IssuesLocal NewsTaxes & SpendingPanther Island Project Kept Afloat by Tarrant Regional Water District

The Tarrant Regional Water District approved funding on Tuesday for the beleaguered Panther Island flood control project through a short-term 'commercial paper' instrument.
December 17, 2019
The Panther Island project along the Trinity River in Fort Worth is almost out of money, but the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) board voted Tuesday to continue floating the project, at least in the short term.

The board voted unanimously to fund its obligations under the project through commercial paper instruments, although the cost of those obligations was not discussed during the public meeting.

Commercial paper is an unsecured, short-term debt instrument used to finance accounts payable and other short-term liabilities.

TRWD finance director, Sandy Newby, recommended this instrument to the board members, saying it would be issued in 30-90 day increments, to cover expenses that are TRWD’s responsibilities.  

Newby’s presentation and recommendation did not include any specific numbers for the obligations nor did any board members inquire as to the amount of funding that would be given nor for what duration.  

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Newby informed the board that the revenue generated from a tax-increment financing (TIF) district would be sufficient to cover the obligations.

Earlier this month, the TRVA board was informed that the funding from a $200 million TIF district loan that had been extended to TRVA would be exhausted at the end of December.  

Approximately $74,000 remained at that time.  

Later in the meeting, after the short-term commercial paper funding was already approved, Newby presented some expenditure information showing the TRVA shortfall.  

A large settlement payment of $6 million to STARRFOAM Manufacturing for a right-of-way related to the project was made in October, reducing the remaining balance significantly.  

The TRWD board also accepted obligations under some contracts to be assigned from the Trinity River Vision Authority Panther Island project. This was part of the recommendations in the Riveron Report, a review done by a third party firm this summer.  

TRVA hired consultant Mark Mazzanti in November as a project coordinator to try to improve coordination of the project and secure federal funding for completion. According to the Riveron report, total costs for the Panther Island project are likely to exceed $1 billion.


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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.