By RUSSELL HUFFMAN
STEPHENVILLE (April 7, 2015) — The Stephenville City Council approved a request by the Erath County Appraisal District’s chief appraiser, Jerry Lee, to authorize the purchase of the AG Texas Building at the cost of $450,000 during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.
He explained the CAD has been setting aside funds for a property transaction for 17 years and currently has the money for a cash transaction without any financial assistance and without affecting current operating funds.
Since 1984, the Erath CAD has gone from seven employees to 15 and has become cramped at its current location – 1319 North Harbin Drive. The plan calls for the CAD to sell its current office to replenish required reserve funds and even, potentially, refund monies to the CAD taxing entities.
As Lee put it, “There are currently no other alternatives to present. The current CAD location has very little room for expansion and there are no available properties for sale in the needed size range. To purchase land and build would be much more costly.”
Currently, CAD employees are working at building that’s an estimated 4,400 square feet in size, while the AG Texas building, located at 1197 S. Loop, is an estimated 6,700 square feet. Other taxing entities will also have to approve the transaction.
AG Texas is relocating to a newly constructed building along US Highway 377 just south of Stephenville.
The council received a short update from Dr. Kyle McGregor, the vice president for advancement and external relations at Tarleton State University and vice president of finance and administration, Tye Minckler.
McGregor explained future plans as the university continues unprecedented growth. Just this week, Tarleton broke ground on a new residence hall and a $75 million bond project, which brings Tarleton’s capital improvements over the next five years to $240 million.
Minckler presented a breakdown of improvements and explained where new parking areas would be, including visitor parking. The new changes coming about include moving the home stands to the west side of the football stadium and locating activities surrounding sporting events to what is now visitor parking.
The University has been working with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in establishing crosswalks over several streets including West Washington as it deals with parking. Currently, an estimated 900 Tarleton students who should be living on campus are not, and last year that number was about 1,000.
Tarleton requires freshmen and sophomores live on campus, but currently doesn’t have the housing to enforce the rule. Of the university’s 11,734 students, approximately 8,600 of them attend school in Stephenville with about 4,000 students who should be living in the residence halls, according to the school’s requirements.
The council spent a great deal of time concerning public hearings and a recommendation from the planning and zoning commission, eventually tabling an amendment concerning R-2 and R-3 single family homes.
Judy Miller,director of planning and building services, recommended eliminating the minimum house size requirement and allowing the market to dictate house size. Members of the Erath County Builders Association spoke to the planning and zoning commission on March 25. They were asking restrictions be lifted to allow structures, mainly in the central part of Stephenville, to be demolished and replaced with smaller more affordable footprints rather than rebuilding required 1,000 square minimum.
Miller pointed out as many cities have this restriction as do not and it is often referred to in planning jargon as the “snob factor” and was discriminatory. Miller said cities including San Antonio, San Marcus, Angleton, Austin, Mineral Wells, Sweetwater and Graham do not have such restrictions. At the same time, she admitted there are just as many cities that do have those restrictions.
The council eventually voted to table the matter until next month, and Mayor Kenny Weldon reminded everyone in attendance Stephenville needs affordable starter housing.
In other business, the council unanimously voted to purchased a landfill compactor at the price of $486,500, which will be financed over a four-year period. City Finance Officer Walter Wood and Director of Public Works Nick Williams drew praise for saving $7,500 in interest by shopping around and working a deal with Humdinger Equipment.
A CHANGE IN AMBULANCE STANDBY FEES
Entities (not including high school football) requiring an ambulance on standby will see their fees increased from $50 an hour to $100 per hour with a three hour minimum. The fee has not been increased for several years and was needed to offset costs. Stephenville Fire Chief Jimmy Chew emphasized the fee does not include high school sporting events like football games, but instead events where an ambulance is needed for a full day or longer such as a Tarleton graduation day or other special event.