June 27, 2017

Stephenville Council, Place 7

Sherry Zachery
  •  Sherry Zachery, incumbent – Place 7

If incumbent, time on council:  I have served on the council since May of 2014. I am on four committees: Public Works, Finance, Personnel, and Community Services. I support CTFAC, I am a member of NFIB, and I donate my council pay to the Erath County Humane Society. I also support various charity and school functions through donations from Santa Fe County Taco Company.

1. What should be the top priorities of city government? Is the council effectively working to address them? Provide an example as to why or how the council is/is not.

The top priorities of city government are public safety, streets, water, and sewer. There are also quality of life issues like parks, the library, museums and the senior center. My current focus and one of the most urgent needs is the city sewer system whose old clay pipes are failing in many places. We have completed a street survey of roads in need of repair, and are nearly done with locating the worst areas of the sewer system. This will let us address worst problems first as well as will let us match up bad roads with damaged sewer so the entire repair can be completed at the same time, instead of discovering too late that we have a failing area of sewer under a street we just fixed, saving significant time and money. I have voted to set aside $1,000,000 and $700,000 respectively the last two years for street repair.  With your vote, I will continue to work on allocating money in the budget for streets.

We are also working on the East Side Sewer project; phase one, which will relieve two main lines that are nearing capacity. We have applied for a grant with a loan forgiveness of 30% for this project.  At this time I support focusing only on phase one because the other two phases are speculative, extending pipes to areas not yet developed, and we must address the repair of existing, failing sewer lines first.

2. If you could gain the support of council members in implementing a new program/policy/service to benefit citizens and improve the quality of life in Stephenville, what would it be?

 

3. What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the city today? Do you have ideas for overcoming the challenge?

Our biggest challenge is addressing problems with aging infrastructure.  There is an enormous amount of repair needing to be done foremost to our sewers, but roads are also in need of much attention.  Every year that we do not address these needs, the problem grows and becomes more expensive. I will continue to support allocating funds in the budget to fix these issues, as well as using all the additional resources available, such as applying for grant matching funds for these projects.  A second challenge we have that also will aid in taking care of the first is that Stephenville needs to work hard to attract industry and manufacturing companies to locate here. These businesses mean higher paying jobs that drive wages up for all residents. They also increase the tax base by turning vacant land into higher revenue with buildings on the property. This helps attract retail business, and that in turn means more sales tax base.  This ultimately means more money available for infrastructure repair.

4. Are there certain infrastructure related issue(s) you feel should be addressed immediately? If so, name the need(s), possible solution(s) and possible funding mechanism(s).

As previously mentioned, the failing clay pipe and capacity of the sewer system is probably the most urgent need facing the city at this time. I have supported the application for the grant with 30% loan forgiveness that we have applied for, to move forward with the East Side Sewer project. Phase one will relieve the two lines and their capacity issues.  It may be possible to reapply for a similar loan/grant to address the rest of the repair issues. During the coming budget sessions, I will advocate for a long range capital improvement plan where expenses are planned and saved for long term so there is money set aside every year to start addressing these issues, which have been ignored for too long.

5. As a taxpayer, do you look at tax increases as a necessary tool for maintaining and increasing services? If not, explain how you feel a city can maintain without increasing the tax rate?

As a business owner and taxpayer, I want all avenues explored before taxes are raised. It then needs to go to the citizens to vote on whether or not they want to raise their taxes to cover the cost of a bond.  As a small business owner, I know that, through innovation and careful spending, you can do more with less in many situations. I am proud of the fact that we have not raised taxes since I was elected, and yet have managed to absorb the cost of the SEDA formation, started fixing streets on a worst-first basis, maintained our police force and fire departments by supplying them with the tools they need, and are now looking at being able to do a major project on the sewer.  With careful planning, these issues should not affect taxes.  I have also been able to push looking at the Proctor water costs, and thus we are now exploring a way to recoup a sizeable portion of the obligation payment we make to pay for the water.  There are many areas to save the taxpayers’ money: innovation, cost cutting, supporting opening the city for new business, increasing sales taxes through tourism to see our historical areas and embracing some private business practices.  Each of these helps lower the costs to the City of Stephenville; many other avenues should always be explored before turning to tax increases as the way to pay for the basic services.


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David Baskett
  • David Baskett, challenger – Place 7

1. What should be the top priorities of city government? Is the council effectively working to address them? Provide an example as to why or how the council is/is not.

Growth should be the top priority, I feel like if we do not plan for growth our town will waste away.  We need to bring jobs to Stephenville not just retail jobs but large industrial jobs that will bring higher paying salaries to our city.  High paying jobs in turn brings retail and development.  I think that the current council are trying to get on the right track but it seems to be taking longer than it should.  We need to get plan together and work as a team to lead Stephenville into growth.  We cannot grow if we do not focus on our infrastructure, over the last ten years our streets have deteriorated and we have not been putting the right amount of funds into correcting these problems.  If we do not face this problem here and now, we will pay dearly for it in the future. 

2. If you could gain the support of council members in implementing a new program/policy/service to benefit citizens and improve the quality of life in Stephenville, what would it be?

We need to get a strategic plan for economic development in place. I think one of the biggest questions we can ask is do we have a goals or a mission in place and the answer right now is no. I feel like the city needs to work hand in hand with SEDA, STEDCO, and the Chamber of Commerce and get a plan together to bring more tax dollars to Stephenville. 

3. What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the city today? Do you have ideas for overcoming the challenge?

I hate to sound like a broken record but I think everything goes back to economic development.  How do we fix our streets and infrastructure?  How do we bring jobs to Stephenville?  These are the biggest challenges we face on a daily basis. We have ever resources available right here in our backyard.  Our town is in close proximity to rail and the interstate and we have plenty of water.  These are major attributes companies are looking for when searching for new locations.  The one thing we do not have is the infrastructure to support major growth at this point.  Our roads and our sewer system in our town are in dire need of repair.  We need to start focusing on these needs and act quickly or time will pass us by.

4. Are there certain infrastructure related issue(s) you feel should be addressed immediately? If so, name the need(s), possible solution(s) and possible funding mechanism(s).

We have several but the one that is the immediate need is the Eastside Sewer. The East Side Sewer Project is one of the main reasons I decided to throw my hat in to the City Council race. This is not a want but a need; we are mandated by the state to address our sanitary sewer.  In addition, I believe that if we want to truly grow as a city we need to do this project.  This project will open up development opportunities to the East and North sides of town.  At this time, we have a large area on the East side of town that is being marketed as a commercial development and I feel like without the East Side Sewer Project this development will not be able to take place.  We have had a lot of growth in that area recently and with the widening of 281, our town will continue to grow that direction.  I also feel like the funding opportunities we have through The Texas Water Development Board at this point are ones we cannot pass up.  It is my understanding that we have a chance for them to pay us back for 30% of the cost of the project if we qualify and we need to jump on this opportunity as soon as possible.

5. As a taxpayer, do you look at tax increases as a necessary tool for maintaining and increasing services? If not, explain how you feel a city can maintain without increasing the tax rate?

I think there are several ways to maintain and increase services without tax increases.  However, we have a smaller tax rate compared to surrounding cities at $.49 we are lower than Dublin ($1.12) and Weatherford ($.51) and our total tax rate of $2.20 is considerably less than Weatherford’s total tax of $2.63.  I have never thought a small tax increase can do anything but put a band-aid on a wound.  If we really want to increase our tax revenue in Stephenville, we need to take the several hundred acres inside the city limits that are undeveloped and develop it.  If we bring in large companies, retail and industrial to these previous undeveloped areas, they will bring much needed tax revenue.  A large industrial or commercial company can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes.  In addition, if we attract larger retail suppliers we can increase our sales tax revenue.  I know that many of our citizens of Stephenville are traveling outside our city and county to shop for everything from groceries to clothes. We also have several communities in the county and surrounding counties that would probably move their shopping needs to Stephenville rather than going to Granbury or Weatherford if we had these options.


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