A rather typical spring week in North Texas, temperatures are all over the gauge with plenty of wind. Still, it is a very good time to be out enjoying a walk on some of our new trails or appreciating the beautiful Addison landscapes in one of our 14 parks. While out walking you may have noticed some of the work in progress along the easements on Proton. No, we do not have an invasion of ground hogs or prairies dogs. Those holes surrounded by orange netting are the sites for new lighting fixtures to make our trails and sidewalks more enjoyable year-round all the way from Midway to Beltway! This part of the project should be finished mid-May although the corner of Beltway and Proton should be complete by mid-April.
Tuesday evening at Town Hall we had a very exciting and positive Council Meeting as we covered several very important subjects.
In our Work Session we received an update from our staff and Tom Lamberth of UDR on the next steps for the Vitruvian development bordered by Marsh Lane on the west and Spring Valley on the north, Brookhaven College and our park on the south and east along Vitruvian Way. Our staff gave us a brief history lesson highlighting the zoning approvals given by Council back in 2007 that included unlimited residential density, 500,000 square feet of office space and 500,000 square feet of retail space, with no height restrictions and a projected total build out population of over 9,000 residents all in about 5,700 apartments. The $50 million incentive agreement to build infrastructure is funded entirely with debt, of which about $28 million has already been spent, well before the completion of the project which is expected to take several more years. That 2007 incentive agreement also includes an 8% fee to be paid to UDR for oversight of the construction of the infrastructure projects. The current property values of this project are over $188 million, which is more than two times the property values before the project began.
UDR has submitted approval requests to our staff that will soon come before our P&Z Commission and Council seeking approval of their next two phases of work. Vitruvian West will be located near the corner of Spring Valley and Vitruvian Way with about 350 apartments, averaging 810 square feet, along with very high-end amenities including an amazing fitness center, pool, social area and leasing office. The apartments will be five stories tall and wrap a garage. UDR hopes to begin the work in 60 -90 days and the other two phases of similar description will follow each about one year apart. UDR also plans to begin work on a similar 60-90 day out schedule of the redevelopment of the retail center near the corner of Spring Valley and Marsh Lane. The Tom Thumb will stay in its current location, but will receive a facelift. The remaining retail space will be razed and replaced. There will be more details presented for each of these phases at the upcoming P&Z Commission and Council meetings. The agendas for both P&Z and Council can be found here.
Our Work Session also included discussion of our plans for the reimbursement incentive agreement for the upcoming Addison Grove project. Our interim CFO Dr. Scott Neils brought us an updated presentation that included a new fifth option for Council consideration. This option, which was recommended by staff and agreed to by most of the Council, would not require any new debt and thus not impact on our tax rate. Instead we would utilize part of our reserves and part of our Infrastructure Investment Fund. Since the reimbursement to the developer is capped at $6.5 million and will take place over time and only as certain specific construction milestones are met, we are able to use cash and retain our flexibility. As the linked presentation demonstrates, the value of the property before this project was about $9 million. Upon buildout it is projected to be over $100 million, better than a ten times increase. We will have more on this as we finalize the legal documents in the next few weeks; however, it is great news that we have learned lessons from our past and we are continuously improving our negotiations with developers to the benefit of Addison taxpayers.
The excellent news continued into our Regular Council Session as we dealt with three hot topics: employee compensation, the reorganization of our finance department and the Les Lacs Pond water quality.
In an excellent presentation regarding the recent compensation market study results and recommendations, we learned from Human Resources Director Passion Hayes that with the budget commitments the Council made last summer and the implementation of the City Manager’s recommended increases of 5% for our police and fire personnel and 2% for our other employees, “for FY 2016 we are in line with the market.” Passion further shared with us that “we are definitely competitive and able to hire good people…these changes keep us in line and we can absolutely keep top people.” Passion also shared that our attrition based on concerns over compensation is very low over the last six months with “less than 5 people leaving over pay.” As you know we now have over 270 employees. This was very good news and a very important next step in our journey to significantly improve the compensation of our employees. As you can see from this chart, over the last four years we have added over $3.5 million in increases for our employees, with our Police Officers receiving an average increase of 26.51%, our Firefighter/Paramedics receiving an average increase of 26.64% and our personnel in all other departments receiving an average increase of 18.19%. We have provided a link here for you to watch the entire presentation, I believe it will make you very proud of the work of our entire Council and staff the last three years.
Our next agenda item was a report from our interim CFO that addressed several of the Kanter recommendations about our finance department and our organization’s financial controls, procedures and policies. Scott outlined the reorganization of the entire department that will now include two active CPAs, one retired CPA, process improvements, implementation of the COSO standards for internal controls and the requested addition of 4.7 new full time employees. These new people will fill new positions that will enable us to significantly improve our internal controls and processes to ensure we are efficiently and effectively keeping track of our taxpayer dollars. The Council unanimously approved the City Manager’s recommendation to add these new positions, made much easier since the money was already available in our budget for this year. We are not overspending our budget for the year. Here is a link to Scott’s excellent presentation.
We have finally been able to address both of these very important issues within our current FY16 budget, thanks to our booming Addison economy and the success of our economic development efforts, and still keep our tax rate very reasonable.
Our next two agenda items involved the unanimous approval of work to be done to improve the quality of the water in our Les Lacs Pond. This project has been in the planning phase for a couple of years and we are finally ready to proceed with the work. A new piping system will be installed that will reposition the inlet for the freshwater to the south end of the pond. In addition, we are replacing the 1982 pump with a new pump for the freshwater well. The contract for the construction of the water well piping system is for $120,325 and the contract for the construction of the well rebuilding project is for $224,597. If you would like to receive email updates on the progress of the Les Lacs pond project, you can register here.
The Council unanimously approved the final Regular Session item that was a meritorious exception for a sign for Home2 Suites to be located at 4875 Belt Line Road. That new hotel project is well on its way to being completed before the end of this year.
During the Public Comment section we had one speaker. Billy Dreis thanked and commended the Council for the process initiated many months ago to contract for a fresh set of eyes to review the Town’s financial practices and methods.
We also covered three items in Executive Session. We received an update on our lawsuit over our wind turbine project and an exciting new airport development opportunity and we consulted with the city attorney on an open records request.
We adjourned at about 10:30 pm.
On Monday afternoon I dropped by to see CEO and Founder of Star Media Peter Hanby located on the fourth floor of 14285 Midway Road where they have 4,300 square feet and 24 folks – and are growing! This relatively new location follows 22 years on Belt Line Road in the Spectrum building. Peter reminded me that when they first came to Addison they shared that building with Hogan Systems and that Fuddruckers was in the downstairs restaurant space. Since their inception Star Media has been a merchant banking service for the radio business, with over $23 billion in transactions. About a year ago when they moved to their new Addison location, they acquired a Carrollton-based company called Advantix Marketing and brought them into their Addison location. This new business acquisition is a full-service digital agency that will “help people with anything online, manage online reputation and drive quality traffic to their website.” Their processes are data based and analysis driven and they are able to track the benefit of every dollar for their clients. We are very pleased to see that Peter and his team chose to stay with us here in Addison where our tech and marketing community continue to grow and further enhance our reputation as a hub for entrepreneurs.
On Thursday afternoon I stopped by to see the good folks at Retirement Advisors of America located at 1525 Dallas Parkway, Suite 220. I met with President and CEO John Bentley and some of their other 34 team members to let them know how much we appreciate their group of professionals being a part of our community. Retirement Advisors of America is one of the nation’s largest independent fee-only registered investment advisors, specializing in the unique challenges and goals of airline pilots and their families. They provide solutions for retirement planning, investment management, estate planning, survivor assistance, insurance guidance and tax services. John is proud of their organization and its focus on service. “We do our work well and efficiently and there is no place that can provide a higher quality of investment experience combined with personal service than right here.” They have over $1.8 billion under management and very much enjoy their Addison location and all of the cool Town amenities. They have been in the Addison Circle Two building since it opened four years ago.
Just an hour or so later I stopped by for the ribbon cutting of TeksInc, which is run by Addison resident President and Founder Darren Gardner, at 14200 Midway Road, Suite 128. Darren and his team are the IT Department for their clients. “For more than 10 years, the experts at TeksInc have been exceeding the IT needs of clients from a wide range of industries and non-profit areas. We’re proud to claim that nearly 100% of our business is generated through referrals and more than 98% of our revenue comes from our clients who we serve as the IT Department.”
Everyone had great fun at the annual Easter Eggstravaganza last Saturday, as kids and families from all over Town came to Les Lacs Park to enjoy the plastic egg hunt, the petting zoo and fun treats. Amidst all of the fun it was really great to see us find additional ways in Addison to celebrate diversity. Thanks to our excellent parks and recreation staff for all of their work in preparing for the event and putting the eggs out – the kids took care of picking up the eggs very efficiently!!
On Thursday evening I joined my Council Colleague Mary Carpenter, who is our WaterTower Theatre liaison, and Council Members Ivan Hughes and Bruce Arfsten for a preview party at the beautiful home of Barbara and Don Daseke on Celestial Road to celebrate the WaterTower Theatre’s annual fundraising event which takes place next month.
I left the WaterTower Theatre event very early to race over to the Addison Conference Centre to catch all I could of the very poorly advertised – we only received the notice yesterday – DART event to preview their 2040 plans for transportation. There appeared to be about 50 folks or so who did know about the event, which was intended as a public feedback session on DART’s plans. Council Colleague Ivan Hughes joined me, together with one of our fellow Addison neighbors, to impress upon the very kind DART folks our fervent desire to have the Cotton Belt line very soon. While it was very good to see the Cotton Belt line finally in their long term plan for 2035, it was even more encouraging to see their expressed intent to seek alternative funding options to bring us the Cotton Belt line much sooner. The balance of the meeting reviewed possible future rail and bus line extensions throughout the service area based on demographics. It was amazing to see the projected density growth for our entire region and Addison is right in the very center of all of it. We will keep you well informed as we advance our efforts at accelerating the Cotton Belt for Addison.
The Master Transportation Plan community survey is now available and I hope everyone will take a few minutes to share your thoughts with us. Here is a link to more information.
Monday, April 4, 11:30am: Economic Development Luncheon, Sidewalk Café Addison, 5030 Addison Circle
Wednesday, April 6, 10am: First Wednesday Coffee with the Mayor, Dunn Brothers Coffee, 3725 Belt Line Road
Thursday, April 7, 4pm – 7pm: Council Strategic Planning Session, Addison TreeHouse, 14681 Midway Road, Suite 200
Saturday, April 9, 7pm: WaterTower Theatre Gala, Marriott Quorum, 14901 Dallas Parkway.
Monday, April 11, 7pm: Town Meeting, Addison Conference Centre, 15650 Addison Road. Come hear about exciting Town developments and see presentations from Council Members. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask your questions.
This week’s Council meeting was one of the most important and successful meetings we have had in a long time. We finally have made excellent progress on getting our employee compensation to market levels, our Finance Department is executing an excellent reorganization plan to more effectively protect taxpayer dollars and the project to improve the water quality of Les Lacs pond is on the way!
I am very proud of our collaborative process of Council and staff working together to produce excellent results for you.
See you soon,