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City gets street-wise

San Antonio City Council didn’t exactly bang pots and pans last week (as everybody did when the HemisFair tower was topped in the late 1960s) when it voted to award contracts for more than $40 million in street repairs, but several council members pointed out that the city is putting taxpayer dollars to work.

Public Works Director Thomas Wendorf stood at the podium as council authorized the implementation of citywide contracts through the fiscal year 2006 and 2007 street maintenance program. The funds will be used to resurface streets with various methods, including asphalt overlays.

“This city council is spending more money on street maintenance than any other city council in the history of San Antonio,” said Mayor Phil Hardberger. “We’re putting in a massive effort on our street maintenance.”

San Antonio Water System is slated to compensate the city nearly $1 million to pay for the road work, and CPS Energy will kick in another $60,000.

In other business, hotelier Rick Drury of Drury Inn & Suites fame squared off with District 1 Councilman Roger Flores over plans to build a 17-story, 220-room Marriott Courtyard Riverwalk Hotel on the site of the old St. Mary’s Hall, at 207 N. St. Mary’s Street.

Drury took issue with plans for the hotel, which would be built next door to his own River Walk hotel, on space that has 50 feet of frontage on St. Mary’s. The heavily traveled bus lane will have to be closed for approximately two years during the construction phase, but Drury contends the new hotel’s traffic will interfere with the bus lane long after the hotel opens for business.

“The project design won’t work, the approaches to the Marriott are too tight,” Drury told the council. In short, automobiles, taxis, delivery trucks, and other traffic related to the new hotel will occupy the bus lane and disrupt traffic flow.

“It will be an accident haven,” Drury said. “The traffic during the operation of the hotel will shut down St. Mary’s Street. The problem is the homework hasn’t been done. Nobody has looked at the end result.” He urged the council to postpone an action to authorize a 10-year license agreement with NSHE TX Gainesville to build 14 balconies over the sidewalk along St. Mary’s Street.

“We can’t tell property owners what to do with their property,” answered Flores, who, as the District 1 councilman, represents downtown businesses. “If they want to knock the building down they can knock it down. They’re willing to take that risk.”

Drury urged the city to require a traffic study before the project begins.

But wait. The city doesn’t require traffic studies for downtown construction projects.

“We’ve got a problem with traffic downtown; this is another example of it,” Drury answered. “Let’s not keep feeding the fire until we understand what the damage is going to be. Do you want to encourage irresponsible development downtown?”

Deputy City Manager Jelynn Burley said the city has asked the Marriott franchisee for more information about its plans to address the traffic involved with the hotel operation. She said the Marriott will offer valet parking.

Council postponed action on the balcony ordinance, and the subject will resurface later in April.

How about them Cowboys? City Council approved a contract with the Dallas Cowboys to operate the ball club’s training camp during July and August 2007 through 2011.

It’s a better deal this time around. The Cowboys will receive $2 per ticket to any scheduled scrimmage games, if they occur, and will take 50 percent of revenue from sale of suites in the Alamodome. The Cowboys also will reimburse the Alamodome $2,500 per closed and off-site training session.

The Cowboys are responsible for their own expenses, and they have the right to negotiate for an amendment to stay on for an extra five years. On the other hand, the city has the right to terminate the agreement if it has an opportunity to bring its own NFL franchise to the Alamodome.

Let’s hope it ain’t the Saints. Go Gunslingers!

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