AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — On Tuesday, the Amarillo City Council approved the sale of approximately $7 million in certificates of obligation to address lighting issues at parks across the city.
The City of Amarillo’s Assistant City Manager and Chief Financial Officer, Laura Storrs, said these are bonds the council has advertised over the past couple of months to sell for athletic field lighting funds.
“We have old worn-out lighting. We have a lot of lights that have actually fallen down in recent wind storms and we were looking to really address those heavily-used areas, especially in the athletic field areas,” said Storrs on Tuesday. “We will also stop seeing the swaying light poles in some of the softball and baseball areas. That certainly is a safety hazard.”
The council approved the item by a vote of 3-1. Councilmember Place 1 Cole Stanley was the sole vote against it. Mayor Ginger Nelson was absent for that vote.
Storrs said the City had 10 bids on their bonds and were able to secure an interest rate of 2.92%.
“In today’s market, especially with interest rates being raised yesterday, there’s a lot of volatility in the markets with the war going on and those things,” she said. “We’re very pleased with the results of this sale.”
According to Storrs, with Amarillo’s growth in taxable values, the debt issuance should have a minimal increase on residents’ property tax bills.
“We’re looking at probably three-tenths of a penny increase a very, very minimal amount,” Storrs said. “Even if taxable values continue to grow, there is an opportunity that a taxpayer may not even feel a change related to this debt issuance.”
She said the debt issuance allows the City to move forward with one major project to get lighting issues addressed, instead of picking and choosing smaller projects.
“We do have an annual set budget and right now it supports the current service levels for the city and so we don’t really have the capabilities to shift those funds from one place to another,” Storrs added.
The City said to fund the rest of the lighting project, about $2.2 million will come from American Rescue Plan Act funding.
“There were about four projects in some of the low-to-moderate income areas of Amarillo that do qualify for the American Rescue Plan Act funding and so, Council chose to utilize that funding for those areas.”
Storrs said over the next several months, citizens can expect to see upgrades in athletic field lighting, including at soccer, baseball, and softball fields across Amarillo.
“A lot of those lighting, some of them have not been utilized in years because they were no longer compatible with the upgraded systems that Xcel Energy has,” said Storrs. “So we had to turn them off and so, and that was in some of the soccer field areas over in John stiff Park.”
She said the City will likely have the funds on hand by late April.
“We have been going through a request for proposals to start moving forward on the design in the actual construction phases of those of the lighting project. So the money will be in the bank in plenty of time to kick off those construction projects.”
However, Storrs said this will not be an overnight project.
“It’s going to take several months because there is underground work that has to be done and upgrading of some systems and then poles will be installed and new lighting,” Storrs added. “We’ll have LED lighting. It’ll be more efficient.”
Storrs continued, “There’s all kinds of new technology out where the lighting doesn’t spread out and if there’s a neighborhood close by, it doesn’t necessarily go into the neighbor’s houses, it stays very focused on on the areas that it’s providing light for.”
According to Storrs, athletic fields at John Stiff Park, Martin Road Park, and Rick Klein Memorial Park will all see lighting upgraded.
“There’s some other ones, some more minor ones but we’re hitting those big regional parks, especially where the athletic fields are present,” she said.
While Storrs did not have an exact timeline for the project, she said the City will work strategically to avoid interrupting any of the athletic play on the fields.