The City of McAllen is getting back in the electric bus business, making plans to buy two electric buses at a cost of just over two million dollars. This will be the city's second attempt to add cutting-edge technology to its Metro McAllen fleet of diesel-powered buses.
City commissioners at their next-to-last regular meeting of the year on Monday voted to approve the purchase from WAVE Inc. of Park City, Utah at a cost of $2,045,000, almost $74,000 under budget and bought mostly with federal grant money. McAllen is contributing only $211,000.
Transit Director Liz Suarez told commissioners that, while WAVE Inc. failed to provide the required bid bond, the company has since pledged to meet the bond requirement. WAVE Inc., she told them, is now piloting the technology in Utah and is in final testing stages. McAllen would be the company's second location.
"We're excited to be able to launch something like this in the Valley," Suarez said. "We'd be the first transit property in the state of Texas to be able to deploy this type of technology."
The bus uses an in-ground pad to recharge the bus' battery and it "works through a magnetic resonance system," Suarez explained. No wires are used to recharge the battery. "We embed one pad at our hub, which would be Central Station (downtown McAllen), as opposed to any above-ground lines that tend to be more costly." That translates to a reduction in infrastructure costs of about 60%, she went on, and the company claims the technology will reduce energy consumption by 93%.
Suarez said she conservatively figures a $30,000 savings per electric bus route plus it's quieter than a diesel bus.
The city's previous try at acquiring rechargeable electric buses came to naught a couple of years ago over financial problems. The federal grant was stimulus money McAllen received in 2011. Commissioner Trey Pebley recused himself from discussing or dealing with the item, without explanation.
Put off to another day
At the suggestion of Assistant City Manager Brent Branham, commissioners decided to wait for a traffic analysis at the site of a proposed nightclub named Shiva in a development on the south side of the Expressway between Bentsen and Ware Roads.
The developer is asking for a Conditional Use Permit to operate the nightclub, which would be on the southernmost side of the development. Colbath Road runs east-west on the south side of the development, and a subdivision of homes is there. Shiva would be open 10 pm--2 am, Wednesday--Saturday, according to city documents.
Resident Esther Martinez appeared in opposition of the nightclub at the Planning & Zoning Commission and she appeared again at Monday's commission meeting. A number of neighborhood residents signaled their opposition to city hall.
P & Z recommended the permit be granted on the condition that a gate be placed at a nearby entrance/exit on Colbath Road and the gate be closed when the club is open. That would require drivers to exit onto the expressway access road.
A representative of the developer, Lucas Almond, told commissioners objections should have been raised when the city originally permitted it. Almond said the developer believes a gate will hurt leasing efforts and they will not reconsider their refusal to install a gate. As a back and forth between Almond and Commissioner John Ingram continued, Branham stepped in to ask for a delay until they get the traffic study since how many cars are projected there is not known.
If you like the way Ware Road looks......
Commissioners agreed to partner with the state to build medians on North 10th Street from Trenton Road to State Highway 107.
City Engineer Yvette Barrera told the commission that city staff will design the medians and write specifications, which will constitute an in-kind contribution to the cost of the project. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will build them and hold meetings with the public. The medians will be "somewhat like" those on Ware Road, Barrera added. The project is priced at $1,846,000 and will start September 2015, according to information furnished the commission.
The bid to land a NCAA Division II football playoff game didn't pan out for the city this fall and it left unspent $300,000 that was budgeted for expenses. Commissioners 'repurposed' the cash at Monday's meeting.
They voted to divide the money thusly:
$50,000 to the McAllen Convention Center to help promoters stage concerts at the stadium (the Center is tasked with promoting the venue to concert promoters); $76,500 to stage public viewings at the stadium on a large LED screen of soccer's World Cup in Brazil next June & July, a total of 64 games (they think it would attract 20-25,000 viewers); $52,500 for The Retail Coach, helping the city attract businesses; $25,400 for the Quinta Mazatlan Nature Tourism and Marketing Plan; $15,000 for expenses in having the Houston Dynamos soccer club play an exhibition game to inaugurate the De Leon Elementary soccer complex in 2014 and, finally, $10,000 for expenses incurred when the city applied to the NCAA to revive the Palm Bowl.
Show me the tax money
McAllen collected $31,076,068.13 of assessed property taxes in the fiscal year that just ended 9/30. That's a collection rate of 96.469% according to information from the McAllen Tax Office in a report at the meeting. That collection rate is up slightly from the 96.39% of the previous fiscal year.
The delinquent tax collection rate was 33.19%, according to the report, down slightly from 33.79% the year before.
Even though City Manager Mike Perez is back at work from both vacation and a suspension because of a sexual harassment allegation, he was not at the meeting. Branham said Perez was taking what he called sensitivity classes that week.
The commission's last meeting of the year is scheduled for Monday, December 9.