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Forney City Manager Fisher updates council on upcoming developments, projects

FORNEY, Texas — In an update to the Forney City Council earlier this month, City Manager James Fisher discussed, among other things, upcoming developments, projects, and an ever-growing city government.
“We’ve got some big decisions to make, some bold decisions to make,” Fisher, who has been city manager for approximately four months, told the council.

Fisher says many of these items have been discussed before and will likely be making appearances on upcoming agendas for council review in the near future.

Markout Water Supply Corporation

In April 2016, before Fisher’s arrival, the Forney City Council approved entering into negotiations with Markout Water Supply Corporation (WSC) to determine the feasibility of the City of Forney providing water service to a portion of Markout WSC’s service area, including the service area within the city limits of Forney.

The conversations have since evolved into the City of Forney possibly assuming maintenance and operations for Markout WSC if they decide to leave their current provider or a complete takeover of the CCN — which would likely require significant involvement with the City of Mesquite and the Talty WSC.

Fisher provided the first glimpse at the estimated costs associated with upgrading the Markout WSC current water line infrastructure — a “concerning” estimate of $6 to $10 million, according to Fisher.

Fisher says those estimated costs may be minimized with developer activity in the area, such as the 850-home Wynne Jackson development, and possible extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) adjustments by the City of Mesquite which Fisher later discusses.

A formal recommendation on how to proceed with the Markout WSC propositions is expected in March, according to Fisher, which includes additional due diligence, a facilities upgrade timeline, and improvement funding mechanisms.

Wynne Jackson Development

Last year, the city council approved a memorandum of understating with the Wynne Jackson developers which provided a foundation for a future development agreement, according to Fisher.

Fisher says the project is on the fast track and is expected to have a development agreement in place by spring 2017, infrastructure construction is expected to begin summer 2017, and homes going up by spring 2018.

Gateway Development and Splash Kingdom

Although the southern leg of the Gateway Boulevard remains closed, Fisher says model home construction in the Gateway Parks development is already well underway.

The southern leg is expected to open once street lights are installed in the coming weeks.

The Gateway Parks development proposes 1,800 homes in the area of Farm-to-Market (FM) 1641, County Road 212, and Helms Trail.

On the north side of the development, city staff is working with the developer on the dedication of approximately 60 acres of parkland in the area of Reeder Road.

“This site could house a city park with competitive ball fields and also serve as a neighbor for the proposed Splash Kingdom,” he said.

“We want to master plan this, we don’t want to piece mill it,” Fisher said.

The city is also working with the developer to extend Whaley Road from Reeder Lane to Gateway Boulevard to allow Forney Fire Department Station #2 access.

Traffic signals will likely be considered for Gateway Boulevard at FM 548 and Gateway Boulevard at FM 1641.

Downtown Forney Development

Fisher says the downtown parking project is back on track after additional funding was provided by the Forney Economic Development Corporation and the City of Forney through council approval.

“We've got to invest in our community, we've got to invest in our downtown,” he said. “It’s unique. If we don't invest in our community, how can we expect others to invest.”

Fisher says downtown signage is imperative in the redevelopment process to identify parking lots and businesses in the downtown area.

In addition to signage, Fisher says removing Bois D’Arc from the Texas Department of Transportation system and into the hands of the City of Forney to allow the City of Forney to have better management of the road, especially through the downtown corridor. Changes may include a speed limit reduction to make downtown more pedestrian and consumer friendly.

One-way traffic, patio dining, and street fairs are also proposed.

“The EDC is working hard to bring in new businesses to downtown and I believe that should continue to be one of their primary missions,” stated Fisher. “A strong and vibrant downtown will be a unique asset that will be a good marketing tool and a sense of pride for Forney.”

Smurfitt Kappa Expansion

Smurfitt Kappa is one of the largest employees in the City of Forney and most visible with their U.S. Highway 80 frontage.

Fisher says Smurfit Kappa and city leaders are discussing a possible expansion of the facility which may double the number of local employees. In their talks, Fisher says the City of Forney is reviewing infrastructure and transportation needs as well as encouraging a community investment.

Mulberry Park

The City of Forney and Precinct 2 Commissioner Skeet Phillips are in discussions to build an asphalt parking lot at Mulberry Park. One of the many challenges city staff and engineers are confronting is the flat topography of the park and drainage issues which may be alleviated with a park-wide drainage system.

ETJ Boundary Adjustments with Mesquite, Talty, and Dallas

Fisher says the city has been in discussions with Mesquite over ETJ boundaries and possible adjustments.

The City of Mesquite is proposing to trade portions of their ETJ from the Kaufman County line to the western city limits of Forney, from the area of U.S. Highway 80 to Interstate 20, in exchange for and area of land along FM 741 north of Interstate 20 which includes the Vintage Meadows development and the proposed Lakewood development.

A majority of the land proposed to be added to Forney’s ETJ on the western front is flood plains, approximately 90 percent, according to Fisher. Another portion of land is in the Talty area and encompasses Talty City Hall.

If a deal is struck with Mesquite, Forney would begin discussions with Talty in regards to ETJ boundaries — including the portion proposed by Mesquite in the area of Helms Trail and Wendy Lane.

City staff has also reached out to the City of Dallas about ETJ boundaries north of the City of Forney. Dallas’ ETJ encompasses a large area around Lake Ray Hubbard, which serves as water supply for the City of Dallas, and includes Devonshire, Travis Ranch, and a 950-home community currently under construction in its first phase just west of Travis Ranch.

Capital Improvements Projects Program

“Our streets in our city are our Achilles heel,” stated Fisher. “We've got to figure out how to move our citizens, our guest, our business people through our community in a timely and a safely manner.”

“Right now, it’s challenging to do that,” stated Fisher.

Fisher says the train and railroad further complicates the transportation issue. With the railroad proposing doubling its traffic over the next five years, Fisher says transportation issues should be expedited.

“We’ve also got a lot of older streets that have been neglected for a while,” he said. “We’ve got to get on those and develop a plan to take care of those.”

“We should look at a plan that 20 percent of our streets every year are under some type of maintenance or repair program,” he said.

“If TxDOT is not willing to help with improvements to the various Farm-to-Market roads that transverse through Forney, then we have to take the lead,” Fisher stated.

In regard to facilities, Fisher says the city has outgrown its currently facilities and is seeking alternative locations for Public Works as well as a location for Forney Fire Department Station #1 to be relocated south of the railroad tracks, again citing additional rumored train traffic.

“We’ve got to look at our facilities,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to figure out how we can get our people in places where they can be effective and efficient and even safe.”

Fisher said other priorities include maintaining utilities, parks and recreation including the recently purchased Pinson Farms, and the Booker T. Washington building.

Irish Ridge and Mustang Creek Sewer Projects

The Irish Ridge Sewer Project contract was awarded late last year and was delayed to ensure proper accounting of costs responsibilities between the City of Forney and other parties, according to Fisher. Gateway Parks currently has homes under construction and will pump and haul until the lift station is complete.

The Mustang Creek Sewer project is a joint venture between the City of Forney and the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) in the Grayhawk subdivision. Staff has met with the NTMWD to move the project timeline forward due to ongoing Grayhawk construction and the proposed Wynne Jackson development.

Elevated Water Storage Tanks

The City of Forney is required to have 100 gallons of water per connection as elevated storage and currently has 600,000 gallons elevated. A 750,000 gallon water tower is proposed for the northwest section of the Wynne Jackson development near FM 740. City staff will negotiate the proposed site with Wynne Jackson as the development agreement is established. Funding for this tower is provided within the Capital Projects program and is needed to begin this year, according to Fisher.

Additional elevated storage will likely be needed in the near future north of U.S. Highway 80, according to Fisher.

Expansion of Pump Station #2

The expansion of Pump Station #2, within the Forney Community Park, will increase the city’s pumping capacity from 12 million gallons per day to approximately 27 million gallons per day.

Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance (CMOM)

Fisher says the Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance (CMOM) project is an ongoing project that dates back years but the city is seeing a lot of inflow and infiltration problems that will need to be addressed which will require financial support.

The City of Forney is filing their final report with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and will likely need consideration from the city council to pass a resolution committing to repair and maintenance over the next several years.

Community and Special Events

“The city has made great strides in this area and the community support has been tremendous,” stated Fisher. “The staff works very diligently to make the events as fun and unique as possible.”

Fisher says city staff will be looking for ways to increase funding for community and special events as preparations for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget are underway.

Personnel

Fisher says he will be looking to reorganize the departmental structure at city hall to be more efficient.

“We’ve got great people, I can’t say that enough,” Fisher told the city council. “I’ve been around here four months. They have been absolutely awesome.”

Fisher says staff will begin reviewing a fair certification pay structure for all employees, health insurance, cross-training, and possibly hiring new employees to meet the expectations of Forney’s growing population.

“Our employees are our greatest asset and I need to be sure they have the resources to be successful,” stated Fisher. “Those resources include facilities, equipment, skills, training, and, quite possibly, additional employees.”

 
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