November 1, 2016

A Year of Infrastructure:  What the Bonds are For, and What They're Not

I've come to describe 2016 as a Year of Infrastructure in Bellaire.  Stewardship of our physical assets has been front and center, as we are confronted with a number of major projects and issues all needing our attention at the same time.  This has prompted a lot of good discussion in the community, and I've heard from many of you, which I very much appreciate.  With so much going on, it's sometimes hard to keep it all straight.  Based on some questions I've received, I thought I'd try to clear a few things up.

Streets and Drainage Bonds vs. Pavement Management

One of the more common areas of confusion is in distinguishing between our successive bond programs for streets and drainage improvements, and our ongoing Pavement Management program.

The bond programs—2000 Bellaire Millennium Renewal, 2005 Rebuild Bellaire and 2016 Better Bellaire (if the voters approve Proposition 1)—fund total street reconstruction.  These projects are driven primarily by drainage needs.  The streets are torn up in order to install new storm water systems beneath them, to improve drainage and reduce flooding.  And since they're all torn up anyway, we then replace the old streets with new concrete curb-and-gutter streets.

The systematic replacement of streets throughout the City has been steady, but slow going.  In the meantime, old asphalt overlays deteriorate and pavement shifts and cracks (among other problems), causing roadway conditions to worsen over time.  Short of total street reconstruction under the bond programs, the City makes pavement repairs and improvements through our Pavement Management program.  In recent years, we have budgeted $2 million each year for Pavement Management, utilizing our $1.2 million in restricted mobility fund rebates from METRO plus another $800,000 in current City funds.  (As an aside, our investment in Pavement Management also improves the appearance of the City, in addition to the rideability of our streets.)

Note we'll be hosting a Neighborhood Meeting concerning the FY 2016 Street and Sidewalk Pavement Management Project on November 14 at 6:00 pm in the Civic Center.  See the announcement, here.

Water and Wastewater Bonds vs. Utility Rates

The other main question I've been getting is about Proposition 3, for water and wastewater improvements.  Quite understandably, people ask me, "didn't y'all already adopt new water rates?"  Yes, we did, but while they're certainly related, these are really two different issues.

Proposition 3 on the ballot is to authorize $24.38 million for utility infrastructure improvements, broken down as follows:  $11 million for water line and $580,000 for wastewater line replacements, and $12.8 million for a revenue-neutral performance contract for contractually-guaranteed efficiencies from new water meters and improvements to the wastewater treatment plant.

That debt, if authorized by the voters, will indeed be supported by water utility revenues (and not by property taxes), so to be sure the two issues are related.  But with the Enterprise Fund rapidly approaching insolvency had we not taken action, we needed to deal with water rates irrespective of any new debt.


I hope that helps in clarifying things.  Please keep your questions and input coming.  Also remember to visit the dedicated Bonds for Better Bellaire 2016 page on the City website for details and supporting documents:  bellairetx.gov/bonds2016, and submit questions about the bonds to bonds@bellairetx.gov.

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