BY EDMOND ORTIZ
TERRELL HILLS 2017 BUDGET MAKES EMPLOYEE PAY MORE COMPETITIVE
The draft Terrell Hills budget for 2017 includes a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees, a garbage truck purchase, two new public works positions and pay adjustments for police and fire. “The council felt strongly that staff deserved the 2 percent COLA raise,” said Mayor Anne Ballantyne.
The adjustments for police officers and firefighters are to make Terrell Hills job positions in those departments more competitive with similarly sized cities. The raises for our midlevel police and firefighters will help us retain our seasoned first responders, the mayor added.
The new budget incorporates two positions in public works to help improve efficiencies with the city trash, recycling and brush pickup programs. To further bolster efficiencies within this department, the city is purchasing a new garbage truck with money from the city Equipment Replacement Fund. The additional positions in public works and the new garbage truck will help us stay on schedule with our trash and brush pickup, the mayor said. One of our old garbage trucks was breaking down fairly consistently, which really got us behind, she explained.
The city is also making a currently budgeted part-time building inspector into a full-time position. City leaders said this is being done to accommodate demands of all the remodeling and new construction happening around Terrell Hllls.
The city projects $5 million in total expenses in 2017, compared with $4.54 million in 2016, and $5.39 million in revenue, up from $5.21 million. The projected increase can be attributed to the continued new construction and remodeling of properties in the community, as well as the continued rise in property values, City Manager Columbus Stutes wrote in the budget’s executive summary. The city is adjusting its property tax rate to 34.8 cents per $100 valuation in 2017 from 33.9 cents in 2016. The city is estimating receiving $20 million in new valuations for the tax roll.
The city plans to start a capital improvement project on portions of Elizabeth, Grandview, Charles, Marion and Cross Streets with anticipated completion dates sometime in early 2018. Additionally, the city anticipates finishing a pavement condition index study early in 2017 so local officials can then develop a long-term plan for all local streets.
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This strategy, city officials said, will allow for the most efficient use of the resources available.
The council and city staff will keep an eye on the bond market and explore the possibility of proposing a bond issue for the May 2017 election. City leaders have stressed that they and city staff are only gathering information and have not yet decided on the viability or suitability of a bond issue. The council will have more open discussions in January and February on the appropriateness of such a proposal. The mayor said community input will play an important role in the process, especially if the council does add a bond election to the May general election.
The city of San Antonio has been holding community meetings on its planned $850 million bond, which likely will go up for a public vote in May. That bond proposes several projects affecting the 78209 area. “I think we all are anxious to see what interest rates do and if a bond issue is the way to go with getting our street projects done in a more timely way,” Ballantyne added about Terrell Hills.
Additionally, the city is budgeting $15,000 toward redesigning its website to make it more user-friendly, especially for tablets and smart phones. “The redesigned website will help us communicate with residents better, and making it mobile-friendly will help with all the young families we have,” the mayor said.
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The budget also includes $8,000 to update the city employee gym and $40,000 from the Equipment Replacement Fund to replace some firefighting apparatus. The council is expected to adopt the new budget during its final regular meeting of the year, Dec 12.
HEIGHTS COUNCIL APPROVES SEWER PIPE REPAIR
The Alamo Heights City Council voted Oct. 24 to replace part of a sewer main on Alamo Heights Boulevard.
On June 2, city staff found a sewer manhole overflowing at Alamo Heights Boulevard and Corona Avenue. Public works employees discovered tree roots had intruded on the pipeline.
Staff could not use regular methods because of the large growth of the root and out of concern for the health of the attached tree.
The city’s engineering firm, Freese and Nichols, solicited low bids from contractors on fixing the sewer main through a process called pipe bursting. Once the project is finished, the current 10-inch main will be upsized to a 12-inch main and will prevent root intrusion in the future.
Texas Pride Utilities was awarded a contract for $77,155 to replace the 850 feet of affected sewer pipe.
ALAMO HEIGHTS MAY UNDERGO REBRANDING
Alamo Heights city officials are considering a rebranding campaign with help from local rebranding firm Bradford Lawton. The firm’s namesake principal and creative director spoke with the City Council during a special meeting Oct. 26.
City Manager Mark Browne said this is an effort to come up with a standardized logo for the city. From there, local leaders will look at applying a new logo across various kinds of official city signage.
Browne said the logo would be used on stationery and media platforms. The overall effort is still in the developmental stage.
ART AND TACOS
TacoArt is a new restaurant in Quarry Village owned and operated by local restaurant owner, Adriana Llano. This is a first of its kind concept featuring authentic Mexican cuisine and exclusive artwork together in harmony. Llano moved to San Antonio from Mexico City in 2010, and has now successfully built two restaurant businesses. Inspired by the modern art and cuisine of her native country, Llano hopes TACOART will be a welcoming place for families and tourists alike. This is a unique presentation of authentic Mexican cuisine.
ALAMO HEIGHTS 39TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY PARADE
The 39th annual Holiday Parade was held on November 19, and it was a beautiful autumn day with clear skies and cool breezes. Families were ready to celebrate the official kick off to the holiday season with floats, music, and Santa Claus. It was all sponsored by the Alamo Heights Chamber of Commerce and many commented that this years parade was the best yet with a full-house turnout for the festivities.