Sherman took its first step Monday toward crossing off a number of projects it currently has in various degrees of completion.
The Sherman City Council approved a resolution to begin the process for shopping $20 million in bonds necessary to fund several street projects around the city by authorizing the publication of notice of intention to issue certificates of obligation. The motion is the first step the city must take before it can begin issue bonds to begin payment of several pending construction projects.
Sherman will use the $20 million it will receive from the issuance to provide funding for the next phase of development of several projects, including the final phases of West Travis Street, the intersection of FM 1417 and West Travis Street, the Highway 75 “gap” project from FM 1417 to Highway 91, Legacy Boulevard, Moore Street, Park Avenue, Progress Drive and the extension of McGee Street west of FM 1417.
The city can begin putting out bids for the bonds to be received on April 15 when the council will have the opportunity to approve those bids. The funds will be released to the city to begin work by the middle of May.
Council member Willie Steele raised concerns about various projects currently under construction. He asked the city manager for updates on certain projects from the bonds that were issued in the last couple of years.
“We’re serving that debt, I would like to see where we are on those projects,” Steele said. “I’m looking at some we issued in 2017 — I would assume most of those are finished or close to being finished.”
City Manager Robby Hefton told the council he would provide more formal updates at regular intervals and will have a full report at the annual budget meeting. Hefton also told the council the funds from the new issuance would be in the city’s bank account by the middle of May and it could begin issuing checks immediately. He mentioned a large chunk of the funds were going toward Texas Department of Transportation projects.
Local resident Ronald L. Aycock expressed displeasure with the level of transparency Sherman exhibited during the process.
“This city council, this government, for transparency is not worth a flip,” Aycock said. “I’ve been in contact with the state comptroller’s office, doing research. You talk about how you’re in competition with Denison. Denison, under state comptroller’s office, received a gold star for putting forth information for what they do.”
Aycock told the council he wanted them to be more transparent when it comes to these road projects.
“This certificate of obligation when you do it, list the streets you’re going to do, the amount of money the projects are going to be for,” Aycock said. “Whatever you do, it needs to be broken down. Tell everybody in the city where the money is going.”
Deputy Mayor Shawn Teamann pointed out some of the past debt issued by Sherman was to purchase rights-of-way for future projects.
“These past couple of years we’ve been issuing debt for right of way acquisitions, things of that nature,” Teamann said. “Would it be fair to say this $20 million we’re issuing now is to tie all that stuff up in a bow and finish off some of those projects we’ve been preparing for the past couple of years?”
Hefton explained how much of the funds were tied to TxDOT projects.
“TxDOT has been the biggest moving target of that piece of our (FM) 1417 projects,” Hefton said. “That one has been over a quarter of the debt we’ve issued over the last three years. This funding will particularly finish our TxDOT projects.”
He said most of the money will go toward buying rights-of-way from TxDOT, especially around Lamberth Street and Washington Street.
“In April, we’re going to issue $20 million in debt, we’re going to begin serving that debt,” Steele said. “We’re not going to begin $20 million worth of projects on April 1st. Is there a way to package those in a smaller package or do we have to buy a larger group of debt?”
Hefton responded by breaking down how the funds would begin to be disbursed.
“We’re going to begin writing checks in May — we’ll have final council action in April,” Hefton said. “One of the other pieces of it, we want to have the money in the bank so we can issue contracts. Phase two and three of West Travis, we hope to have approval for those contracts in June. We need to have the funds in the bank to begin issuing checks on construction because engineering is done on West Travis.”
Steele reiterated how important the projects are before making a motion to approve the resolution.
“This is in my estimate $19 million of projects that have to be done,” Steele said. “There is not a lot of fluff. The city is growing. This is stuff that has to be done in order for it to grow.”