JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
GRANITE SHOALS — Despite learning that $50,000 is the most the U.S. Department of Agriculture could award the city of Granite Shoals for major street repairs instead of the $3.6 million the city was originally told, city leaders haven’t thrown in the towel on those projects.
Now, leaders are eyeing a pot of $58 million through the Texas Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). The program, which is federally funded, aims at enhancing existing roads.
The funds cannot be used to construct or repair a road, but they can go toward enhancements such as sidewalks, bike lanes, lighting, drainage, and sometimes landscaping, according to an email from Gandolf Burrus, president of Grant Development Services.
Last year, Granite Shoals leaders began looking into making improvements to the city’s three major thoroughfares: Phillips Ranch Road, Valley View, and Prairie Creek. They estimated it could cost more than $6 million for the upgrades, but the city coffers couldn’t cover such an expense. City Manager Ken Nickel and Mayor Carl Brugger, along with city staff, sought assistance through a possible USDA grant. City officials said they were told Granite Shoals could be eligible for as much as $3.6 million in matching funds. With that number in hand, the city called for a November bond election in which voters passed a $3 million bond as Granite Shoals’ portion.
In December, however, Nickel learned the most the city could get from the USDA program was $50,000.
As a result, Nickel and city staff have been looking for alternative grants such as TAP.
The city is also looking at what it can do if it goes it alone with the $3 million. Nickel asked Greg Haley of K.C. Engineering Inc. to recommend what can be done to the roads for no more than $3 million. Those recommendations will be made in April, Nickel said.
Along those lines, the city council is considering going back to voters this November and asking them if they still support issuing the $3 million in bonds even if it means there will be no significant federal or state funding. The city hasn’t issued any debt as of yet in regard to the November 2016 bond passage.
Under TAP, the amount of money available across the state is $58 million with the competition divided into two categories: towns with populations of 5,000 or fewer and cities with populations of 5,001-200,000.
Burrus added that the fund pays 80 percent of construction expenses with cities paying the remaining 20 percent. In addition, the city is responsible for any cost overruns, engineering, or administration.
Nickel said $50,000 was set aside for engineering services for this fiscal year.
The deadline to apply for TAP funding is May 22.
The mayor has prepared a letter of complaint regarding the USDA grant funding and process that will be sent to the top USDA official in the state, but that individual hasn’t been appointed yet.
Nickel added that the street crews are using a better mix to address pot holes across the city. This new mix seems to be holding up better than previous ones and should allow the city to reduce the need for repaving some streets.