VAN ALSTYNE — In a controversial portion of Tuesday night’s Van Alstyne City Council meeting, the public, which filled the Community Center, got what it apparently wanted when the Council voted 3-2 to not go ahead with Phase II of the Shared Use Path, aka Bike Trail.
The item was on the agenda first as a public hearing, and the public did get involved. The Phase II plan under consideration was to have run from Phase I near the school district’s Middle School and High School and extended it onward to the District’s newest school, soon going under construction.
Council member Teddie Ann Salmon opened the discussion with facts as stated in both the Van Alstyne Leader’s classified section announcing the public hearing and with information she and the other council members received ahead of the meeting. She pointed out some indiscretions in some of the numbers, such as an additional $13,000 posted as necessary for maintenance.
“The city received 136 resident signatures (previously, when Phase II was proposed to have run down the residential Dallas Street and was rejected by council.) Those signatures requested the city to suspend any future plans for a shared use path for the time being,” Salmon said. “And yet, on the 2017 nomination (TxDOT form), on pages 2 and 3, it says this is ‘fully supported by the citizens.’ There have been so many changes to this path, what assurance do we have that it will remain in place?”
Mayor Larry Cooper said the project can be planned, phase by phase, and that “after the Dallas Street plan failed, we needed another plan.”
He and Engineer Lynn McManus said previously that TxDOT had called them, after they notified TxDOT about the failure of acceptance for the Dallas Street project, to offer a chance to remain in the running for a Shared Use Path award and that the deadline for submitting a new proposal loomed. Thus, the newly-routed Phase II proposal that took both the city council members and the public by surprise at the September meeting.
McManus told the council that the numbers in the proposal are estimates, based on formulas that TxDOT uses. “But it is obvious that a concrete trail will not require maintenance during the first year. Usually, about year 10, it may begin to require some maintenance. It is their estimated based on historical data.”
When Cooper said, “Those are estimates,” council member Suzon Crowell said, “That’s what’s in the application.”
The issue came down, according to those who spoke during the public hearing, to trust in the council as much as to the actual Shared Use Path.
“It’s been changed since then (when the Dallas Street route was not approved), without a public hearing,” Darin Clum said. “There’s got to be protocols for getting this stuff through. You are asking us to trust you as a council and the council is asking us to trust city management. The city personnel will disobey our exact request. I’m OK with going forward with this, I’m not against the trail, but I have no trust in you guys to do what we ask. You cannot basically submerse or use subversive meant to go around it.”
Former council member Karen Teuber said, “How many times do we have to tell you we don’t want to spend our money on a shared use path. We gave you many signatures. Our voices are being ignored. And we do not think it is in the best use of the financials for all of Van Alstyne. We believe this revised plan is a placeholder. Stop it. That is our request of you as a council.”
Another former council member, Pat Patterson, said he wants to see “some of these roads around here to be fixed.”
Cooper responded, saying that the state will be paying 80 percent of the construction costs of the Shared Use Plan, and will put in curbs and storm gutters, rather than bar ditches.
Council member Lee Thomas said that this Phase II “is not happening tomorrow or next year. It is a four-year process. Phase I took that long and has gone out for bids. Nobody knows now how much the maintenance will be on the bike trail. But this is an opportunity to go out and get money from the state of Texas, maybe have the opportunity to go forward. They (TxDOT) asked that we put something forward and something on paper, showing an idea of where you want to go.” He said he would like to have the bike path.
He said he would like to have the bike path.
“The resolution states … approving the submission of … I get this,” Crowell said. “The problem isn’t the project, but that we have been misled. It is a lack of trust.”
Cooper, again, pointed out that, “It’s a chance to get funding that wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”
Cooper said the plans have changed, and “we had to come up with this quickly because it’s a chance to get funding that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.” He then took complete responsibility for making the quick decision earlier in the month to continue to apply for funds for a Phase II.
The motion was made by Salmon to not authorize the mayor to sign the resolution to approve the application. That passed with a vote of Salmon, Crowell and Robert Jaska voting for it, and with council members Brad Clough and Thomas voting against it.