Split City Council Votes to Leave Ave. D Open Through Ft. Concho
SAN ANGELO, TX – The San Angelo City Council met today for the first meeting of the month. The two main items on the agenda for today’s meeting were the approval of new equipment for the SAPD and second reading for a very contentious motion that would allow the city to close parts of Ave D. that runs between Fort Concho and Fort Concho Elementary.
The possible closure of Ave D. has residents of that neighborhood rallying to ask the City Council to refrain from closing down a street they claim is vital to the community and their ability to have multiple exit locations, especially in times of flooding.
The issue was raised as a response to the concern of some citizens for the safety of children who cross the street from the elementary to reach their rides home. According to some citizens, the children are in danger every time they cross Ave D. and parents are waiting for their children in a non-authorized location.
“Those of you who know me, know that safety is extremely important to me. Closing this portion of Ave. D has been something I have been interested in ever since I saw a child nearly get hit trying to cross the street to get to the vehicle that was picking them up.” said Harry Thomas, Mayor Pro-Tem, “However citizens of this neighborhood have spoken. They are concerned about the closing about the portion of Ave D. With that I will make a motion to deny the closure.”
Councilmembers Billie DeWitt, District 6, and Lucy Gonzales, District 4, agreed with the Mayor Pro-Tem and announced their intent to vote against the abandonment of Ave D.
“[I will] continue to vote like I did last time and that is to keep it open. I believe that street is accessible to the citizens that live in that neighborhood and we need to listen to them when they speak and ask us to keep that street open,” said Gonzales.
“I do think it is convenience versus safety, but I do change my vote. One of the commitments I made when I campaigned for the City Council was that…I would listen to the citizens of this city and vote in their best interest whenever I could.” said DeWitt.
Council members Tom Thompson, District 2, and Lane Carter, District 5, told attendees at the meeting that the understood the objections, but remained in their original position to vote to approve the abandonment.
“I think now we have an issue of convenience versus safety, I get that. I am going to lean on the edge of safety with my vote.” said Thompson, “Nothing against anybody, I just think it’s a long-term concern we have to keep in mind.”
“I’ll continue to support my vote from last time, and I think there needs to be a bit of relook over this.” said Carter, “That will give us time to step back, take a look to see how we can make it better for a future closure.”
Public comment regarding the issue included several members of the community that would be directly impacted by the closure. They raised several problems they foresaw with the motion. The most common objection raised was the fact that Ave D was the most direct exit to a major street and allows emergency vehicles to reach the homes in the area.
SAPD and SAFD told council members in a September meeting they do not consider that the closure would impact their ability to help citizens during times of emergency. Citizens also raised concerns that during times of flooding citizens on Highland St would have a hard time accessing their homes.
Everyone in attendance seemed to agree that the safety of the children of Fort Concho Elementary is important, but they disagreed on how to address the issue. They raised concerns that other schools faced similar safety issues, but those communities were not being asked to close down streets in their neighborhoods.
Others pointed out that parents resisted the closure because they wanted the convenience of parking close to the school and that they were creating an unsafe situation every day after school.
One resident questioned how the abandonment proposition of Ave D was announced to the neighborhood. He introduced a sign that announced a re-zoning proposition but gave no direct information and thus not allowing residents of the area to be informed in a timely manner.
As the meeting came to a close, the five council members present voted 3-2 to deny the abandonment of the street, only to be informed that the motion required 4 votes to pass. The members then had to begin a new motion in which they voted to approve the measure, and which failed 2-3. This means the motion cannot be brought up again for another 6 months for a vote from the city council.
The council did vote to approve, 5-0, for the purchase of new equipment for the San Angelo Police Department. The cost of the new equipment will be $1,681,894.29 and will include 126 body cameras, 110 new recording equipment for the police vehicles and 3 rooms that will be equipped with new recording equipment.
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