November 9, 2016

Next Steps Following the Bond Election

With an impressive 74% turnout, Bellaire voters have overwhelmingly approved the Better Bellaire 2016 bond package.  Now what?  Your city leaders have been hard at work, even in advance of the election, to make sure we'd have our plans ready to go once the votes were counted.  Here's what to expect, starting with the official canvass of the election results at City Council's next meeting on November 21:

Proposition 1 – Streets, Drainage and Sidewalks ($24 million)
Not all of this funding authorization will be drawn and spent at once.  As the successor to the 2000 and 2005 bond programs preceding it, Better Bellaire will maintain the same pace of work, funding approximately $6 to 7 million of street, drainage and sidewalk improvements per year.  Blocks are selected in order of priority, with drainage needs being the primary consideration.  This approach has worked well for us in managing the annual debt service, as well as minimizing inconveniences to residents and motorists from having too many streets under construction at the same time.
Proposition 2 – New Municipal Facilities ($5.6 million)
It's time to break ground.  The only reason these buildings weren't already completed after the successful 2013 bond election is because our citizens spoke up and City Council listened.  We went back to the drawing board, solicited and received considerable public input, including through two ad hoc citizens' advisory committees, and adopted improved plans based on that input.  Once the official canvass is complete, we'll move forward with issuing the bonds and starting construction early in the new year.

A major benefit of the campus approach is the efficiency and substantial cost savings realized by constructing both buildings at the same time.  But it's also going to be very challenging, requiring lots of patience and careful logistical planning to keep everything running smoothly during the transition.  The city staff, along with the architect and construction manager for the project, have been working on this for months.  They will be presenting the plan at the December 19 City Council meeting.
Proposition 3 – Water and Wastewater Improvements ($24.38 million)
$11.58 million from Proposition 3 is to fund water and wastewater line replacements.  As with the systematic approach to streets, drainage and sidewalks in Proposition 1, these bonds will be issued and the work performed, in order of relative priority, over the next three years.

The remaining $12.8 million is for the utility system performance contract that was tacked on to this Proposition when City Council decided against issuing certificates of obligation.  The contract itself was awarded at that time, contingent upon the bond funding being approved by the voters.  Now that it has been, we'll move forward with the contract soon after the official canvass.  Note that the $12.8 million will be paid up-front, but the performance contract will ultimately pay for itself (and then some) through the contractually guaranteed efficiencies it will create.

In both parts of Proposition 3, the bonds will be paid for out of our utility bills and will have no impact on property taxes.

It's an exciting time in the City as we get underway with these important projects.  As a community, we should all be proud of our strong voter turnout and the well-informed discussion we've had about city priorities in the lead-up to the bond election and beyond, as we now look ahead to implementation.