Livingston council OKs funds to launch airport improvements
Polk County Enterprise, March 2007
LIVINGSTON – The Livingston City Council Tuesday night agreed to add $15,667 in local funds – on top of the $140,000 the city has already contributed – to get its long-planned municipal airport expansion off the ground.
The project has been in the works for several years, with the city working in conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Aviation Division, which helped plan improvements and secure federal grant funds to cover 90 percent of the cost. Bids received shortly after Hurricane Rita made landfall, when most contractors were inundated with work, were well above the $1.4 million budgeted. The project was rebid, with the proposals opened on Feb. 15. “Bids were much closer to the original estimate, but they were still over budget,” City Manager Marilyn Sutton told the council. TxDOT officials indicated, however, that an additional $156,000 in funds could be made available, if the city was willing to commit to its 10 percent match.
With the additional funding, there will be enough to reconstruct the airport parking apron, relocate fuel tanks and beacons to a safer and less-intrusive location and rehabilitate the 3,700-foot runway and taxiway, according to Benny Lybrand, engineer with Brannon and Associates.
If that work is completed without complications, there may also be enough money to proceed with other planned improvements: installation of a precision approach path indicator at the southeast end of the airport and, possibly, installation of a mechanical gate leading to the Livingston Airpark subdivision adjacent to the airport to limit vehicle traffic, he said.
Public hearings were held on two dilapidated building complaints: property owned by Mable Lee Davison and Dorothy Wanza at 803 West Street and the Juan Carlos Hernandez property at 1306 N. Washington, the site of the former Dairy Queen.
Community Development Coordinator Ben Buchanan and City Engineer Jerry Marsh testified to conditions on both properties, noting debris and a deteriorating “partial building” on the West Street site. The council agreed to give Davison and Wanza 60 days to complete clean-up of the property. Davison, who asked the council for more time, said she would do her best to meet the deadline.
Owners of the old Dairy Queen site will have a little more time to make required repairs due to a more complicated ownership situation. Hernandez is in the process of purchasing the property through a partnership in Florida, but a spokesman for that partnership says there is a distinct possibility that Hernandez may default on the loan, City Attorney Gaffney Phillips told the council. Hernandez admitted he is behind on the loan payment, but is hoping to work something out with the lender.
The lender has indicated he would like to see the building repaired rather than demolished, Phillips said. Marsh testified that, while much exterior and interior work is needed, the building is structurally sound.
No matter how it plays out, something will happen to the property within 120 days. The council gave Hernandez 90 days to make necessary repairs. If the deadline is not met, the lien holder will be given an additional 30 days to bring the site up to code.
Per city ordinance, if deadlines set for dilapidated properties are not met, the city may begin demolition and file a lien against a property in hopes of recouping the cost.
Reservation support delayed
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council is requesting the city’s support in its push in the Texas Legislature to return gaming to the reservation, but the council, unsure exactly what it is being asked to support, delayed action to allow time for clarification.
The clock is ticking, however; reservation officials are hoping to garner as much support as possible prior to a March 27 committee hearing on the matter.
The confusion lies in the fact there is more than one gaming bill pending in the legislature. City officials, informed of the request late last week, prepared a resolution specifying support of Senate Joint Resolution 45. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston and Sen. John Carona of Dallas would allow, with statewide voter approval, 12 casino gambling site: seven in urban areas, two along the Gulf coast and three on Indian Reservations.
The tribe is currently backing House Bill 3335, Sharon Miller, the tribe’s public relations director, told the council. Sutton said city staff downloaded the bill, which is several hundred pages, off the Internet Tuesday, but had not had time to review it.
Council members indicated they would be willing to meet in special session prior to the March 27 hearing to take action on the tribe’s request for support, after having time to review the pending legislation.
The arrival of spring, officially on March 20, brings an increased number of events, which Sutton reviewed for the council.
This weekend’s Trade Days will include an Outdoor Expo. The following weekend the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department will host hundreds of firefighters for a fire school. The following weekend will be a new event, Concert in the Park at Pedigo Park.
Also ahead is the annual Easter Eggstravaganza on April 7, KidFish and the Pineywoods Cruisers Car Show on April 14, a law enforcement benefit fishing tournament on April 21, city recognition of volunteers on April 24 and the Cancer Society Relay for Life, April 27-28.
Sutton also informed the council that the city will not be receiving a Community Development Block Grant to repair and rehabilitate sewer service lines on private property owned by low-income or senior residents. The city had hoped to secure the funds to help comply with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) standards for limiting storm water inflow into the city’s sewer system. Livingston’s project was ranked 32 out of the 43 projects reviewed by the Deep East Texas Council of Governments review committee, she said. At most, only the top 20 projects will be funded, she added.