Parks and Recreation department request $5.5 million to repair W - KXXV Central Texas News Now

Parks and Recreation department request $5.5 million to repair Waco Suspension Bridge

(Source: KXXV) (Source: KXXV)

The Parks & Recreation Department is requesting $5.5 million from the city to repair and preserve the Waco Suspension Bridge.

The request, which was paired with two other requests from two other departments for infrastructure improvements, would require the city to borrow $8.9 million or issue certificates of obligation for a bond.

According to City Manager Dale Fisseler, this type of bond, which doesn’t require voter approval, allows the city to borrow money for infrastructure projects.

"The homeowners won't see any changes in their taxes because of this decision,” Fisseler said.

If the city council borrows the money, it would be paid off with Tax Increment Financing, These funds come from tax revenue from areas such as downtown. Fisseler said that TIF funds from reinvestment zone #1, which includes downtown, have incentivized development in that area.

“The TIF reinvestment zone has been really helpful with the redevelopment of the downtown area.”Fisseler said.

Senior Park Planner Tom Balk gave members of the board of directors for reinvestment zone number one for TIF a tour of the Waco suspension bridge.

He showed the group the need to replace the cables supporting the structure.

"It's perfectly safe for any size of crowd. However, we need to have a plan in place to replacing the cables in ten years,” Balk said.

He also showed structural issues that are already visible.

"The retaining walls that help support these towers, we have some significant cracking,” Balk said.

He added the decking, which is a wooden surface, needs to be replaced.

“It has decayed at a significant rate at this point. We have been replacing quite a bit of it but the wood that is out there now, much of it has been replaced but even what has been put out there continues to decay at a much faster and faster rate,” Balk said.

The project, which has an expected completion year of 2020, is expected to take about 18 months.

"We want to minimize the negative impact to our public events. We want to be able to continue hosting as many races and concerts,” Balk said.

The city also wants to keep visitors coming to the city’s iconic landmark, including Charlene and Doug Swedlund from Colorado.

"I think it's great. I love the idea that we can walk across it and look out at the river and see the ducks,” Charlene said.

The fixer upper fan said Magnolia Market initially attracted her to Waco. However, she said visiting the bridge was on her list.

"It's safe, it's beautiful. It's worth keeping,” Charlene said.

On Thursday, members of the advisory board for reinvestment zone #1 for TIF agreed to pay back the $8.9 million with TIF funding in a 14-year-period, if the city council issues a certificate of obligation. However, members of the city advisory board asked whether the city could pay for the interest on the borrowed money on the suspension bridge.

The two other projects the city would fund with the $8.9 million, include improving sidewalks on Webster Avenue and installing decorative lighting in downtown underpasses. The sidewalk project would cost nearly $1.3 million and the I-35 lighting project would have a price tag of $2.1 million.

The city will ultimately decide whether to issue the certificates of obligation and whether to approve TIF funding to be used to pay for the debt.

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