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CEIDC Hears Update On Dealership From Gentry At Meeting

By Alton Porter
Courier Reporter
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The Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation Board of Directors had planned to hear updates on the three proposed new facilities at the corporation's industrial park at a meeting Friday, Aug. 18.

Those facilities are the firefighters training center, planned by the Houston County Firefighters Association and Emergency Services District No. 2; the Muscles and Curves business owned by Houston County Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen; and the Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram of Crockett auto dealership.

However, due to a medical emergency in CEIDC Executive Director James Gentry's family and the inability of some of the scheduled updates presenters to attend the meeting, it was shortened and only an update of the car dealership was given.

The review of progress toward the firefighter training facility was tabled, and the CEIDC board members agreed to reschedule Kitchen's update on efforts toward the establishment of his business in Crockett Industrial Park.

Gentry, who received a letter he requested from planned partial dealership owners Bill and Marinda Sweatt, presented the update on the dealership.

"One of the things I know everybody is interested in knowing, both the board and the city as whole, is our Chrysler dealership status," Gentry said. "Last month, we had talked about a temporary facility to make a presence here sooner than later."

However, "they (the proposed dealership's owners) went before the Chrysler Corp. at a national meeting in Florida, ...and they were encouraged to forego the temporary and go full board," Gentry said. "With that in mind, they (the owners) were told that they (corporation representatives) wanted them to go back and meet with the Chrysler Capital people.

"They met in Houston two weeks ago. Part of that involves some more paperwork or documentation or rebidding because they (the owners) had already done a lot of work with contractors lining up for the temporary.

"Well, they have almost shuffled the board now and come back with a full package. That was a little frustrating on their (the owners) part that they had to do that. But, the positive of that is that the Chrysler is doing the full financing."

Gentry said he met with Chrysler Capital representatives, who visited Crockett two weeks ago, and they were "quite impressed" after touring the proposed dealership site and the City of Crockett.

"They told me, 'It's on us to get this (complete the paperwork for the financing) done before the end of the year,'" Gentry added. "So, they're in the process of doing the reappraisals, all of that, right now."

Gentry explained, the corporation representatives and dealership owners project that construction of the proposed $8 million dealership will take between seven and 10 months after all financial agreements are signed, approvals are given and decisions on contractors are made. And that is projected to take place by November.

CEIDC Board President Ansel Bradshaw noted, the Crockett City Council voted Aug. 15, 2016, to abate property taxes to be levied on the dealership for a number of years.

"So, it's good that the word is finally getting out that everything is trying to come together because there's been a year to where it's just kind of set there," Bradshaw said.

"That's encouraging news because it (building the dealership) certainly creates opportunities for the City of Crockett, the citizens of Crockett, as well as Houston County."

In other business, the CEIDC board members accepted the resignation of Board Vice President Gene Glover, who stated in a letter, he has accepted a full-time position with the Rice Consolidated ISD.

"(I) will not be able to drive the distance to serve in the capacity (of board member) as needed and required," Glover said.
Glover was appointed to a two-year term on the CEIDC board by the Crockett City Council on Jan. 9, and was elected vice president by board members on Feb. 20.

Crockett Council Approves $8.8 Million Budget

By Alton Porter
Courier Reporter
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The Crockett City Council adopted an $8.8 million fiscal year 2018 budget Monday, Aug. 14, at a relatively short regular meeting during which four public hearings were held.

Following time set aside for public hearing on the proposed budget – during which no comments were made – a motion to adopt it was offered by Precinct 5 Councilmember Mike Marsh and seconded by Precinct 3 Councilmember Ernest Jackson. All five councilmembers were present and unanimously voted to pass the motion.

In addition to adopting the budget, the successful motion included approval of an ordinance making appropriation for support of the city during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and the appropriation of money to the city's sinking fund to pay interest and principal due on the city's indebtedness.

All total, the 21-page budget, drawn up and submitted by City Administrator John Angerstein, projects $8,818,209 in revenue in all funds and $14,767 more than that -- $8,832,976 – in requested expenditures in all funds.

On the revenue side, the largest category, General Administration – which includes planned ad valorem and other tax collections; fines and forfeitures; miscellaneous licenses, permits and fees; and use of money and property – totals $5,059,879.
In the second category, Water and Sewer Departments, revenue is projected at $3,457,162 and in the third, Debt Service, $301,168 in income is expected.

Turning to expenditures, requested General Administration expenses – including those for personnel services; materials and supplies; contract services and maintenance; and capital outlay – total $744,002.

Requested Street Department expenses – covering those same sub-categories – are set at $562,113; Park and Recreation Department expenses at $162,779; and Crockett Police Department expenses at $1,369,552.

The budget sets requested Crockett Fire Department expenses at $426,655, Sanitation Department expenditures at $1,186,173 and Crockett Economic and Industrial Development costs at $140,317.

A total of $154,718 is budgeted for Crockett Public Library, $131,309 for the mechanic shop and $106,394 for Crockett Civic Center and Porth Ag Arena.

Some $75,272 is requested for the city's fire marshal/emergency coordinator, $2,204,087 for the Water Department, $3,471,294 for the Sewer Department and $302,368 for Debt Service.

In another public hearing, time was set aside for comments on the city's proposed 2017 ad valorem (or property) tax rate, during which there also were no comments, except for Mayor Joni Clonts noting the proposed rate is 58.6094 cents per $100 of assessed real property valuation, an increase of 5.2271 cents over the 2016 rate, which was 53.3823 cents for each $100 of assessed value.

During yet another public hearing, Kelle Odom, a senior project manager with the GrantWorks, Inc., grant management firm, presented an overview of the city's planned submission of an application for a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

Grants of up to $75,000 are available through TPWD's Small Community Grant Program to city's such as Crockett to help finance development and/or improvement of new or existing outdoor recreational facilities and counties with populations of less than 20,000. Applications must be submitted no later than Oct. 1. Funds would be awarded in March 2018.

The initiative is a dollar-for-dollar (or 50-percent matching grant) and reimbursement program, meaning a locality awarded a grant must spend the funds to complete a development or improvement project. Then, TPWD will reimburse the entity 50 percent of a project's costs.
Projects eligible for grant funds can include such things as new development or renovation of ball fields; picnic facilities such as pavilions, tables, grills and so forth; gazebos; playground equipment; aquatic facilities; hiking/biking/jogging trails; sport courts; golf courses; camping facilities; water-related activities including boating and fishing; hunting; gardens; beautification; and cultural and exhibit facilities.

During the remaining public hearing, Odom summarized the city's plan to participate in the 2017 Texas Community Development Block Grant Program's Texas Capital Fund-Downtown Revitalization Grant Program.

Under this program, grants of up to $250,000 are awarded to rural Texas cities to make public improvements – including eliminating architectural barriers for the handicapped and upgrading lighting, sidewalks and parking lots – within a designated historic downtown commercial district. Grant award recipients are required to provide a match of at least 10 percent of the award. The application deadline is Oct. 16 and awards will be made in February or March.

Clonts announced that due to their personal business interests in downtown Crockett, she and Angerstein were recusing themselves from discussions about the CDGB downtown revitalization grant program.

In other business, the councilmembers unanimously:
• Voted to pass a motion made by Marsh – seconded by Precinct 1 Councilmember Butch Calvert – approving a resolution of support authorizing submission of an application to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for the Texas Home Investment Partnerships Program and authorizing Clonts to act as the city's chief executive officer and authorized representative in all matters pertaining to the city's participation in the program; and
• Passed a Marsh motion – seconded by Jackson – approving a request from the Crockett Police Department and the Crockett Fire Department to close the 1100 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (W. Curtis Street to Oak Street) 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, for Back-to-School Fun Day.

Petitioners Request Election To Raise Hospital Tax Cap

Special to the HCCourier

Thursday, Aug. 10, the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD)was presented with a petition signed by over 100 registered voters of the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) requesting an election under Texas Health Safety Code 285.231 to authorize the increase of the maximum tax rate of Houston County Hospital District from $0.15 to up to the maximum statutory rate of $0.75.

Accordingly, Houston County Hospital District orders that a hearing be held on the request on Monday, Aug. 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the cafeteria of Houston County Medical Center.

If, after the hearing, the HCHD determines that the petition is in proper form and that an increase of the maximum tax rate would benefit the HCHD, then the election will be ordered and held on Nov. 7, 2017.

Deborah Blackwell, HCHD president, wanted to clarify that if approved by a majority of the voters at the Nov. 7, 2017, election, it would merely allow the district, if it deems necessary, to raise taxes in the future above the current $0.15 maximum rate. The earliest that the tax rate could be raised would be 2018 and any increase that exceeds the rollback rate would be subject to the rollback election procedures as set forth in the Tax code.

The HCHD Board of Directors is continuing to work on finalizing a lease with Christus Trinity Mother Francis Health System which opened its Crockett clinic Monday, Aug. 14.

The district is also working hard to find a way, if at all possible, to reopen the emergency department and hospital and will continue to provide updates as more information becomes known, according to a HCHD news release.

Taxes Are On The Rise

By Alton Porter
Courier Reporter
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Crockett home and other real property owners can expect to pay 5 percent more in city property taxes in the upcoming year over what they paid this year.

The Crockett City Council approved an effective tax rate of 58.6094 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation for next year at a meeting Monday, Aug. 7.

This year's rate is 53.3823 cents per $100 of assessed value, and last year's rate was 56.8834 cents per $100 of assessed value.

City Administrator John Angerstein explained, "Whereas our 2015-2016 property values actually increased by a considerable amount, our tax rate was lowered to bring in the same amount of revenue. This year, we're seeing the opposite happen. We're seeing the property values go back down. So, I'm requesting that council approve the effective tax rate to bring in the same amount of money."
A motion setting the new effective tax rate was offered by Precinct 1 Councilmember Butch Calvert and seconded by Precinct 3 Councilmember Ernest Jackson. It unanimously carried, with Precinct 2 Councilmember Darrell Jones and Precinct 4 Councilmember Rita Rodriguez joining them in voting for the motion. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Marsh, the Precinct 5 councilmember, was absent.

According to Angerstein's computations, the proposed new rate means the owner of a median or average home valued at $82,600 in the city would pay $484.12 a year in property taxes in the coming year, compared to $440.94 for a home of that value at this year's rate and $469.85 at last year's rate. That's about $43 more next year than this year for a house of that value and about $14 more than last year, he noted.
The four councilmembers present unanimously voted to schedule two public hearings – Monday, Aug. 14, and Monday, Aug. 21 – on the proposed 2018 ad valorem tax rate and a session to approve the rate Monday, Aug. 28.

Comments on the city's proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget – which projects $8,683,366 in revenue and $8,681,094 in requested expenses – also will be heard at the Aug. 14 public hearing.

In a letter Angerstein read and presented to the councilmembers, he noted, "I am providing you with the proposed 2017-2018 municipal operating budget and tax rate to support this budget.

"From an operation standpoint, this is a very lean budget, with most resources being used to maintain existing service levels and to absorb increases, such as an 8 percent increase in health insurance.
"Under this budget (which is balanced), all of the capital equipment purchases are being funded through sanitation contingency fund and a small portion from our general contingency. One position in the Street Department and the position of finance clerk remain unfilled to balance the 2017-2018 budget."

He added, "The 2017-2018 proposed levy represents no change in ad valorem tax revenue for general government services from the previous levy."

In other business, the councilmembers passed a motion made by Calvert and seconded by Jones, approving FY 2018 capital requests, which amount to $178,000 in total revenue and $177,955 in total equipment-project requests costs.

The revenue sources and amounts are: sanitation contingency, $160,000; and general fund contingency, $18,000.

The equipment-project request costs include: a pickup truck for General Administration, $17,000; Street Department expenses of $28,000 for equipment and a personnel haul truck and $54,950 for a tractor and mower; and $4,500 for a welder for the mechanics staff.

In addition, these costs include: a $12,000 payment for Fire Department parking lot improvement, $44,505 for a five-year lease payment for replacement of self-contained breathing apparatuses for the Fire Department and $17,000 for a pickup truck for the Park and Recreation Department.

The four councilmembers also unanimously voted to:
- Pass a motion made by Calvert – seconded by Jackson – to award a bid submitted by GrantWorks, Inc., a grant management firm, to assist the city in applying for a 2017 Downtown Revitalization and Main Street Fund Grant from the Texas Community Development Block Grant program and to provide grant management services to the city in the event it is awarded the grant; and
- Go forward on a motion offered by Jackson – seconded by Calvert – authorizing Angerstein to issue a request for proposals from contractors to remove and install roof shingles atop the Crockett Public Library building.

Council Approves ‘Slight’ Tax Increase In Kennard

By Alton Porter
Courier Reporter
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The Kennard City Council voted without discussion to approve its 2016 property tax rate and proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2016-2017 at a council meeting on Monday, Sept. 12.

The city council set the tax rate at 26.2675 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation, and that rate is "a slight increase" of little more than one and a half cents over last year's rate of 24.5711 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation, according to Kennard Mayor Jesse Stephens.

Alderperson Mary Ann Davis offered the motion to approve the rate, and the motion was seconded by Alderperson Donald Lamb Sr. The motion adopting the rate was unanimously approved on a vote by the city's five alderpersons.

In bringing the budget up to be voted on by the alderpersons, Stephens said, "We've got a budget for the city and utility for next year. It's pretty basic. We tried to factor in the fire department expenditures we're going to have next year when we won't have any income coming in (to the fire department from the Houston County Emergency Service District #2). Hopefully it will work out. It's really nice to have sales tax coming in from the Family Dollar store."

Lamb made a motion to approve the budget as presented, and the motion was seconded by Alderperson G.M. McClinton before being unanimously approved by the council.

Kennard City Administrator Mike Deckard said the city has two separate categories for its budget: a water and sewer utility category and a "city budget" category.

He said officials project $144,000 in revenue and an equal amount in expenses in this year's water and sewer utility budget and $24,500 in revenue and expenses in the FY 2016-2017 city budget. Therefore, the city's budget for the upcoming year is balanced, according to Deckard.

CEIDC Approaches County To Consider Tax Abatement For Potential Car Dealership

By Alton Porter
Courier Reporter
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As a result of the diligent work of Flint Brent, executive director of the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation, the City of Crockett has the potential for a new car dealership to be located here.

To help in attracting the unnamed dealer to the city, Brent asked county officials to abate a portion of the taxes that would be levied against the business during its first six years of operation in the city.
Brent submitted the request to the county commissioners at a meeting of the commissioners court on Tuesday, Aug. 23.

Houston County Judge Erin Ford said the matter would have to be placed on the agenda for the next commissioners court meeting and voted on at that meeting.

"We have a potential for a new auto dealership here in the county, specifically the City of Crockett," Brent told the commissioners. "And what I'm asking for is permission to offer property tax abatements to the facility.

"Now, I calculated out – this is on 2015-2016 fiscal year tax rates for the county, the school district and the hospital district," Brent said referring to a document he had prepared and distributed to the commissioners.

"Annually, it would be about $95,200 once they're paid in full – that they're paying for the three entities," he said. "Specifically, $25,200 (for the county) on a $5 million facility. The one in Jacksonville (that he visited) was like $8 million.

"This one might be smaller, it might be the same size. I have no idea. But, this is just an extimated calculation of what potential property taxes are. Also, for the county, you get inventory taxes, and you get the registration taxes, which the city does not get. So, that's what I'm asking for.

Dr. John McCall, who was present at the meeting, told Brent that Willie Josey, the owner of Josey's Auto Parts, told him a few months ago he would be willing to sell his facility to a dealer willing to locate an auto dealership in Crockett. And Brent said he had shown that facility, as well as several other properties, to the potential new dealership owner.

"I'm just asking for tax abatements right now...," Brent said.

According to Brent's calculation – based on the 2015-2016 county tax rate of 50.4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation – a new $5 million development would pay the county $75,600 over the next six years.

Under the proposed abatement the county would receive no taxes from the new dealership in year one, $5,040 in taxes in year two and $10,080 in year three. In the fourth year, the county would receive $15,120 in taxes from the dealership and $20,160 in the fifth year. The dealership would pay its full amount of taxes ($25,200) beginning in the sixth year of its operations.