Public Works Committee recommends street closure near jail

The city's Public Works Committee approved a recommendation Wednesday morning for closure of Eighth Street between Mitchell and Main streets, and the alley between the Curry County Adult Detention Center and the women's annex.

The change would essentially remove that portion of Eighth Street as a through street, with the county putting up some manner of traffic barricade.

The county plans to create a parking lot on property at the 800 block of Main it purchased from Master Trim last year and install fencing in the alley.

"We feel like that (alley) is a huge safety concern because of the annex," Assistant County Manager Connie Harrison said. "The women have to be brought back and forth between there and there's no way to stop the traffic."

Committee members had no issue with the request, with Commissioner Randy Crowder calling the proposal "workable." City Manager Joe Thomas said terminology mattered, and the street needed to not be vacated, but instead closed while still giving access to utility providers.

The county still must bring the item before the city's planning and zoning commission before the city commission considers it.

In other business at the meeting:

  • The committee created a priority list for smaller street projects to be handled when additional money is available.

Projects suggested by City Engineer Justin Howalt, listed by committee prioritization, included an upgrade of Wilhite Road adjacent to the new W.D. Gattis Middle School, at a cost of about $300,000; addition of a right-turn lane on the southbound portion of the intersection of Norris Street and Mabry Drive with no current cost estimate; and improvements to Llano Estacado Boulevard east of the roundabout at Norris Street, at a cost of $275,000.

The city has $110,000 available — $50,000 from a state Department of Transportation grant it must spend this year, and $60,000 available when a bid on a median improvement project came in below estimates.

  • The committee approved changing the block of Second Street between Pile and Main streets to a one-way street going east. The street, adjacent to the Hotel Clovis Lofts, will be used primarily for resident parking.

One of the three buildings for the apartments is done, while final work is taking place over the remaining two buildings. The city issued a temporary seal on a certificate of occupancy, which expires at the end of February. The certificate allowed Tierra Realty, which is leasing and renovating the city-owned hotel, to meet a qualification deadline for tax credits.

  • The committee approved recommendation of design work for a traffic light at Llano Estacado Boulevard and Thornton Street, at an approximate cost of $60,000-$75,000. The state Department of Transportation would pick up the $600,000 construction cost for the street lights.

Crowder called the decision a "no-brainer," because traffic counts already indicate the need for a traffic light and nearby Gattis Middle School hasn't even opened yet. Lonnie Leslie said a 10-to-1 funding match was tough to turn down.

  • The committee recommended the city split costs with Western Mortgage on extending a city sewer line to about half a dozen homes it manages. The houses have been without city sewer service for years, and Howalt said cesspools are being created.

The total sewer line extension cost is $25,000, which Howalt said would be partially paid for through future sewer fee charges. Western Mortgage would handle all other infrastructure costs.

  • The committee discussed street vendors, following requests from business owners complaining that street vendors had an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar stores that paid for business licenses and various taxes.

Marcus Brice, city code enforcement officer, said his department gets constant calls about the issue. He said sellers only need a letter of permission from the landowner where the sales are taking place and a business license, available for $35 and covering a one-year period. Business license applicants must have a state tax identification number.

Additionally, vendors selling fruits they grew themselves could bypass the business license and simply apply for permission to sell from the city.

  • The committee discussed solicitation on public property, noting no ordinance existed to prevent the process.

Thomas said every so often, an organization will seek donations and set up shop at intersections. The solicitation slows traffic when drivers stop to give change, and nearby business owners say the solicitors tend to drive customers away.

Thomas and City Commissioner Chris Bryant noted a constitutional issue comes up because it's not against the law to ask for money on public property, and any impediment to traffic is hard to completely enforce unless law enforcement catches solicitors in the act.

Bryant said there's a double-edged sword because any aggressive efforts would move solicitors to private property. He said the city might want to look into a free permit, where an organization simply tells the city what they're doing so city staff can have knowledge of the activity when residents call.

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