Oak Ridge North could look to Conroe ISD to partner on sidewalks city officials said are needed to ensure safety for children walking to school.

At a May 23 City Council meeting, members agreed there is a need for sidewalks south of the city but acknowledged it lacks a means to fund them.

City Manager Heather Neeley said capital project planning in 2021 outlined the city's needs, but the cost to lay concrete for sidewalks on Maplewood Drive, which extends past the city’s southern limit, would be $200,000, not including costs such as engineering services, drainage and surveying.

“We are looking at those things; it’s just not in the budget right now,” she said at the meeting, which is available as a recording on the city's website.

Neeley said state and federal grants require a number of services, such as a geotechnical survey, which can take additional time, while if the city funds the work, those are not required. However, sidewalk work does include drainage, curbs, gutters and other costs in addition to concrete.

“We have to take into consideration the drainage issues first,” Mayor Paul Bond said. “Until the road is completed and the Plaza District begins, ... we should be able to look at this issue.”

Bond referred to the city’s plans for a specially zoned commercial district north and south of Robinson Road.

Bond said the topic can be revisited when the city is ready.

Council Member Dawn Candy said the project should be prioritized in a way that it can be looked at as soon as possible due to safety concerns for children walking to school.

“We’ve got residents who are being impacted. ... It’s a public safety issue,” Candy said. “We need to do something to try to push this forward.”

Bond emphasized the lack of funds available.

“Yes, we need sidewalks, and yes, we want our residents to be safe, ... but we don’t have the budget to accommodate it,” Bond said. “If we have the tax revenue coming in, we could handle it.”

Bond said maybe the city should reach out to the school district—Conroe ISD serves Oak Ridge North—for a possible partnership on funding.

“Maybe we’ve had the wrong approach here,” he said.

Council members discussed options and challenges for children walking to school in areas where they are not bussed to school.

“If they are telling parents not to allow their children to talk to school because it’s not safe ... then yes, that’s an issue for the district as well,” Candy said.

Bond said staff could look at the issue and reach out to the school district before action is taken.

Variance granted for 1 year to chicken owners

City Council also agreed to grant a variance for one year to a family with chickens on their property for personal use in excess of the current ordinance, which allows up to three chickens on properties over 1 acre in size. The animal ordinance could be changed within the year to allow a different number of animals on a property, in which case the residents will need to comply with the updated ordinance if it is changed, officials said.