The city of Galveston has yet to spend nearly $2 million from its neighborhood improvement fund, four years after starting the program.
The fund began with a $1.4 million grant from the Industrial Development Corp., which oversees some types of sales tax revenue, and $215,000 from downtown parking fee revenues, according to city documents. Most of that money was spent by 2016.
But since the city council voted to allocate more money to the projects in 2014, which ended up being $2.9 million, just more than $1 million of that money has been spent, documents show.
Pete Milburn, a city program manager who oversees the projects, attributed the time taken to spend the money to administrative duties that slow down the process.
Planning for spending the $2.9 million didn’t begin until mid-2015 because the city was still spending from the original Industrial Development Corp. grant.
“Being that you have six different districts, and multiple projects per district, it was just a cumbersome process,” Milburn said.
The biggest portion of the fund was spent in 2017, however, with $1.04 million in projects completed, according to city documents. Another $897,000 in projects is in progress for the year, and $966,000 is planned for 2018, the documents show.
Money in the fund is specifically allocated to each of the council’s six districts. The city hopes to see the fund depleted by early 2018, Milburn said.
City Councilwoman Terrilyn Tarlton-Shannon, of District 5, has spearheaded the program since being elected in 2012. Her last term ends in 2018, and she said she hopes the projects in her district will be complete by then.
“It’s a project that I started, but still my projects are being put on hold,” Tarlton-Shannon said. “Year after year I’ve been told that my projects will get done, but that day has not come yet.”
Tarlton-Shannon said her biggest annoyance is the lack of progress on curb and sidewalk improvements in Colony Park. Those projects slowed after being moved from the Industrial Development Corp. funding to the council allocation, she said.
“There’s no reason why they shouldn’t have been done,” Tarlton-Shannon said.
Councilman Frank Maceo’s District 3 projects are underway, although none have been entirely completed, according to an October city manager’s report. Maceo’s projects include repairing downtown gas lamp fixtures, placing decorative street lighting around District 3, improving Lindale Park and improving Adoue Park.
“One of the biggest frustrations I’ve had since getting elected is watching how slow things happen,” Maceo said. “That’s nothing that has to do with inefficiencies of the city, it’s the bureaucracy that slows things down.”
No new money has been allocated to the fund since 2015. Maceo said he’d be open to seeing more money allocated, as long as the projects are planned thoroughly and bid on in bulk so as to save money for the city.
“I think it’s a great program,” Maceo said. “Is it running at its best and most efficient manner? I don’t know.”
It’s easy to believe that the projects are progressing slowly, but that’s not the case, Milburn said.
“The fact of the matter is these things take time, between scoping the projects and getting to the point where they can be put out to bid,” Milburn said. “Me, being consumed and being so involved in these, I feel like there’s been continuous progress.”
Despite the lack of completion of many of Tarlton-Shannon’s projects, the fund has been and will be extremely beneficial to the city, she said.
“It has instilled that we are making neighborhoods a priority, whereas before I got on council people felt neighborhoods got neglected,” Tarlton-Shannon said. “I had a lot of obstacles to overcome with these projects. I’m very happy; I just want to get my projects done.”