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Van Alstyne Council Approves Jennings’ Replacement

It seems that lately the hardest thing for the Van Alstyne City Council to do is hold a full meeting. In December, the once-a-month meeting was cancelled as ice caved in part of the roof at the Community Center where meetings are held. Meeting at Grayson College on Jan. 14 an imposed time limit meant that approximately half of the agenda was left untouched.

Council will re-rack and try this again on Tuesday night. This time, however, the city will hold the called council meeting at the Van Alstyne Church of Christ on 191 Hobson St. at 6:30 p.m. While it will technically be a new agenda it will comprise the rest of the Jan. 14 agenda. Mayor Teddie Ann Salmon stated that a water workshop for the public will be held immediately following the Council meeting.

On Tuesday night, Council really did not get going on Ordinance No. 699 regarding water rates. Though this is what most residents had showed up to see by the time the ordinance rolled through on the night’s agenda the clock had ticked past 9 p.m. and it was lights out for this session of the Van Alstyne City Council.

However, some business was accomplished during that time, much of it spent on a presentation by Palladium USA, the company which wants to bring a major project to the city. Palladium is proposing a 165-unit senior living center. Van Alstyne Senior Living, as it was called in the presentation, is a major project slated for construction near Blassingame Ave. Palladium President/CEO Tom Huth was on hand with Senior Vice President/COO Joan Maxwell and VP of Finance Margaret Jones to lay out what the city may be looking at in the near future.

According to Huth and Maxwell, Van Alstyne Senior Living, which is strictly for those age 62 and older, will include 165 units of one- and two-bedroom housing with three stories of main high-rise living also available. The facility will include, among other amenities, a pool, clubhouse, gazebo, movie theater, walking trails, coffee bar, wi-fi café, a fitness center with full perimeter fencing, an on-site bus and available garage space.

“It’s a very active lifestyle,” said Huth.

One hundred forty of the units will be affordable housing with qualified tenants paying $660 for a one bedroom and $793 for a two bedroom with utilities included. The other 40 units will be priced at market value. The plus side for the city is that the senior living facility will pay annual city and school taxes estimated to be $70,670 and $180,576, respectively.

Huth stated that the city must make this happen, however, stating that Palladium USA needs a resolution of support from Council by March 31 and also a resolution of financial support pledging to contribute $57,000 to the project in some form or fashion. This contribution can be a reduction or elimination of impact fees or permit fees or even tax abatements.

A major bit of business was handled on Tuesday night as a new city council member was voted in. Ever since John Jennings tendered his resignation from Council back in September there has been discord on his replacement, or even if there should be a replacement at all since the Place 3 seat was up for election in May anyway. Applicants have been nominated for the spot at other meetings but no one has been approved by the majority – until now. Council members voted 3-1 to appoint Robert Jaska to replace Jennings. Jennings was not able to vote on the matter, Russell Moore abstained from voting and Kaaren Teuber, Jim Smith and Billy Plake voted to approve Jaska. Jaska will be sworn in at the Tuesday night council meeting.

Two other items had no action taken – one by design and the other out of necessity. Council discussed extension/financial hardship policies in relation to water customers in addition to a leak adjustment policy that was not listed on the agenda. Seeing that Council was not of one mind on what even properly constituted a hardship as it applies to water billing she wisely suggested the item be table for further discussion. The motion to table passed 4-1 with Plake opposed.

Aside from the new water policies, the item that generated the most intense debate was a call for the council to take action to authorize City Manager Frank Baker to award contracts in relation to the upcoming project involving future Collin Grayson Municipal Alliance (CGMA) water line construction. City engineers Bob Johnson and Len McManus explained to Council that they needed to authorized Baker to award contracts for bond counsel, the engineering firm and financial advisor for the project. Johnson stated that this had to be done even before the city committed to accepting a multi-million loan to fund the design, planning and construction of the water line expansion.

The CGMA water line will be the source of water in the future for Van Alstyne as the population increases and the current wells’ ability to source the city’s water diminishes. The CGMA water will come from Lake Lavon in Collin County. Johnson and Councilman Jennings pointed out that, while there is cost involved, it will be offset somewhat by reduced operational costs of the current wells and the $160,000 the city currently pays for the CGMA line even though it doesn’t pull any water from the source.

Councilman Smith, however, stated that he wanted to make sure the public was aware that there would be significant cost to the line and that the water rates could go up to pay for this 20-year loan the city would need to take out to fund the project. The cost for the sewer portion of the project will be between $127,000-$128,000 per year for 20 years; design and planning fees will be $68,000 per year for 10 years; and actual construction costs will initially be approximately $180,000 per year but will increase in later years.

“The community must be aware that there will be cost involved,” said Smith. “We need to make absolutely sure the public is aware.”

Jennings said the time has come for the implementation of that system.

“The comment has been made that we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Van Alstyne is at that bridge now,” he said.

Smith was assured by Johnson that voting for the city manager to award these contracts would not commit the city financially at this point, and the measure passed 4-1.

Council Notes: A variance was granted to allow the future Golden Chick restaurant on the Highway 75 access road to use Texas Sage plants in addition to existing residential fences as a buffer between the back of its restaurant and residential homes…Council also granted a variance to property owners on Offill Ln. to allow for a reduction in the percentage of masonry required for future construction to match what is currently on the existing building.