An ordinance for the city of Robstown that went unchanged for more than 20 years has passed through its first reading as city leaders aim to solve what they claim is a problem eating away at the city's streets.
An amended version of Ordinance 679 says: "Except as otherwise provided herein, no person shall operate or cause to be operated upon any public street within the city any commercial motor vehicle, truck-tractor, trailer, semi-trailer or any combination thereof which has a capacity in excess of (1) ton, according to the manufactures rating…except on such street or streets as are designated as truck routes."
Matiana Ortiz Boulevard, formerly Buena Vista, and Upshaw Boulevard, formerly Park Street, are two of the streets that were added to the first draft of the amended ordinance. Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz Boulevard was also updated in the amendment, replacing Magee Lane/Mainer Road.
City Secretary Paula Wakefield said the first draft of the amended ordinance is simply a starting point for further refinements.
"We wanted to make the first reading, now we'll go back for revisions," Wakefield said.
One of those changes may pertain to the language in the city's amended ordinance dealing with a punishment for those found to be illegally parked within neighborhoods or along city streets.
A group of city officials, which did not include any of the city council members or Mayor Rodrigo Ramon Jr., took a tour earlier this month through various neighborhoods to identify nearly 30 problem areas in which large tractor trailers and dump trucks travel through or are commonly and illegally parked.
The previous draft of the ordinance outlined a minimal punishment for those illegally parked, issuing a fine of no more than $200 for violators.
However, there was no language within that ordinance, which will still be enforced by the Robstown Police Department, to address those in non-compliance who may have more than one vehicle in violation at any given location, nor was there any mention of punishment for repeat offenders.
That did not change much, either, in the first draft of the amended ordinance, with the minimum fine being raised from $1 to $170, while the maximum fine that can be issued increased to $500. However, there is still no language in the ordinance that makes any mention of punishment for multiple violations at once or repeat offenders.
Wakefield had no comment on the amendment's language, only saying that further revisions to the ordinance are still possible.
City officials have previously expressed concern about the amount of damage done by large trucks to the city's streets, as well as the safety of its residents.
The city is in the middle of planning to restructure existing debt to help pay for a proposed street reconstruction plan. The last time a bond election was held was in 1998, and those bonds will mature in March 2009, city officials said, as will Series 1988 Bonds.
One or more series of bonds may be refinanced, a decision that must be made by the Robstown City Council, to help raise the estimated $4 million to $5.5 million that the project is expected to cost, city officials said.
An agreement with the Robstown Utility Systems is helping to create a surplus fund balance of $1.2 million that will be used to allow the city to achieve a better score with bond rating agencies.
Currently, the city is projecting to finish the 2007-08 fiscal year with a surplus fund balance of $783,000.
City officials are also considering an alternative that is still in the discussion and planning phase - building parking areas for the big rigs around the city, away from neighborhoods.
Three sites, all privately owned, are currently being looked at as potential big rig parking lots, including one off of Highway 77 near Joe Cotton's Bar-B-Que.
Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, Place 1 Bobby Gonzalez, who owns property in Robstown that truckers have parked on or in front of, said earlier this month that the city should not have to make any concessions to those who break the city's rules.
"It's not the city's responsibility to find them a place to park," Gonzalez said. "The city needs to enforce their part of the (ordinance) and it's the driver's responsibility to find somewhere to park.
"There's too many 18-wheelers in town."
The amended ordinance will go through a second reading Sept. 8 by the city council, at which point council members will vote to approve or deny the changes.