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Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - March 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk Count
y Publishing Company

City OKs change in cable provider
Polk County Enterprise - March 2009
LIVINGSTON — City offi cials approved a request Tuesday from Rapid Cable to transfer the cable television franchise to RB 3, LLC and heard from Texas Department of Transportation staff members about upcoming projects in the city. RB 3 has been operating the local cable system since December, about the same time as all of Rapid Cable’s assets were transferred to them. RB 3 asked for the transfer at a prior city council meeting and the council asked Georgia Crump, an attorney with Lloyd Gosslink & Associates to review the matter. Crump reported back to City Attorney Gaffney Phillips recommending the city agree to the cable company’s transfer request, without waiving the city’s right to collect an estimated $4,500 in franchise fees. Pursuing legal action to collect the fees is not likely to be successful, Phillips said. Tom Semtimphelter, who operated the now defunct Rapid Cable and currently manages RB 3, says neither company can pay the franchise fees due for connections that used city-owned utility poles from June through November. RB 3 made a payment of $869.01 Monday for the one month it took over cable operations. Based on Crump’s communication with Semtimphelter, there may be another sale pending, Phillips told the council. The city will have another opportunity to collect franchise fees from the buyer if RB 3 is sold. In either case, the cable franchise expires in 2011 and any cable television companies operating in Livingston will have to arrange franchise agreements with the Public Utility Commission. Alderman Ray Hill and Mayor Pro Tem Judy Cochran both expressed their concerns over citizen complaints each of them had heard about cable service. RB 3’s representative at Tuesday’s meeting assured the council that local technicians would be available for service calls 24 hours a day which should address complaints about lengthy outages. Another issue about payments made to technicians in the fi eld should be resolved by a change in offi ce policy, he added. TxDOT Area Engineer Kevin Harbuck told the council that TxDOT will widen FM 350 from U.S. 190 to U.S. 59 by adding a one to two foot shoulder on each side of the roadway to improve safety. Harbuck added that the project will have to be timed to avoid conflict with the city’s installation of new water lines and other construction planned in connection with the new high school campus on FM 350. Alderman Ray Luna questioned the effectiveness of a one-foot shoulder and Harbuck said it would eliminate much of the danger of log trucks and other traffic dropping a tire off the edge of the roadway. Those drop-offs often cause the driver to overcorrect and collide with oncoming traffic or lose control and hit a fixed object near the roadway. High numbers of drop-offs also damage the roadway, Harbuck said. Harbuck is also talking with engineers planning the entrance from FM 350 onto the new high school campus. That project will require the addition of acceleration and deceleration lanes to FM 350 near the entrance. Harbuck said FM 350 was high on TxDOT’s list of areas that need additional safety features. Another area considered but not scheduled was rehabilitating SH 146, but utility lines need to be moved before work can begin there. When the district can secure funds they will add inlay on Hwy. 146 south to Garner Street. Mayor Clarke Evans also asked Harbuck about future plans to improve safety where Houston Street merges into Washington Street just before it intersects with Loop 59 and the area of Business 59 (Pan American Street) near the Southpoint Shopping Center. TxDOT recently changed the barrier that prevents motorists from turning left from Business 59 into the shopping center, but drivers are now attempting a U-turn just north of the entrance. Harbuck said TxDOT can do another safety study on both areas if the council sends a letter requesting the study. Other changes are anticipated for North Washington to improve access as the county jail is expanded. A speed reduction also may be needed there, according to Harbuck. Harbuck also told the council that a committee is studying the Highway 190 corridor to expand it to a four-lane divided highway across Texas from El Paso to Bon Wier. When completed, the highway would tie Fort Bliss, Fort Hood and Fort Polk as well as several other military bases. “This will be a major military route needed to tie them together for national defense,” Harbuck said. TxDOT District Safety Engineer Herbert Bickley explained speed zone studies to council members. Traffic surveyors use radar to determine actual speeds over two hours or 125 vehicles as they pass the survey team. Most survey results show that 85 percent of drivers are traveling at safe and prudent speeds, according to Bickley. Survey teams also look at driveways and other access points, sight distances and curves during the study. “New issues develop when the public thinks the speed is too slow and law enforcement officers believe it’s too slow,” Bickley said. In some cases, city officials want a speed limit of 35 miles per hour but 85 percent of the traffic is driving 45. TxDOT can set a speed limit that varies by seven miles per hour, or if there are a high number of accidents, they can go up to 12, Bickley said. According to Bickley, the intersection of South Washington and South Houston has a posted speed of 55 miles per hour, but most traffic was moving at 54. Since motorists are traveling at posted speeds, enforcement is not an issue there. Bickley added that the width of the interchange adds to driver confusion. Drivers have trouble discerning what other cars are going to do. Sight lines were blocked at the time Bickley looked at the intersection Tuesday. He said they may consider eliminating parking on that portion of South Washington. Management District proposal City officials plan to schedule a workshop for further study of a proposal by Anthony Properties to create a municipal management district on property the company is currently developing on U.S. 190 near U.S. 59. Prior to the presentation, Evans recused himself from the discussion due to his earlier involvement with Anthony Properties as part of his real estate business. The company is seeking to create a municipal management district which would be on their own property and handle infrastructure improvements such as surface roads, water and wastewater services. The district would pay for these improvements by levying taxes on Anthony Properties. The company would recapture that investment from businesses who lease or buy space in the development. The district would be established by a special bill that requires approval by the Texas legislature. The operating rules are specified in a development agreement. Frank Nuchereno, president of Anthony Properties, told the council shifting priorities among the company’s active project have prompted them to “push hard” on Livingston projects. Tertiary communities that are continuing to grow are in a better position to get financing than projects in big towns, according to Nuchereno. “In our office there are 20 projects — 18 are dead. This one has life so we’re pressing harder than I would under different conditions,” Nuchereno said. City officials have been hesitant to agree to creating such a district since other businesses have been able to build developments without creating a new political subdivision. Nuchereno contends the bill sponsor could add a line specifying that a development agreement that meets city official’s approval has to be executed or the legislation creating the district is void. “There is an economic benefit to both the city and us,” Nuchereno said. “This is unique to this piece of land and not the northeast corner of U.S. 190 and 59 or any other property.” Nuchereno further contends the fact that Livingston does not assess ad valorem taxes does not attract retailers to this development. He said a KFC franchise holder completely discounted the tax advantage saying it could change at any time. “The new high school is our savior,” Nuchereno said. Anthony Properties would supply all the background material necessary and city officials can sit down with its own legal team and poke holes in the proposal. Later in his explanation, Nuchereno said the management district essentially does the same thing as a Municipal Utility District (MUD) except it would take much less time than the nine months needed for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to approve it. Similar management districts have been created in Friendswood, Terrell and the Greenspoint area in Houston, according to Nuchereno. At the close of Nuchereno’s proposal the council had reached a consensus to schedule a workshop for further discussion. COUNCIL From Page 1A


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