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City starts to reopen facilities

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During their most recent virtual meeting on June 16, the Elgin City Council discussed modified city operations due to COVID-19, an overview of the updated five-year capital improvement plan and the latest developments in a project to build a sewer line along FM 1704.

As of June 1, the City of Elgin moved to “modified threat level four” in its plan to respond to COVID-19. Elgin’s plan outlines four threat readiness levels, with threat level four being “normal conditions” and threat level one being “maximum readiness.” Elgin moved to level two in mid-March. The full COVID-19 readiness plan can be found online at http://www.elgintx.com/1065/COVID-19. At this level, the city is continuing with operations as usual, with an emphasis on hygiene and staying vigilant until the threat is completely gone.

The city’s facilities and buildings have been reopened to the public on a limited basis. This includes City Hall, municipal court offices and the lobby of the police station.

The computer lab at the Elgin Public Library is open for use by appointment, and the library has restarted its sidewalk deliveries program. The Elgin Recreation Center has restarted the Wildcat Walkers program with social distancing, and portions of the gymnasium and studio room are available by appointment. 

The swimming pool at Morris Memorial Park is scheduled to reopen for limited use by the July 4 weekend “as long as we don’t take a big turn for the worse,” city manager Thomas Mattis told the council. All facilities at parks, other than restrooms, are available for use, but since the city does not have the resources to ensure sanitation between uses, people can use these facilities at their own risk.

Operations and staffing have returned to normal levels, city employees continue to practice social distancing, and they wear a mask and gloves anytime they are in the presence of the public when social distancing is not possible. 

“We’re going to strive to continue to open, but we’re going to do it in a modified, careful way,” Mattis concluded.

Council receives proposed long-term plan

Mattis gave the council an update on the latest iteration of the city’s Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan (5YRCP).

The 5YRCP is a long-term plan for the city’s needed capital improvement and construction projects, reviewed and amended annually. The plan itself does not authorize the allocation of any funds from the city’s budget.

As of 2020, the plan includes a total of nearly $63 million worth of projects. Between 2016 and 2020, the city has spent over $23 million on city infrastructure; 72% of that money has come from city funds, while 28% was from external sources, such as grants.

Projects that are proposed for funding during the 2020-21 fiscal year include: utilities improvements downtown for the upcoming CARTS station; the first phase of County Line Road upgrades; improving downtown alleys; a renovation of the building at 202 Depot Street; new restrooms at Elgin Memorial Park; the wastewater treatment plant expansion; and sidewalks on Main Street and MLK Boulevard.
Nearly $45 million worth of projects in the plan are unfunded at this point.

The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2020 5YRCP during the regular meeting on July 21, with adoption of the plan scheduled for August 4.

FM 1704 project moves forward

A project to build a required wastewater line for recently-annexed property on FM 1704 is facing some obstacles in working with property owners in the area.

In 2015, the City of Elgin annexed about 212 acres southeast of town in an apparent strategy to counter Bastrop’s annexation of land to its north. State law requires Elgin to provide all available city services, including wastewater service, within five years; the cost of providing wastewater service to the area was estimated at under $3 million. A proposed alternative was disannexing the area; the council approved a compromise, retaining the property west of the railroad tracks near FM 1704 and disannexing the property east of the railroad tracks. In March, the city council voted to disannex the east section and begin a project to build a wastewater line to serve the west section.

City engineer Beau Perry said the project is ready to go out to bid at the end of this month, and a property owner has been found who would be willing to sell some property for a lift station. The city has reached out to each property owner via certified mail, requesting access to their property in order to survey it and make sure they would be able to connect with the sewer line. Some property owners agreed, Perry said, but several have rejected the request, and a lot of property owners did not respond.

As a result, the project plans to extend the sewer service line to the property lines of the owners’ properties. The current design meets the city’s obligation to provide sewer service to the properties, Perry said. However, the property owners may have to take extra steps if they want to connect to the city’s wastewater system in the future.

“We just can’t wait any longer,” Mattis added. “We need to move full-steam ahead.”