- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
By CHARLES RICHARDS
City manager John Godwin and the Paris City Council added a new wrinkle Monday into what will eventually be a $100 million or more replacement of the city’s underground water and sewer lines and the new streets that will be built over them.
Godwin told the council Monday night that he and city staff will meet Wednesday with representatives of an engineering company that specializes in cities’ infrastructure issues, and may follow that with a meeting with a second company.
The council is solidly behind the manager’s proposal for $1.7 million in new infrastructure in the coming year — $600,000 for new water lines, $600,000 for new sewer lines, and $400,000 to $500,000 for improvements at the water plant and at the sewer plant.
In fact, mayor AJ Hashmi is pushing for the city to take out several million from its $6 million to $7 million in excess reserves to attack the infrastructure problem even more aggressively.
Depending on decisions that come out of the meetings with two engineering companies in the coming days, the council could raise the ante on infrastructure expenses and could also decide to put the project in the hand of infrastructure specialists.
When Godwin unveiled his budget last month, his plan was to get the planning going now so construction could get under way next month, with the city handling the work in house.
With the manager’s concurrence, the council is wanting to look at the possibility of putting the project in experienced hands.
“The message I got was, we still want to spend all that money (and maybe more) this year, but let’s just make sure we don’t jump in there too fast and then be saying later, ‘Oh, gee, I wish we’d done this facility first.’ “
In effect, the manager has been told, “Let’s put that $2.2 million on hold until we have a plan, and then spend it,” Godwin told eParisExtra.com following Monday’s meeting.
A decision to pull money out of reserves “to make this a bigger deal, have a bigger impact” could be forthcoming, the manager conceded. “The question here is how much reasonably can we use out of reserves.
Godwin said Wednesday’s meeting is with representatives of KSA Engineers.
The city then would bring in at least one other engineering firm to get further insight “on how they would do the project,” Godwin said.
No one from the public appeared at Monday evening’s public hearing on the budget. After the public hearing, the council “passed” a resolution to approve the budget before the manager said a second public hearing is required in two weeks before the budget can be approved.
The second hearing, for Sept. 24, is required because of a Paris City Charter requirement of another hearing anytime the council approves an increase in any line item in the budget submitted by the city manager.
During a budget workshop last week, District 2 councilwoman Sue Lancaster won agreement from the council to add $15,000 for the animal shelter for vouchers lowering the cost of spaying and neutering of dogs and cats, and for public education for the animal shelter.
“We’ll have the second public hearing on just that increase, and then we’ll adopt the budget,” Godwin said.
The city manager told the council in August that he was able to recommend more money for the infrastructure without increasing the city tax rate because the city paid off a bond in the past year, lowering the city debt by $2.2 million.
“Wednesday is kind of like them understanding what we’re after and us understanding if they’re the guys we want to hire. We’ve still got a way to go,” Godwin said.
“They’re going to actually meet with the staff — public works, the city engineer, myself. And they’re going to meet with the mayor after that. And we’ll probably do the same thing with a second firm. We want to talk to more than just one firm. And then at some point, obviously, we’ll have to come back to the whole council and discuss it with the entire council,” the city manager said.
“The $2.2 million is in there, but to add more we would have to amend the budget. We could do that in October or March or whenever,” Godwin said. Last month, the council pulled $400,000 out of reserves to provide the money “to take down every dilapidated house in Paris.” The council was told Monday night that the pace of demolitions has quickened as a result.
Godwin included money in the budget for the community development department a part-time professional planner position beginning in November.
“He’s working now in Fairview,” the city where Godwin was town manager before coming to Paris in May. “He worked for me at Fairview, and he’s 72 or so and is retiring. He’s more land use planning and that type of thing. He’s be transitionally involved in this (the infrastructure). This is more engineering,” Godwin said.
“He will retire with TMRS (Texas Municipal Retirement Service), and he’ll work over here as a contractor,” Godwin said.
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