New animal shelter, 377 updates heard from Benbrook Council

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During the meeting council members adopted an update of Section 17 of the Capital Improvement Program of the Comprehensive Plan. The Capital Improvements Plan is a forecast and schedule of public improvements for the next five years and beyond.   Continue reading “New animal shelter, 377 updates heard from Benbrook Council”

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Benbrook plans projects for next several years, sees updates

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by A.C. Hall

At their February meeting the Benbrook City Council considered an annual update to the capital improvements program section of their comprehensive plan.  This is done yearly and gives the City a plan on the projects they will focus on in the near future.
An overview of the projects that have been completed in the current comprehensive plan was given.  These included road extensions, alley system construction, and erosion projects.  One project from the current comprehensive plan that is still ongoing is the overhaul of Benbrook Boulevard/377. Continue reading “Benbrook plans projects for next several years, sees updates”

Most incumbents re-elected, all propositions pass

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by A.C. Hall

Voter turnout was way down this year compared to 2014 as there were no major federal positions on the ballot.  In White Settlement, City Council place 4 incumbent Danny Anderson was defeated by opponent David Mann.  Mann had a 47 vote lead in early voting, and held steady on election day en route to a 397 votes to 331 votes victory over Anderson.  One thing Mann did extensively in recent weeks was campaign on the internet, utilizing local Facebook groups to get his campaign message out and answer questions from potential voters.    Continue reading “Most incumbents re-elected, all propositions pass”

Benbrook council approves update to city’s strategic plan

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by A.C. Hall

Deputy City Manager Dave Gattis presented this item to the Benbrook City Council at their June meeting as they looked at updates to their strategic plan.  First adopted in 2009, the plan was reviewed and revised in 2013. That review saw items that had been completed removed, as well as items that were no longer a priority removed.  Council was considering this once again last month, looking to remove finished or non-priority items from the plan.  There were no new items added to the plan. Continue reading “Benbrook council approves update to city’s strategic plan”

Benbrook council approves new fire truck for city

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by A.C. Hall

A new Spartan Metro-Star Chassis Fire Pumper vehicle was approved for purchase at the latest Benbrook City Council meeting.  Fire Chief Tommy Davis presented this item to the council, informing them that their existing fire pumper vehicle did not pass a recent inspection.  Chief Davis also pointed out that the current fire pumper is from 1988. Continue reading “Benbrook council approves new fire truck for city”

Council votes to support low income apartment complex

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by A.C. Hall

The Benbrook City Council tackled a contentious issue earlier this month as they considered support for a low income housing apartment complex.  The complex would be located along Boston Avenue on a 10.5 acre site that has been through this process before.  Two times other developers have tried to bring a complex onto this site, but were not successful.   Continue reading “Council votes to support low income apartment complex”

Community garden, new bike trail coming to Benbrook

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by A.C. Hall

Benbrook residents looking to grow their own food might soon have a place to do so in Dutch Branch Park as the council unanimously passed a resolution creating the Benbrook Community Garden.  Brought forward by a group of local garden enthusiasts, the community garden has been given funding not to exceed $30,000 and is targeting park land behind the YMCA for construction.   Continue reading “Community garden, new bike trail coming to Benbrook”

Tax rate will likely stay the same, high school in the works

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By A.C. Hall

At their meeting last week, the Benbrook City Council got news of a small increase in tax revenues in their city as they instructed staff to move forward with property tax calculations.  The current property tax rate is .6575 and council appeared ready to leave that rate where it stands for the upcoming year.   Continue reading “Tax rate will likely stay the same, high school in the works”

Benbrook Boulevard campaign

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By A.C. Hall

The Benbrook City Council got a look at the “building a better Benbrook Boulevard” campaign this month as Lydia Rickard of L Comm Marketing and Public Relations gave them a presentation.  Started by the Benbrook Economic Development Corporation several months ago, this campaign seeks to keep citizens and businesses in and around Benbrook well informed and up to date on things as the two year Benbrook Boulevard/377 expansion begins later this year.   Continue reading “Benbrook Boulevard campaign”

Zoning changes heard, teachers recognized, survey results revealed

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By A.C. Hall

At their meeting last week, the Benbrook City Council heard the results of the 2013 citizen satisfaction survey.  The city scored well above national benchmarks and was in line with previous year results which have scored Benbrook seven Voice of the People awards.  Continue reading “Zoning changes heard, teachers recognized, survey results revealed”

Silt removal underway at Benbrook park pond, CDBG funds discussed

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By A.C. Hall

Last week the Benbrook City Council unanimously approved an item that is now underway at the Mont Del Park pond.  Through an interlocal agreement with Tarrant County, silt removal is underway at the pond.  The work is expected to take around two weeks to complete, and after being left out to dry for four to six weeks, the silt will then be taken to a landfill.   Continue reading “Silt removal underway at Benbrook park pond, CDBG funds discussed”

Benbrook police and city services departments win Voice of the People awards

By A.C. Hall

Meeting last week, the Benbrook City Council learned that once again the City of Benbrook won multiple Voice of the People awards.  These awards are bestowed upon communities as part of a survey that asks citizens to give input on the city they live in and the services it provides.  Among the hundreds of communities that take part in the surveys, only around a dozen win awards each year.   Continue reading “Benbrook police and city services departments win Voice of the People awards”

Road near Benbrook Elementary now officially one way

By A.C. Hall

Longtime Benbrook citizens may be surprised to hear the action taken by the Benbrook City Council last week as they designated Park Center Street from Cozby North to Mercedes to be one way on school days from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the afternoon.  This action was needed because despite being set up as one way for decades, city staff was unable to find the official action that made it so. Continue reading “Road near Benbrook Elementary now officially one way”

Benbrook passes budget, tax rate to stay same

By A.C. Hall

The Benbrook City Council brought their budget season to a close last week as they unanimously passed the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.  The proposed budget calls for revenues of $16.1 million and expenditures are almost identical.  The budget does use some reserves, with $1 million going toward the utility relocation project along 377, and $300,000 from reserves going to the debt service fund.  At the end of next year, the city expects to have around $5 million in their general fund. Continue reading “Benbrook passes budget, tax rate to stay same”

New look and slogan for Benbrook

After seeking input from citizens as well as hiring the marketing firm of Hahn, TX, the City of Benbrook has settled on a revised logo and new tagline for their city.  The final design came from Hahn, but the council did reward several citizen logo submissions with a donation to a charity of their choice.  

The new logo is an update of the old sails logo, and features the new tagline “Our Pride. Your Joy.”  In a release on the city’s website, Mayor Jerry Dittrich shared his thoughts on the new logo and the process of selecting it.

“The process of choosing an official mark for the city was lengthy because we understand the importance of getting it right,” Dittrich said.  “City Council is pleased with the research efforts of Hahn, and ultimately chose to honor our past by embracing the iconic sails theme with an updated version that also speaks to our future.”

Hahn is putting together a brand standards guide to see that the new logo and tagline are used in a consistent manner in all mediums.  They’re also finalizing a marketing plan for Benbrook that will lay out strategies to bring in visitors, residents and businesses to the city.

Zoning, land use changes made to facilitate Mercedes fire station expansion

by A.C. Hall 

At their meeting last week, the Benbrook City Council voted unanimously to approve zoning and land use changes that will allow the fire station on Mercedes to be expanded.  A fifteen thousand square foot lot adjacent to the fire station was purchased recently for the expansion, but it was zoned one family district.  

A public hearing was held on the proposed zoning and land use change, but with no one present wishing to speak it was closed.  Following that, a motion unanimously passed to approve the zoning change from one family to community facilities, and also to make a tweak to the land use map regarding this lot.  

In other business, the council also addressed delinquent payment penalties on refuse, recycling, and storm drainage accounts, a service that is handled by the Benbrook Water Authority (BWA).  

“Because the billing software utilized by BWA has not allowed for separating penalty amounts for city services from penalty amounts charged on delinquent water/sewer bills, the city has never charged or collected a late fee on delinquent refuse accounts since contracting with BWA,” Public Involvement Director Cathy Morris told the council. Morris also said the BWA is now capable of calculating these penalties, which will be ten percent of the overdue bill.  

“Collecting these fees will help offset the cost of billing services to the city, allow for consistent penalty charges for all services, and prevent delayed payment to the city,” Morris said.  

When asked how much money this would bring to the city, Morris told the council that there is currently $1500 overdue.  

A motion was made to adopt the ordinance that would add in this delinquent penalty.  That motion passed unanimously.  The next item of business dates all the way back to 2005, when the city entered into a developer agreement with BBT Crossing to reimburse expenses for infrastructure in Benbrook Field development.  It was determined that the amount owed is just shy of $4 million, and the council discussed options for paying in this money.  

“All repayment will be made by property taxes generated by increased value in Benbrook Field only, it doesn’t effect any of the other city’s tax revenues,” Deputy City Manager Dave Gattis said.  

In March, the council approved $1.5 million worth of repayment, but Gattis spoke about their option to pursue private bank financing to do this instead of traditional certificates.  Financial advisor Boyd London was on hand to discuss the seven bids that were received from banks, as well as why banks are interested in this type of investment.  

“Banks are interested in this type of paper because they have no other place to loan their money,” London told the council.  

He went on to say he was very pleased with how things turned out, speaking highly of the 1.79 percent rate offered by one of the bids.  A motion to accept this bid passed unanimously.    

Mayor Jerry Dittrich read three proclamations at the meeting.  The first was for the American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Campaign, wherein he named the month of May to be Poppy month, and urged citizens to donate to the poppy campaign.  The poppys are made by disabled and hospitalized veterans, with the proceeds being used towards veterans and their families.  

The second proclamation was to name May Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month, while the third recognized Mrs. Werner’s class at Benbrook Elementary for the pet needs drive they put on benefiting 4Paws.

Grant for Comprehensive Plan Update explained at meeting

Last week the Benbrook City Council listened to a presentation from Elizabeth Beck-Johnson from the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).  Beck-Johnson gave them an in-depth look at a grant that will aid Benbrook today as they plan for tomorrow.

The grant was received by NCTCOG on behalf of the member cities of the Regional Coordination Committee (RCC), a group that is made up of municipalities surrounding the base.  Born from a joint land use study several years ago, the RCC works to ensure that development around the base is compatible with the base’s mission.

Beck-Johnson spoke about the formation of the RCC, saying that this grant will help them fulfill some of the principles that the RCC set out to accomplish.  Beck-Johnson spoke of the desire to help support the communities around the base by using the grant to help with their comprehensive plan updates.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re trying to support those neighborhoods that are already there,” Beck-Johnson said.  “We’re trying to ensure that the economic competitiveness and viability of the western part of Tarrant County remains there through Lockheed and the base.”

She was sure to tell the council that NCTCOG wasn’t going to lose sight of who the plan was really for.

“This is not a plan by COG for you, it is a plan by you for you,” Beck-Johnson said.

Involvement from not only Benbrook city staff and council but also from Benbrook citizens is going to be sought as the comprehensive plan update moves forward.  Beck-Johnson also assured the council that just because NCTCOG was working on comprehensive plan updates for several cities didn’t mean they were making them all the same.

“This isn’t a one size fits all plan for every city.  Benbrook’s needs are drastically different than River Oaks, and we know that,” Beck-Johnson said.

There are four major elements that will go into the comprehensive plan update.  The first of those is an economic market anaylsis.

“That piece really is the foundation upon which all of the other pieces will be built,” Beck-Johnson said.

The other three parts of the update are a housing and retail feasibility study, an enhanced transportation options study, and an ordinance compatibility review.

Open house events to kick off the update will be held in June, with public meetings to be held in September.  Community workshops will go on in September and October and NCTCOG hopes to have the final product ready sometime early in 2013.

“I’d like to thank the COG staff for an awful lot of hard work,” Council member Ron Sauma said.

Sauma went on to speak about the need to make sure that the base doesn’t close as he mentioned the importance of co-existing with the base.

Public Services Director Walter Shumac brought the next two items of business before the council.  The first was regarding the Tarrant County Interlocal Agreement overlay program.  There is $235,000 budgeted for this item that sees Tarrant County help with asphalt overlay of streets.

“The City pays for the asphalt, prepares streets for the overlay and provides traffic control,” Shumac said.  “The county will furnish labor and equipment.”

This year’s project will overlay two and a half miles worth of streets, and will also include a continuation of the hike and bike trail on Winscott.  The project is tentatively set to start in the spring.

Council member Rickie Allison spoke about how superior this process is when compared with methods that were used in the past.  A motion was made to approve the interlocal agreement, and that motion passed unanimously.

The other item brought forward by Shumac was the new alley that was recently constructed between Mercedes and Cozby Street North.  Residents are concerned with cut through traffic going up and down the alley, and staff proposed an ordinance that would make the alley one way to cut down on the amount of cars going through.  The proposed one way traffic would go from Park Center Street to Warden Street.

A motion was made to approve this ordinance and it passed unanimously.  Council member Jim Wilson praised staff for hearing citizens concerns and coming up with a solution to them.

Zoning changes made for church parking lot

BENBROOK CITY COUNCIL

At their meeting last week, the Benbrook City Council considered a zoning change request brought forth by the Tabernacle of Praise Church.  This would apply to an area just over two acres in size at the intersection of Rolling Hills Drive and 2871.

“They have expressed their long term interest in using this as excess parking,” Deputy City Manager Dave Gattis told the council.

The area is currently zoned single family, and the proposed change would be to community facilities.  Gattis called this a “minor change in the zoning configuration.”  To approve the request, a change would need to be made to the land use plan.  It was also discussed that in order for the area to be used as a parking lot, it would need a conditional use permit granted by the Planning and Zoning board.

“This could be a parking lot or it could be buildings, is that correct?” Mayor Jerry Dittrich asked.

Gattis confirmed that if council approved the zoning changes, approved uses of the land would then be for a church or a school, if that decision was made by Tabernacle of Praise.  Dittrich also mentioned the possibility of a multilevel parking structure, or a walkway crossing over the road to the church.

Gattis replied that things like that and the design, safety and drainage issues would all be addressed when the church seeks the conditional use permit from the P&Z board.

A public hearing on the matter was opened, and a representative of the church was on hand to answer any questions.  He informed the council that the church sent out a letter in December to the entire neighborhood, inviting them to participate in a discussion where they could speak about the proposed developments the church has planned.

From those discussions, some things that citizens brought up were safely crossing the street to go from the proposed parking lot to the church, drainage, and landscaping.

Councilmembers Ron Sauma and Jim Wilson thanked the church for reaching out to the neighborhood.

The possibility of a traffic light at the intersection is something that was mentioned by Gattis in response to a council member’s question.

“The parking lot and the pedestrians by themselves would not meet the warrants for a traffic signal,” Gattis said.  “I will tell you, though, that as skyline ranch develops, the traffic will probably warrant a signal there in the relatively near future if not already, so at some point in time there will be a signal there.”

With no one else present wishing to speak, the public hearing was closed and a motion was made to approve the re-zoning request, and to make the needed corresponding changes to the land use plan.  That motion passed unanimously.  Before the area can be used as a parking lot, the church will need to come before the P&Z seeking the conditional use permit.  At that time more will be known about the design and specifics of the parking lot and its impact on the area.

City of Benbrook moves forward on $1.5 million certificate of obligation

by A.C. Hall

Meeting last week, the Benbrook City Council agreed to move the certificate of obligation process forward at the suggestion of the Benbrook TIF board (Tax Increment Finance).  This is to reimburse developer BBT Crossing for work done in 2006 in the Benbrook field area for infrastructure items such as Vista Way up to Mercedes, a portion of Mercedes, Sterling Drive, and some water and utility improvements.

The work done was valued at $3.9 million, but up until now BBT has been reimbursed only a tiny portion of that.

“We have only reimbursed the developer 140 thousand out of his nearly four-million-dollars] investment,” Deputy City Manager Dave Gattis said.

As part of the agreement, TIF has the ability to issue Certificate of Obligation debt in order to make payments to BBT.  At their meeting in February, TIF voted to support this move.  The certificate would be in an amount not to exceed $1.5 million.

Before the council was a resolution that would see the publication in local newspapers for the intention to issue the certificate of obligation.  Council voted unanimously to approve that resolution, moving the debt issuance process forward.

Also on the agenda was a proposed agreement for gas well inspection services with Cibola Venture Services.  Benbrook has seven pad sites and 45 wells in various stages of development.  Since 2009, the city has had an agreement in place for well inspections, and this new agreement was set at the same price point.  Cibola will charge $125 per hour, with a max fee of $1500 per pad site and a max fee of $1500 per new well.  The money used to pay for the inspections comes from gas well permit and inspection fees which are charged annually to operators.

“What’s the process when a well is found to be out of compliance?” councilmember Ron Sauma asked, wondering if the inspector had the power to shut a well down.

He was informed by staff that this has never come up before, and that historically well operators in the city have been quick to address any concerns the inspector has.

A motion was made to approve the agreement with Cibola Venture Services for gas well inspection, and that motion passed unanimously.

At the close of the meeting, council held a closed door executive session so they could speak with the attorney regarding a letter of agreement with Chesapeake concerning oil, gas, and mineral lease for Whitestone Golf Course.  Upon reconvening, no information was given on the matter, but a motion was made to accept the letter and have the City sign the letter, as well as to make sure the letter is added to the original contract.  That motion passed unanimously.

Council approves purchase of new ambulance for the city

by A.C. Hall

The Benbrook City Council met last week to discuss several issues, one of which was to consider the purchase of a new ambulance.  This item was in the budget, and council was informed that the cost of a new ambulance would be $145,069.  The city has already been approved for a Tarrant County Ambulance Replacement Grant, which gives $50,000 towards the purchase of a new ambulance.  That brings the cost to Benbrook down to $95,069.  The new ambulance is a 2012 Ford F-450 Type 1, and will replace a 1998 model.  Expected delivery of the ambulance is in May or June.  Councilmember Ron Sauma shared some comments that he’d received from citizens praising the city’s fire and police forces.  Sauma said he’d been told that some people’s stated reason for moving to Benbrook was because the high quality of the city’s police and fire departments.  

 

Comprehensive Plan Updated

The Capital Improvements section of the comprehensive plan is required to be updated once per year, and that action was taken at this meeting.  Council received a quick rundown of the information within, which included an update on two ongoing projects.  Rolling Hills Park is in the construction phase and is about halfway done.  The expansion of the central fire station is still in the design phase.

Also included in the capital improvements section is a list of several unfunded projects that were brought forward by a 2009 committee as things the city would need in the next twenty years.  The list includs projects such as a new animal control facility, improvements to Dutch Branch, Mont Del, Team Ranch, and Timber Creek parks, the construction of Whitestone Ranch Fire Station, and a Mont Del/North Benbrook Fire substation.  The most expensive project on the list was the relocation of Benbrook Marina, which at the time of the 2009 committee was estimated to cost over $7 million.

A public hearing was opened and anyone present was invited to speak regarding the capital improvements update.  With none present wishing to speak, the public hearing was closed and council voted unanimously to approve the update.

 

New City Engineer introduced

David Corley was introduced as the new City Engineer for Benbrook.  He spoke briefly to the council.

“I really appreciate the opportunity to serve,” Corley said.  “I know it’s going to be a challenge because we have a lot going on.  It’s going to be fun.”

377 widening project takes another step forward

 

Meeting for the first time in 2012 last week the Benbrook City Council unanimously approved a funding memorandum for the 377 widening, a process that will affect anyone traveling through Benbrook for several years to come.

The funding memorandum breaks down the $23.7 million that will be used to pay for the project.  $18.5 million will come from the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) and Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) using funds granted through proposition 12, a recently passed proposition that made available $3 billion to address congested highways, rehabilitate bridges and improve connectivity between the state’s metropolitan areas.  $2.8 million comes from Benbrook’s Core Value Fund, $1.5 million from Tarrant County bond funds, and another $825,000 from TXDOT preliminary engineering.

Construction is estimated at $18.9 million, with bids set to be opened in June.  If things stay on schedule, construction could begin in the fall and take around two years.  The construction will be done in sections, with the middle section targeted to be completed first.

“Some of the business may take a slight hit for a while,” Councilman Ron Sauma said.

Sauma was told by Deputy City Manager Dave Gattis that businesses will be provided with access at all times, even if it has to be done through dirt entries while construction is going on.

Mayor Jerry Dittrich mentioned the option of keeping some of the right of ways along 377 available after the completion of the widening for possible future mass transit and things like bus stops.

“Right now we’re just trying to get what we need,” Gattis told the Mayor.

Utility work will begin within six months, and there is a Feb. 23 public hearing set on the project.

Also on the agenda was the 38th year Community Development Block Grant.  Around $80,000 was available in funding to the city for this year’s project, and Gattis addressed the council about possible uses.

“We have considered possible projects and frankly over the last thirty some odd years, all of the eligible infrastructure projects that we can think of within the target area have been rebuilt,” Gattis said.

He suggested housing rehabilitation be named the project for this year.  In a motion, councilmember Jim Wilson tentatively designated street lighting and housing rehabilitation as the project focus for the coming year.  That motion passed unanimously.

The council also approved several amendments to the EDC budget.  These were all previously approved projects that hadn’t been added into the budget yet, and included $40,000 to assist the Gardner-Denver relocation of an electric service line as a part of a business retention-expansion plan, $19,700 for prepare concept plans for the redevelopment of the commercial areas along Camp Bowie West and Williams Road, a contract for $9,070 with the University of Texas at Arlington for an industrial target study to assist in identifying the best industries to target recruitment efforts, $400,000 loan to Steve Hawkins as an incentive toward the development of the Hawkins Business Center on the north side of I-20, and an estimated $2 million amount where EDC would do infrastructure improvements in exchange for 12 acres of land on the west side of Winscott.

Benbrook Financial report presented


By A.C. Hall

 

The Benbrook City Council met last week to move through their last agenda of 2011.  It proved to be a short gathering, as they unanimously voted to accept the finance report for the month of November.  Mayor Jerry Dittrich offered some season’s greetings before adjourning.

“This is our last meeting of the year,” Dittrich said.  “Thank you council members for your service and I would like to wish y’all a merry Christmas and happy new year and [the same to] our citizens out there.”