Pro: City, county must show support for UHV expansion


March 28, 2010 at 11 p.m.
Updated March 28, 2010 at 10:29 p.m.

Victoria City Council Member Paul Polasek said the city and county have no intention of spending money to build a road that goes to nowhere.

"We'll only build it if the university shows up," he said. "We wouldn't build it, cross our fingers and then hope they show up."

The city has committed to spend up to $8 million to extend Airline Road a mile east of Zac Lentz Parkway to property offered by Victoria attorney Frank Buhler III. The money would come from a combination of sales tax money, the general fund and a bond issue over three years.

A property tax increase would not be needed to provide the funding.

Putting off other projects to pay for the Airline extension may have to become a priority, Polasek said.

"It's an opportunity that we need to take," he said. "That educational facility would be such a benefit for the community in so many ways."

The city budget has the spending flexibility to do that, and he thinks the other projects will get done with time. The result could be a better-educated and better-paid population, he said.

Council Member Joe Truman, who is running for re-election to Super District 5, said he thinks the Airline Road extension is a good way to show support for the university.

"The city needs to be ready and willing to commit itself to this expansion, which would be a great benefit to the community," he said. "I just see that as a wonderful opportunity for us and for the community."

Extending Airline would provide a more direct route to the university from Victoria than having to drive down U.S. 59, cross two lanes of traffic into the Victoria Regional Airport and then navigate those roads, he said.

But Truman said he could also see a benefit to extending Airline all the way to the airport, instead of stopping at the property offered to the university.

"Right now, it's just an old military base more than anything else," he said of the airport. "If we had a road going all the way out there, we could revitalize it and it could be a means of joining it with the community."

But Truman said he'd expect more of a financial commitment from the county to do that.

Spending $8 million in city funds for the Airline extension would be expensive, but it's a good investment, he said. "It just amazes me, roads and sidewalks cost so much money."

County Commissioner Wayne Dierlam said he agreed that if extending Airline Road helps the university decide to expand, it's a good investment of tax dollars.

"I think it's not only going to be good for us locally, but if this economy turns around pretty soon, I think we'll be able to retain a lot of our people that are educated here," he said. "Not only that, it's going to help our property values because other things are going to be built in there."

Dierlam said that's because the extension of Airline will provide access to acres of property and open them to commercial and residential development. "It kind of all goes together."

City and county support to build the Airline extension will also help state Rep. Geanie Morrison, a Victoria Republican, show the Texas Legislature that the community backs the university expansion.

She is vice-chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Education Appropriations. She will likely be the one to take any requests for investments in UHV construction to the legislature in next year's session.

Related story: Con: City, county lack money during recession to commit to road extension



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