MANSFIELD – One of the most controversial proposals in recent Mansfield City Council history came close to being passed on Tuesday night.
Mansfield City Council proceeded to the second reading of a measure that would allow the city to fund engineering and design work for a dry dam along the north side of the city at a cost of about $ 1 , $ 5 million.
At its last meeting, some council members indicated that they wanted to wait until next year to vote on the issue. Among them was the representative of the 3rd constituency, Jon Van Harlingen, who constantly expressed his concerns about the cost of the overall project.
But Van Harlingen changed his mind slightly on Tuesday night after board member Jason Lawrence suggested moving to an immediate vote. The most vocal critic of Mansfield’s dry barrage proposal has said he will not oppose a vote to move forward. But he doesn’t want to rush things either.
“This has been going on for over 100 years and no administration would ever tackle it because of the cost. But here we are today. We have two weeks, we are going to vote, ”said Van Harlingen.
“I am not going to present a second time a motion to suspend or postpone,” he added. “I’m not going to be the one with the movement on the floor this time. You know where I am – I am very, very, very concerned about finances and our existing infrastructure.
Known as the Touby Run Flood Mitigation Hazard Project, the dry dam would alleviate flooding problems in the north end of Mansfield.
Fourth Ward Councilor Alomar Davenport reignited the conversation after Tuesday night’s second reading, saying he was “strongly opposed” to postponing the vote until 2022. He argued that delaying the vote prevents the administration of the city to meet a public need.
“It’s our job to vote on it, to let the administration know if they can do it or not,” he said. “Personally, I’m tired of people asking me what we’re doing with the dry dam and I have absolutely no idea because I don’t know if there is going to be a vote.
“Our democracy is based on majority rule. If he goes down, he goes down. If it passes, it passes. But we can’t keep kicking what we’re supposed to be doing now. “
General Councilor Phillip Scott reiterated his support for tabling the bill until the city’s budget is passed next spring.
“I am not opposed to the dry dam. I’m just worried about the money so I can pay it, ”he said.
General counsel Stephanie Zader disagreed, saying waiting to develop plans for the project could mean losing potential funding opportunities.
“We talked about this thing to death. It is time for us to take action, ”she said. “Right now, infrastructure funds are transferred from the federal government. If we delay this, that infrastructure money will go to everyone but us. “
Mayor Tim Theaker noted that the city has previously missed out on such opportunities.
“The only way we can ask for this money is to be prepared to shovel. And to be ready to go, you have to do the engineering up front, ”he explained. “There was federal money that we could have asked for and we even had the support of lawmakers in Washington, if we had been ready to go.”
Completion of the design work would provide a plan, as well as the ability to apply for federal funding for the project. It wouldn’t force the city to build the dam – it would require an additional council vote once the plans are completed.
“We are not voting with the $ 15 million for the dam. We are voting on the $ 1.5 million to complete the dam design, ”Davenport explained. “We are voting for this project to be ready to go. “
Fifth Ward City Councilor Jason Lawrence agreed.
“I love the energy tonight, guys. Can we move this tonight? ” he said. “I think Ms. Zader said it perfectly. We talked about this adnauseum. Let’s move on. “
Lawrence offered to put the motion on the floor for a final vote, but withdrew it after Davenport and Zader expressed hesitation.
“While I really appreciate Councilor Lawrence’s zest for doing this, I still think he has to go through his full read,” Davenport said. “I think there are people who could use those extra two weeks to get their point across. It’s a very hot topic at Mansfield.
Davenport said he hoped and expected a vote on the issue on September 21 after three readings, but was not in favor of an early vote.