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Huntsville agrees to settlement on annexation suit

City of HuntsvilleThe city of Huntsville annexation has been under fire since it was approved late last year.

The city of Huntsville recently approved a settlement in a lawsuit over a 7,120 acre annexation. However, details of the proposed settlements have not been released.

In the September 2019 lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that the city’s annexation was inadequate and was nothing more than a move for additional taxation.

“We are pleased that the city of Huntsville worked with our clients to come to a mutually beneficial resolution of this matter taking into account the sacred right in Texas of interests in real property,” said Bret Strong of The Strong Firm, who represented 10 plaintiffs in the litigation. “The Texas Legislature and Governor Greg Abbott made it clear in 2019 that forced unilateral annexation of property by cities in Texas is a thing of the past.

“We are happy that the City of Huntsville worked with our clients to avoid such unilateral action.”

According to city attorney Leonard Schneider, the final settlement documents are under review and are expected to be made public at the Huntsville City Council meeting on June 2. Settlements with two other plaintiffs regarding the annexation proceedings are still pending.

“The goal is to get everything done as fast as possible,” said Schneider, who denied to comment any further due to pending negotiations with the other plaintiffs.

However, remnants of the proposed settlement with the future city residents was released through budget amendments during Tuesday’s meeting of the Huntsville City Council.

In the budget amendment, city officials stated that they have agreed to a $105,000 settlement with Walker County ESD No. 2 for surplus equipment and to cover debt related to the lost tax revenue from the 3,548 acres of the city’s southern-most annexation. That area includes Huntsville State Park and properties between Interstate 45 and Hwy. 75, which was previously serviced by the ESD’s fire department.

With the ESD No. 2 settlement, the city will receive a pumper truck and associated equipment, as well as a pair of ATVs.

Huntsville City Manager Aron Kulhavy said that no other settlements will include up-front payments from the city.

CITY COUNCIL OKS WATERLINE PROJECT

A project to replace a waterline and resurface the roadway on Sam Houston Avenue and Avenue J is expected to begin in over the summer, following the Huntsville City Council’s approval of a contract with Underground Construction Solutions.

City Manager Aron Kulhavy said the contract, not to exceed $156,105, will include replacing the existing domestic water line that services the Lowman Student Center on the campus of Sam Houston State and businesses near Fire Station No. 2.

Kulhavy said the work is expected to begin in July and could take 90 days to complete. The city’s cost for the project is being funded out of 2019-19 miscellaneous waterline replacement project funds.

Councilmember Joe Rodriquez questioned city staff if new upgrades to the city’s pressure plane, which is expected to be put online May 26, would make the waterline replacement near the university unwarranted.

“The waterline in this segment is really old, so at some point we will have to come back and fix it. The logical thing to do is to go ahead and include it now, so that we don’t have to come back to it later after the new system goes online,” City Engineer Y. S. “Ram” Ramachandra said.

No subsequent action was taken on a $358,862 contract with Underground Construction Solutions for the replacement of water lines at the edge of 16th Street and on 15th Street and 17th Street near the university campus. Kulhavy requested that the city council hold a second reading for the ordinance next month, since it eclipsed the $300,000 threshold.

ANNUAL CONTRACTS RECEIVE OK

In the city council’s consent agenda, members gave authorization for the city to enter into an annual agreement with NAPA Auto Parts of Huntsville for the purchase of various automotive parts and equipment, and with Walker County Hardware for hardware and associated supply items.

The also approved a BuyBoard contract totaling $107,096 for the rehabilitation and relining of 20 manholes.

City council members also voted to amend the city’s 2019-20 budget and CIP project budgets, which included nearly $1.08 million in savings from capital improvement projects. The amendment also included a $175,000 increase for the waterline replacement projects and a $92,194 expense to be paid to Weatherford U.S. L.P on an economic development agreement.

The next scheduled meeting of the Huntsville City Council is scheduled for June 2.

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