Close of 2019 sets a busy stage for the next decade

MELISSA (December 31, 2019) The start of a new decade often brings with it a sense of anticipation and optimism, and as the calendar turns to 2020, the City of Melissa can confidently look forward to continued growth, development and steady progress on projects rooted in work begun or accomplished in 2019.

The reconfiguration and construction of transportation corridors within Melissa are key factors that officials agree will contribute to and accelerate the City’s forward progress on several levels, including supporting the critical retail sector.

With the completion of US 75 through Melissa, and the construction that is transforming SH 121 from US 75 northward, the importance of widening and modernizing SH 5 came into sharper focus in 2019. The Melissa City Council has labeled that as a major priority, and City Manager Jason Little has worked tirelessly to establish and nurture the conditions, monetary and otherwise, required for the critical project to proceed.

During last year, the City Manager developed a convincing case to set aside funding that would move the project forward, presenting a decisive argument to the Regional Transportation Council of the North Central Texas Council of Governments. The result was the securing of support for $35 million earmarked for all phases of construction of SH 5 within Melissa’s boundaries, the City’s critical north-south thoroughfare. Right-of-way for the Melissa portion of the expansion has since been acquired.

During the spring of 2019, the City of Melissa was granted Member City status by the North Texas Municipal Water District, after several years of advocating for the change from Customer City status. Member Cities, as opposed to Customer Cities, are afforded certain privileges, including the elimination of a 20 percent surcharge on wastewater services.

Also in early 2019, demolition of the skeletal structure of the former SteelFab site was begun. During discussions on how best to clear the property, which is now owned by the City, estimates in the range of $250,000 were discussed, and the demolished material would normally be destined for the landfill.

After some additional discussions and assistance from SteelFab Inc., staff was able to partner with a demolition company that undertook the dismantling and removal of the steel, metal, and other materials on the site. Significantly, the company also paid the City $6,000 for the rights to most of the material, which will be kept out of the landfill and reassembled at another site in Texas.

On the topic of environmental stewardship, last year the City was the recipient of a major Texas Department of Transportation Green Ribbon grant, funds designed to restore landscaped areas adjoining the intersection of US 75 and SH 121. The project was headed by a local engineering and design firm specializing in land amelioration. The project includes innovative erosion control structures, a stormwater storage silo and a variety of native plants, trees, and shrubs designed to stabilize the soils and provide sustenance to migrating birds and insects. Distinctive permanent signage with the City logo add a hometown feel to the project.

Toward the end of 2019, five outdoor warning sirens were added to the emergency preparedness program, giving residents who find themselves outside during impending emergencies an early alert to find shelter. The sirens are tied into the local National Weather Service office for weather-related warnings but will also be used for other emergencies as the sirens are capable of transmitting vocal messages.  The placement of the sirens was coordinated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Also last year, discussions were begun with the Dallas Area Transit Authority, the owner of the rail line on the east side of the City. Melissa is seeking to secure an accord that would locate the permanent crossing of the rail line along Harrison Street versus Cooper Street. Such an agreement would mean that the proposed Melissa downtown sector can proceed according to plan, without the major alterations that a Cooper Street crossing would have necessitated.

The agreement would also mean that the City’s plan to extend Melissa Road from SH 5 to SH 121 can proceed unaltered, and infrastructure requirements for the expected downtown businesses and residences can also proceed unchanged.

Last year also saw the completion of a pair of technology projects that provide a peek into the future. An animation of the potential commercial and industrial development that can dominate the intersection of US 75 and SH 121 was completed, showing details on how the confluence of the two major highways can generate the North Texas area’s next major business and corporate centers. The Melissa Economic Development Corporation was instrumental in developing the vision for this vital intersection.

The second of these is the Community Profile Dashboard, an interactive file that can be invaluable to developers, homebuilders, commercial and residential real estate brokers, and other interested groups and individuals. The dashboard provides detail on a granular level on a wide variety of factors and metrics within Melissa, critical to planners and investors.  The dashboard is to be released in January 2020. 

The successes of Melissa have all been done with a lower ratio of personnel in relation to its growing population. The City’s substantial residential growth through the last several years has meant that a greater number of services have been required of City staff. While growth typically is a determinate on employee growth, the City Manager has opted to find innovative ways to maintain a highly regarded service level while keeping employee hiring below the standard for similar-sized cities.

The lower employees-to-residents ratio allows for City funds to be concentrated on parks and infrastructure projects that provide water, wastewater, and utility lines critically necessary for continued development of residential and commercial expansion. Melissa maintains an exceptional customer service posture with an average of fewer than three employees per 1,000 population, far below the median of comparable cities.

Even so, public safety is never compromised. Already boasting a fully staffed and highly trained Police Department, the City, during 2019, established 24-hour fire coverage with three crews of fulltime, trained firefighters. A modernized fire truck was added to the inventory to ensure the highest in firefighting capability. Part-time and volunteer firefighters remain a critical part of the department’s cadre of trained and ready personnel.

The new year’s start of the next decade will prove to be a busy time for Melissa, a community primed to successfully confront what’s ahead.