Frisco voters will be deciding whether or not to approve $473.4 million in proposed bond items this May.
The Frisco City Council officially called the bond election during its Tuesday night meeting. The proposed bond package includes funding for public safety items, road construction and more, but the majority of the conversation Tuesday night centered around whether or not to include a $5 million bond item for an animal shelter in the package.
The city appointed a bond committee in September which considered requests from city staff for a 2023 bond package. The final recommendation from the committee was presented at a joint meeting on Jan. 17. The legal deadline to call an election for the May 6 ballot is Feb. 17.
An item presented to the City Council Tuesday night presented two options for bond packages that could be presented to voters in May.
The first option, “Ordinance A,” included five items totaling $473.4 million:
$131.4 million for public safety items (new fire department facilities, fire department facilities renovations, new police department facilities, police department facilities renovations, equipment, vehicles and apparatus).
$240 million for street and road construction and improvements.
$39 million for city service facilities (new parks operation center/building services maintenance facility and new logistics/storage facility).
$43 million for parks, trails and open space.
$20 million for a downtown parking garage
The second option, “Ordinance B” includes the same five items with the addition of the $5 million for an animal shelter. A city memo said Ordinance B was recommended by the citizens bond committee, however Councilman Bill Woodard noted that the bond committee had been split in its decision to recommend funding for the shelter.
Multiple community members appeared Tuesday night speaking in favor of Ordinance B.
Council members heard from Assistant Chief of Police Billy Clay, who said the Police Department’s Animal Services division focuses on three areas: reuniting animals with owners, education and adoption promotion. He cited concerns with running a shelter, including building cost, euthanasia and potential liability.
“There’s too much unknown and liability that comes with us building something that we are not certain that we need, and right now, the data does not support that we need it,” Clay said.
Council members indicated that there was no desire to have a city-run animal shelter at this time.
During the meeting, Mayor Jeff Cheney floated the idea of finding a private partner who would offer service in a Frisco facility. The meeting also included discussions about the ramifications of rewriting the bond language as well as the possibility of looking at other funding options.
“When you have public-private partnerships, GO (General Obligation) bonds are not always the way to go. So there are other financing tools that we can use,” said Anita Cothran, Chief Financial Officer for the city.
Council members Bill Woodard, John Keating and Angelia Pelham spoke in favor of Ordinance A.
“I do believe that there needs to be funds allocated, not necessarily through our bond proposal process, but allocated through the city budget of some sort towards animal services solutions,” Pelham said. “I do not believe that a shelter is the only solution to this problem. I believe that there are other solutions that are out there, solutions that get at education, that get at reunification, that get at adoption that (Assistant) Chief Clay shared earlier. I believe we should explore those solutions through other budgetary means, and I would ask the City Manager and city staff to come back to council within the next 60 days with solutions towards that end.”
Council Member Tammy Meinershagen also expressed support for looking at other options besides the bond measure.
“I think that’s what it requires for us to do it well, to do it right, to do what this animal shelter or service or resource center deserves,” Meinershagen said.
Council members Laura Rummel and Brian Livingston spoke in favor of Ordinance B.
“I think the $5 million gives us a commitment to say, ‘Yes, this is something we want to do and we are going to move forward in it, now let’s go figure out how to make it happen,’” Rummel said.
In the end, the council voted unanimously to call a bond election using ordinance A. Council members Brian Livingston and Laura Rummel noted that they would have supported the animal shelter, and Rummel also advocated for having action towards a private partnership plan within 60 days.
“I think it’s been clear that we still have quite a bit of work to do,” Cheney said. “I think that’s what we’ve discovered tonight, and we want to do that in partnership with the public, and those that advocate on this position, and certainly we appreciate Laura’s leadership in this regard and we certainly lean on her quite a bit. And so we’ll continue to have the conversations.”
See the full discussion for Item 27 at tinyurl.com/ms299k2k
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