Tag Archives: Princeton City Hall

Moving day at City Hall

Princeton City Hall is about to pack up and move to a new location down the road a bit.

It figures to be a proverbial cakewalk, according to City Manager Derek Borg, who once told me he has been through this already and, thus, he expects a relatively smooth transition from the cramped quarters that City Hall occupies into a vastly more spacious and modern complex east along U.S. Highway 380.

Moving day actually will occur over the span of two days, Jan. 27 and 28, city officials announced recently. There will be a grand opening set for March 11. Mayor Brianna Chacon wants to have it during students’ spring break to ensure that residents can be available to attend and relish what the city will unveil to the public.

It’s a huge deal.

The city spent $20 million to build the municipal complex on donated land on the north side of the highway. It’s a fabulous array of office space, comprising about eight times the space the city now uses. Borg told me the new complex will bring virtually all municipal government departments under one roof.

The complex will feature plenty of glass, lots of windows as a symbolic statement of the “transparency” the city hopes to convey to the public. Future plans call for plenty of green space, retail space and an entertainment venue for residents to enjoy, according to the city manager.

But … first things first.

I don’t think Derek Borg is predicting a hiccup-free move. However, he will take on whatever challenges arise with joyful determination that once everyone settles in, they will be able to provide top-flight municipal service to the residents who are footing the bill.

Good luck to you all.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

New digs in sight!

I took the liberty a little while ago to send a message to Princeton (Texas) City Manager Derek Borg, asking when the city will move its operations into the “new digs” it is building east of where the current city hall operates.

He responded with a single word: “February!!!”

The multiple exclamation points suggest that Borg is quite excited about what lies ahead for his staff, the city council and the public that comes to city hall to conduct its business.

The city financed construction of the new municipal complex through certificates of obligation. An architect drew up plans for the building being erected on donated land just east of Princeton High School. All told, the project costs around $20 million.

Mayor Brianna Chacon told me a while back she had hoped to put a Christmas tree on the site. I guess those plans went away.

I drive by the site frequently and I am impressed with the finishing work that is now underway. The city deserves to present its taxpaying residents with a structure worthy of a growing community … and Princeton is growing — rapidly!

Borg told me the new complex will give employees about seven or eight times more room to operate. They have erected a “For Sale or Lease” sign in front of the soon-to-be-vacated city hall.

The city manager isn’t intimidated by the pending move. He told me he managed the move into the current site. This next move will bring plenty of smiles … when it’s all done.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Local government responds

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It is time to offer a word of thanks and gratitude for the folks who push and pull the levers at Princeton (Texas) City Hall.

My wife and I received our most recent water bill from the city. It showed a significant decline from the previous months. I looked at the bill closely and couldn’t find a readily identifiable reason for the decline.

So … I called the utility billing office at City Hall this morning. I asked a nice lady named Glenda, “Why is my water bill down so significantly from the previous month?” She responded, “The city gave everyone in Princeton a $30 credit on their water bill.”

She didn’t need to explain. The city water system went down for a couple of days during that terrible snow/ice storm that pummeled North Texas for the first half of February. The water treatment plant was powered by the electrical grid that damn near collapsed.

Fortunately, the city got the plant running after two days. The pressure took time to build and the city issued a boil-water advisory, which stayed in effect for three or four more days after service was restored.

“So, this credit was a sort of courtesy that the city extended to us. Is that right?” I asked. Glenda said yes.

Princeton is still a pretty small town, but one that is turning rapidly into a much larger town. Its census is likely to triple from the 2010 count of 6,807 residents when the Census Bureau releases the 2020 count soon. Its water is administered by the North Texas Municipal Water District.

I just feel the overwhelming need to call attention to the “courtesy” that the city and the NTMWD extended to us here. We endured a short-lived, but still miserable, period of time during that winter storm.

I am one red-blooded Texas taxpayer who is grateful that local government officials demonstrated some old-fashioned common decency in helping us recover from it.

Discovering a curious city council policy

I have just attended my first City Council meeting in Princeton, Texas, where I noticed a curious quirk in the council’s makeup and voting policy.

The Princeton City Council comprises five council members and the mayor. That means there are six individuals on the governing board.

However, as the council was marching through its agenda, Mayor John-Mark Caldwell would call for a vote, asking council members to raise their hands if they approved a measure. Five hands went up; the mayor didn’t vote.

Hmm. I believe that is the first such governing body I’ve seen up close that (a) comprises an even number of officials and (b) doesn’t require the presiding officer, the mayor, to cast a vote.

Governing bodies usually are made up of odd-numbered officials, whether it’s five, seven or nine. The Amarillo City Council comprises five members, including the mayor. The Collin County Commissioners Court comprises an odd number of county commissioners. Why is the odd number the norm? Simple: it prevents tie votes when all members are present.

I used to cover a county commission in Oregon that was made up of just three commissioners. The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners functioned pretty well — most of the time — with just the bare minimum of commissioners needed to enact county policy.

In Princeton, where the mayor doesn’t vote on matters, policy decisions are made by an odd number of council members. The mayor is the ringmaster, who isn’t required to enter his vote into the public record.

I’m going to talk to city officials in the morning about an issue the council considered this evening. I need to find out more about this curious policy.

I’ll let you know what I learn.

Princeton grapples with rapid growth

Blogger’s Note: This blog item was published originally on KETR-FM’s website.

Princeton City Hall is a non-descript structure on U.S. 380. The City Council meets there. The city administrative offices are located inside the structure the city leases from the building owner.

It comprises about 6,000 square feet. The Princeton Police Department works out of another structure, as does the Princeton Fire Department.

Well, if City Manager Derek Borg and the City Council have their way, they intend to break ground in about a year on a shiny new municipal complex about a mile east of the current site.

First, though, the city needs a “concept” of what the new complex will look like.

Borg is awaiting the concept from the architectural firm the city has hired, GFF Architects, based in Dallas. He’ll present it to the council, which then would approve it. Then the city hopes to break ground on a massive new public/private endeavor on the north side of U.S. 380.

There will be restaurants and other commercial enterprises, plenty of greenspace, two lakes, natural vegetation, wetlands, a bridge that goes over the wetlands to protect their integrity.

“We’re in the very early stages of the concept,” Borg said. “The next thing will be to look at the cost and how it can be funded.”

OK, so what’s the city’s role here?

Borg said Princeton has outgrown its tiny City Hall. It needs a lot more space. The city intends to bring police and fire administrations under one roof along with other departments. How much space would the new City Hall complex entail? Borg estimates 40,000 to 45,000 square feet, or about eight times the size utilized now, admittedly for only part of the city government’s administration.

Princeton Crossroads is the name of the developer, which Borg said the city is trying to enlist to get “some level of developer participation” in completing the project. “We certainly don’t want to drag this on forever. We want to deliver this project,” he said.

It’s critical to bring police and fire administrations under the same roof as the rest of the city, Borg said, joking that the fire department “is working right now out of its trucks.” Borg, though, has some credibility cracking jokes about the fire department, given that he served as fire chief before becoming city manager.

“It’s going to take a year to build this complex,” Borg said. “We want to break ground in late 2020,” he said.

The cost is still to be determined, he said. Borg did note that the city has a few funding options to consider. One is the obvious option: a bond issue that would go to a vote of the city’s residents. The bond issue would pay only for the bricks and mortar of the public complex. Another option would be to issue certificates of obligation, which the City Council can do without voter approval. Borg did not offer a preference for which funding option would work best for the city.

Princeton clearly is on a fast-track growth trajectory. It’s 2010 census stood at 6,708 residents. Borg believes the population will at least double that amount when they count the residents for the 2020 census. U.S. 380 is under heavy construction along virtually its entire length through the city. Texas Department of Transportation crews are finishing up the median improvements now, but then will begin work on adding one additional lane in each direction through Princeton, turning the four-lane thoroughfare into a six-lane highway to accommodate the expected increase in traffic.

Thus, with the growth that’s occurring, it becomes imperative for the city to build a municipal complex that delivers services to its expanding population.

And what about the City Council’s level of support? Borg said the council is all in and that council members – led by Mayor John-Mark Caldwell – want to proceed as soon as possible.

All this growth does have a way of presenting “headaches” most public officials would wish to confront.