City accepts check, tax rate

Date: Thursday, September 03, 2009

Photo by Jennifer Fike
Band Director Brandon Brewer, Girls’ Athletic Director Dexter Ivy, Boys’ AD Stacey Dillard, Debate and Theatre Teacher Jimmy Smith, and PHS Principal Bob Lovelady receive Lone Star cups commemorating their UIL success.

By Jennifer Fike
Staff Writer

Aug. 25 the Princeton City Council met to discuss taxes, budgets and sign and solicitation ordinances. But first, the council opened their meeting with a donation to Princeton’s parks, presented by Barry Bonds from Texas New Mexico Power Co.
“It was a privilege working on the city’s park improvement plans,” Bonds said as he handed Mayor Ken Bowers an $1,800 contribution to the project. J.M. Caldwell then asked Bonds if he knew that Texas New Mexico donated the park’s first lights.
Later in the meeting the council approved a motion to allow the Princeton Community Development Corporation to spend no more than $400,000 on park improvements in coming months. Part of the improvements planned for the Community Park will be supplemented with county funds; the others will be funded by the PCDC.
Following the presentation from Bonds, the council voted to appoint Michael Roberts as an alternate member to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Roberts is the owner, principal of WPR Design Studio.
Tax rate to stay steady
Public hearings about the 2010 tax rate and budget closed without comment. Though council was slated to discuss and possibly approve the budget, City Administrator Lee Lawrence asked the councilmembers to delay taking action.
Lawrence said he felt the staff had drafted a realistic budget, but that there are still revisions to be made. They should not be significant, he said, but there are several minor adjustments.
The goal of budgeting, Lawrence said, was to break even, which he said was accomplished “with great difficulty.”
This year general fund revenues dropped drastically, due to lowered interest revenues and slowed development, while the enterprise fund revenues were more than the previous fiscal year. However, since those revenues are highly variable due to weather conditions which affect water consumption,  Lawrence said it is impossible to be sure Princeton will make its projected revenue marks, but he said he felt staff had created a “clearly doable budget, a real budget.”
Lawrence warned the councilmembers that next year’s development revenues will likely drop sharply, now that the district has completed much of their construction. “We don’t have a crystal ball,” Lawrence said, “but we will not have that kind of revenue stream from the PISD.”
However, July and August saw some revenue improvements, which were reflected in the latest draft of the 2010 budget, he said.
The water revenues were much higher during July, and the sales tax revenues were substantially higher in August than in previous months. “That enabled us to anticipate slightly higher revenues,” he said of the city’s next fiscal year. The result was a “better basis than when we originally made our presentation,” Lawrence said.
Councilmembers asked if the numbers were overly optimistic; Lawrence said, “I don’t think the numbers are unrealistic.”
The second public hearing regarding the 2010 budget will likely be held Sept. 8 at which time the council may adopt the budget or opt to table it until their next meeting. The city has until Oct. 1 to adopt its FY 2010 budget.
Dogwood Pump Station change order
Council also approved a $13,967 change order for the Dogwood Pump Station. The money was already included in the project’s total budget in the form of a contingency line item, Lawrence reminded the councilmembers. The total cost of the project will not change, he said. 
Councilmember Rick Wheeler asked if this would be the last change order for the project. Staff responded that it is likely the last of the changes.
Serenity houses near completion
Reviewing the houses once deemed substandard by the city’s Code Enforcement Officer Bryant Childers, Wheeler said, “They really have done a phenomenal job, they’ve gone through and fulfilled everything we asked.” 
“[They] did it very quickly too,” Bowers said.
Childers informed the council that the contractor who was charged with finishing the homes, Laurence Deberry, asked for the city to approach him if they find other houses in need of completion.
Councilmember Steve Deffibaugh motioned to accept the work and to remove the item from the council’s agenda. The council agreed unanimously with his motion.

Sign ordinance stalls
After some discussion regarding the city’s sign ordinance, specifically the city’s policy on electronic signs and the applicable fines for sign violations, the council opted to delay voting on the matter.
Though the Planning and Zoning Committee had representatives at the meeting to address questions councilmembers might have, staff asked the council to hold off on final approval. There are fine points that need to be looked over, Lawrence said.
The P&Z committee will meet again Sept. 21 to discuss wording of the document, and then council could adopt the ordinance with revisions at their Sept. 29 meeting.
Solicitors will soon require permit
Though councilmembers ultimately voted to table a possible resolution that would regulate door-to-door solicitation and distribution, there was discussion on the subject.
Basically, the ordinance would require a permit for solicitation under the direction of the police department. The police would have 10 days to screen vendors and then to authorize permits if the candidate is eligible.
Councilmember J.M. Caldwell called the resolution “a good idea.” Most of the councilmembers seemed to agree that the resolution would help protect the safety of residents; still they tabled the item in order to let City Attorney Bonnie Goldstein review the resolution and refine the language. 
Goldstein said one of her primary reasons for requesting the delay, was in order to add a provision that would require children selling items to have adult supervision. Though several councilmembers agreed most kids already had supervision while soliciting (fundraising, often on behalf of their schools or a team or club), they agreed the additional language would be a good safety precaution.
Exceptions to the permitting will be made for charitable organizations and entities that have received prior consent to visit patrons, members or other interested parties.
Deffibaugh asked if the resolution would also affect vendors on the side of the roadways; city officials said it would.
Seeking clarification, Councilmember Bruce Beauchamp said, “Can’t put up a sign ‘birdhouses for sale?’” making specific reference to vendors that he had seen park along Highway 380. Staff responded, “no.” Solicitors will not be allowed on streets or sidewalks without a permit.
ROW and land purchases
After exiting into executive session, in which councilmembers were scheduled to discuss right-of-way acquisitions on Monte Carlo Boulevard, the councilmembers returned to approve the ROW agreements, with Mark Ragon, Scott Massey and Jefferson Bank.
The engineering of Monte Carlo is almost finished, Lawrence said. The city plans to advertise for bids in October.
Collin County has approved the sale of bonds, he said, and the project is on the list right now. The bond sales should close in October, which will enable bidding to begin on the project.
Council also approved a request from the Economic Development Corporation to spend no more than $1,350,000 to purchase land. According to the city documents, the land will likely be used as a “readily available site” to enhance Princeton’s ability to “recruit job-producing businesses.”
Updates from the street project
The sewer line repairs on Second Street are completed, Lawrence said. According to Atmos the gas lines currently stalling construction on Second will be taken care of by the end of September.
The city has decided to proceed with its inner-city street project, but they will do so in a different order than originally planned.
Due to the gas line issues on Second Street, construction will begin on South Fourth.
“I would like to request on Second Street something be posted that [says] ‘You will be fined,’” Wheeler said, noting that residents still approach him, surprised to have been ticketed in construction zones such as the one on Second Street, where detour signs are posted at each primary entrance.
The city is about to have more “neighbors” in similar situations as street construction begins across town, he said, and “I’d like to see us do something, signage or whatever, spelling that out,” Wheeler said.  If the city posts more signs and carefully patrols construction areas, Wheeler said he believes “we’ll have happier citizens” as construction continues.

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