With the annual budget passed and a number of new initiatives in flight, I wanted to provide everyone with a general District 8 update. Unfortunately we still can’t hold a town hall meeting due to COVID-19, but I look forward to possibly having one in the spring.
VA Hospital Activation
The VA hospital came online quickly in April 2020 in order to handle possible COVID overflow. Since Texas is managing its cases well, they have shifted to their main long term mission. They now have 6.5 Primary Care teams (outpatient) caring for more than 8,000 patients who have transferred their care to Garland. This number will expand as more parts of the facility become equipped and useable. The VA also has moved two Women’s Health providers and their support staff to the location, along with some Administrative functions. The VA is in the middle of hiring staff now to start Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation that will include a Pain Management Clinic.
Many of the playgrounds in this council district were installed in the 1980’s. One of my major goals in the 2019 bond program was replacement of those play sets. Our district is set to have 11 new play sets installed over the next 3 years to help restore some life and color to our neighborhood parks.
We continue to see the benefits of increased spending on core city infrastructure. Broadway, First St, Miller Rd, Forest Ln, Arapho Rd, and Centerville have all been dramatically improved over the past 3 years. Coming up over the next 1-4 years will be Buckingham, Shiloh, Walnut, and Garland Ave. Our overall PCI (Pavement Condition Index) continues to rise rapidly from its historical low in 2014-2015.
Earlier this year we passed a new sidewalk program funded by 2019 Bond money. The goal is to encourage property owners to invest in sidewalks, and for the city to proactively repair those sidewalks that are heavily used by the public in high-pedestrian area (along major thoroughfares, near bus stops, etc). Mobility is tied tightly to economy, and the overriding goals are to provide an environment where people can succeed and to improve quality of life.
As part of a joint initiative among several of the council members and the traffic department, we’ve started installing curb-top reflectors on all medians. Feedback on this program has been overwhelmingly positive.
We have an online agenda for all projects in District 8. Here are a few of the more notable projects from 2020.
Winters Park Lighting
In February of this year, we flipped the switch on new LED lighting for Winters Park. The new system, which was a shared cost between the City and GP&L replaced the 1970’s lighting rigs which were becoming unsafe with new efficient LED lighting. Since the new lighting was installed, we’ve cut the park’s power bill in half and reduced light pollution in the surrounding neighborhoods. This means no more orange glowing sky in that area every time that it is cloudy at night time.
Animal Shelter, Police Evidence Room
Both the shelter and the evidence room were high on my priority list for the 2019 bond package. Both projects are undergoing final design now and should be up for final approval in 2020. I expect that both projects will break ground in late 2020/early 2021.
Naaman School Rd
Naaman reconstruction is on schedule as of today. We are waiting for detailed construction/engineering plans from the engineering firm, which should be delivered to us early next year. In the meantime, we’ve secured $10m+ in county funds to help offset the cost of this $34m project. I look forward to breaking ground on it in 2021-2022.
First St abandoned rail spur:
The railroad company (KCS) has agreed to allow us to remove the old abandoned spur near First St and Castle. The council will vote on whether or not to approve this fix on October 20th. There are two railroad crossings on First just south of Buckingham- this will remove one of them and make the trip along First street quite a bit smoother.
Brand Rd bridge lighting:
By constituent request, GP&L added additional lighting to the south side of the Brand Rd bridge. This will help residents traverse the area north of the traffic circle at night a bit more easily.
LED Conversion Project:
GP&L has been switching out our orange sodium street lights with LEDs. Our district saw the first of these improvements in 2019. The project is around $2 million under budget so far, and we’ll see the bulk of our upgrades in 2020.
Goliad St Rebuild
Goliad St, east of Sam Houston was rebuilt this year. This was a ‘sidewalk to sidewalk’ replacement, along with replacement of a number of utilities. I’m continuing to pursue fully-rebuilt alleys and streets within the district as opposed to the asphalt overlays, which are faster and cheaper but very unpopular.
Despite the setbacks of the virus, we continue to remain on track with the 2019 Bond Program. City staff has done an amazing job of keeping things moving despite the world working against all of us. I look forward to more positive developments over the coming years.
As always, if you need anything or want an update for something that wasn’t listed here, please feel free to reach out.