Some projects on the $144 million proposed list were heavily supported by residents in affected areas that attended the first Drainage and Flood Control Bond Committee meeting Thursday night at the Central Library.
But many residents who signed up to speak advocated for other projects that didn’t make the list, which was formulated over several months by City staff, Council members, and citizen input.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley provided a brief overview of the bond process for the audience, stressing that San Antonio’s AAA credit rating has allowed for the historic 2017-2022 Bond Program’s price tag of $850 million, but the needs will always outweigh the dollars available.
Historically, the second biggest slice of the bond pie has repeatedly gone to drainage and flood control projects, with streets, bridges, and sidewalk projects receiving the most funds. This bond cycle is no different; 18 drainage and flood control projects make up 17% of the 2017 bond.
“We need to keep water in channels, instead of people’s property,” Director of Transportation & Capital Improvements Mike Frisbee told the audience Thursday. “We need to control that flow and (focus) on safety issues. Drainage improvements also free up a lot of land for development.”
Eleven citizens and groups presented their concerns surrounding neighborhoods or areas not included in the bond that are in dire need of attention. Frisbee said the committee will consider these “extra proposals” in the meetings to come.
Throughout the bond process, Drainage and Flood Control Committee members will obtain community input gathered at five committee meetings, consider the potential projects, and serve as advisors to City Council when they recommend a final list of projects for the ballot. The public will vote on the bond in May 2017.
Frisbee gave a brief overview of each project up for consideration to the audience which, if approved, could help remove substantial flood plain areas that pose a threat to homeowners, schools, churches, and whole neighborhoods. Frisbee said that the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, for example, would remove 30 acres and 38 buildings from flood plain areas if sufficient funds are allocated.
In addition, Frisbee stressed that all flood and drainage projects work hand in hand with street improvements.
“If we (fix) the underground system, we also need to take care of that street,” Frisbee said.
The Blossom Park – Lotus Blossom Drainage Improvement project received the most attention Thursday night. The $1.4 million project focuses on an old, small drainage channel in the neighborhood around Blossom Park, located north of McAllister Park near Highway 281.
“Water comes up over the bank and flows over to the perimeter,” Frisbee said.
The proposed channel improvements to this area would relieve flooding and channel erosion. The proposal also mentions reconstructing affected streets, curbs, and sidewalks.
Several individuals told stories concerning the problems in Blossom Park.
“It’s just real bad,” said Maria Esparza, who provided the audience with images depicting the flooding in the area. “It’s been a neglected area for a long time.”
Natalie Reyes Blanquiz said her car went into an overflowing ditch in the area one night, as the “ditch fills so high, you can’t see.” Reyes said her car hydroplaned and she had to get her two children out before the water overtook her car. Reyes added that when the area floods, it’s impossible for emergency personnel to come in or out of her neighborhood.
“Who will come in to save us?” said Mercedes Garcia, 69.
“I would hate for someone to lose their life,” Reyes said. “This is more important than (fixing) a city street.”
Frisbee told the Rivard Report that although there are a lot of drainage needs in the city, the dollar amount allocated for drainage and flood improvements is fixed at $114 million. However, the committee can consider adding other projects or change the amount of money for each project.
The next Drainage and Flood Control Community Bond Committee Meeting will take place Oct. 27 from 6-8 p.m. at the Central Library Auditorium.
Click here to see the full schedule of coming bond committee meetings.