Above: The Dumas City Commission moved to take steps to take possession of the crumbling Oak Lanes Bowling Alley on the corner of Porter Avenue and 7th Street in order to turn it into a parking lot. During the disruption that would be caused by TxDOT’s project to replace the asphalt on Dumas Avenue with concrete, people who shop in the businesses on the street could park there and be shuttled to the stores.
By Steve Ramos
Dumas Mayor Pat Sims told the City Commission he wanted “to hold off” on discussing the relief route at their meeting Monday, but when the commissioners delved into the next agenda item, they couldn’t help dart around the controversial issue.
Sims also had put a discussion about a utility line relocation on Dumas Avenue on the agenda, one of the steps the city must take in order for TxDOT to replace the asphalt from 1st Street to the southern edge of the city with concrete. Commissioner Steve Bodnar said some business owners on the street told him they thought that project would be more disruptive than the relief route. However, the commissioners easily moved into a discussion about how Dumas Avenue could become a tourist draw if proper steps were taken during the street’s renovation.
“We can take this big negative, and turn it into a big positive,” Commissioner David Bonner said. “There’s pain with growth, but maybe we can make our main street more of a Fredericksburg.”
Bonner was referring to the scenic Hill Country city near San Antonio, famous for its shops, peaches and German-themed festivals.
The commissioners agreed that parking would be an issue during the renovation of Dumas Avenue, and they decided to move forward with plans to take possession of the old bowling alley on the corner of Porter Avenue and 7th Street, raze it and use it as a parking lot.
“We have to do something about that building anyway,” Bodnar said.
Interim City Manager Arbie Taylor told the commissioners people who shop on Dumas Avenue could be shuttled from parking lots on the east and west side of the street to the stores during the renovation. A shelter, something like a bus stop, would be erected as a point to pick up the shoppers.
“We would be assuring those businesses that would be affected the most that the city is going the extra mile, and it would alleviate some of the angst (associated with the street renovation),” Taylor said. “Citizens will look to the city for leadership, even though it’s TxDOT’s project.”
Water lines that run under Dumas Avenue, some of them up to 60 years old, would have to be relocated under the sidewalks, giving the city the opportunity to reduce their widths. That would give people who park on the street a little more room to get in and out of their vehicles, the commissioners said.
“That was one of the things we talked about in Austin,” Sims said. “Taking two, even up to three feet of the sidewalk.”
Sims was referring to the meeting a delegation of city and county officials had with Tryon Lewis, chairman of the Texas Transportation Committee, on Thursday.
City Attorney Tom Moore explained to the commissioners the legalities of taking possession of the old bowling alley, which began its life as a the Star Theater about 70 years ago.
“We would demolish the building then file a lien then file a suit to enforce our lien and wind up either selling it to someone or keeping it and making a parking area,” Moore said.
Moore told the commissioners that in his experience he’s found that asbestos remediation isn’t as expensive as some people think, an issue that would have to be addressed if the building is razed.
“So what’s the consensus on this concrete thing?” Sims asked. “Do we get more public input, start drawing up a plan?”
The commissioners gave their approval for Taylor to contact Brandt Engineers Group to begin looking at moving the utilities.
“I’ll get a timeline from them to see when they think a design can be completed,” Taylor said.
Taylor told the commissioners the city could be ready to bid the project by this winter.
“It would be mid-2017 before we can tell TxDOT we’re ready to go,” he said. “Then we’re looking at a 12-month construction project.”
South Meredith Avenue and 18th Street
Earlier in the meeting, the commissioners decided not to go forward with plans to close traffic on the block of South Meredith Avenue that goes between the Golden Heritage Apartments to 18th Street. There had been concern that some of the seniors who live in those apartments were at risk crossing the street because of the traffic, which caused the commissioners to take steps to close the block to traffic. But on Monday, they agreed that closing the street wasn’t going to solve the problem.
“One of the residents told me, ‘People are now racing down the alley at 3 a.m., waking me up, and that’s worse than what we had before,’” Bonner said.
People were avoiding the barricade that was recently placed on the northern end of the apartments by going around it or going down the paved alley, Bonner said. The commissioners then decided to place speed bumps on Meredith Avenue and in the alley, too.
“It’s simple,” Bonner said. “We place four speed bumps in the street and four in the alley. We don’t have to make a law. We can just do it.”
The commissioners chose the speed bumps over simply lowering the speed limit on that stretch of South Meredith Avenue, considering that enforcement of it would be difficult.
“I don’t have enough officers as it is to put one over there,” Dumas Police Chief Jim Nelson said.
The commissioners directed Taylor to begin the process of placing speed bumps on the street and in the alley.
Park Board Member
The commissioners voted to appoint Commissioner Justin Willis as ex-officio member of the Parks and Recreation Board, a position former Commissioner Michael Funk held.