction is very expensive.”
In the upcoming 2020 budget, Belton plans to improve a drainage channel near the Liberty Hill development for $25,000 and replace culverts and widen Mesquite Road for $400,000. Both are fully funded, Points said.
“There are not additional substantial projects in the short term that we need to accomplish,” City Manager Sam Listi said, proposing the Council may need to consider increasing the city’s drainage by 50 cents to bring in $32,500 in additional revenue for future projects. “But we certainly need the fund balance for later and that is a consideration.”
The current monthly drainage fee is $4.50 for residents. The Finance Department said at a previous City Council meeting that no drainage fee is proposed for next year.
Points estimated that the Blair Street-Fourth Avenue project would cost more than $1 million for drainage improvements and roadwork.
“We hope to start preliminary design on that in the fiscal year 2021,” she said. “It’s pretty pricy to fix all of that.”
The city plans to allocate $125,000 in 2021 and 2022 to begin the Blair Street-Fourth Avenue project.
“Looking at this long list of things that we have waiting for us in a relatively near future, I’m still not persuaded that’s not a bad idea to go ahead and look at that 50 cent increase,” Mayor pro tem Wayne Carpenter said. “We’re going to need this money.”
Mayor Marion Grayson said a 50 cent increase on the drainage fee won’t make much of a dent.
“I’m fine with looking at it again, but I’m looking at ($32,500) is not a very big drop in the proverbial bucket, pardon the pun,” she said. “Considering the price of these projects, I think we’re going to have to be looking at some areas for funding for this.”
Councilman John Holmes — who led an effort in the past two years to lower proposed drainage fee bumps — agreed with Grayson.
“I would rather not collect it, personally,” he said, adding he is wary about the cost of the proposed Mesquite Road improvements.
An additional $32,500 may not be much, but it is a start toward funding Belton’s bevy of drainage projects, Councilman Craig Pearson said.
“We know there’s a huge need there. Yeah, it’s only 50 cents; it’s only $32,500,” Pearson said, explaining that the additional funds will be used for future projects.
The City Council, Listi said, can adopt the drainage fee later in the budget process, giving them time to consider what to do with it.