Council approves sales tax rebate but nails down guarantees first on Hoffbrau deal

SEDA board member Shelby Slawson speaks to the Stephenville City Council prior to a sales tax rebate vote for a Hoffbrau steak house.

College Street Bridge Project to cost $250K less than expected

The Flash Today

There was plenty of intensity during Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of the Stephenville City Council highlighted by Mayor Kenny Weldon rising to his feet and announcing “Aye” following a 6-3 vote that will bring a new restaurant to the city.

Highway 377 LLC will be operating under the “Highway 377” name as a part of the Texas-based Hoffbrau steakhouses. Operation is expected to begin in October, but not before Highway 377 spends $500,000 on improvements, and the city gets to see the receipts on those expenditures.

It’s all part of an economic incentive done under Chapter 380 which allows a city to grant a sales tax rebate to lure business to town. Highway 377 sought out the funding and did run over a few bumps in the road as Stephenville is still learning the ropes after recently forming the Stephenville Economic Development Authority (SEDA).



There was confusion as to what type of funding was being sought (a sales tax rebate) and what role (if any) SEDA was to play.

Other “bumps” included the thoughts of councilmen Alan Nix, Boyd Waggoner, and Jerry Warren, who gave their reasons to include Stephenville still doesn’t have a solid plan in place for new and old business development (Nix). Waggoner pointed to rebates making for an unleveled playing field and Warren said the rebate was too much.

The rebate is set on a sliding seven-year scale that is capped at $2.2 Million in sales – meaning any sales tax over that amount would be going into Stephenville’s coffers.

Mayor Kenny Weldon talks about attracting and retaining dollars in Stephenville as Mayor Pro Tem Russ McDanel looks on.
Mayor Kenny Weldon talks about attracting and retaining dollars in Stephenville as Mayor Pro Tem Russ McDanel looks on.

Mayor Kenny Weldon pointed out there are two ways toward economic development and that was attracting dollars or retaining the dollars already here in town. Mayor Pro Tem Russ McDanel pointed to an empty building generating zero sales tax dollars quite some time.

Council members in favor of the measure used many different terminologies such as “Talked the talk so now it’s time walk the walk” and “compete or die,” but Councilman Doug Svien’s argument was the one that loomed like an elephant in the room.

Svien held up a $27 Million plus “wish” list which is actually a list of things Stephenville needs as a city to continue to grow. He pointed to the city using $3 Million a year to service debt, $3.7 Million in unfunded employee retirement, clay sewer pipes ($10.5 Million sewer project) and more.

“We need to grow our economy and budget for the future,” Svien said.

Prior to the council discussing the item, SEDA board member Shelby Slawson spoke and told the council that, “We are either open for business, or we or not, and we the SEDA board are watching to see what you will do.”

Warren requested a roll call vote with Mark McClinton, Svien, McDanel, Rhett Harrison, Zachery and Weldon for the rebate being granted. Waggoner, Nix and Warren voted no.



In other business, the council agreed in part to work with Tarleton State University for reconstruction of Vanderbilt street following installation of new underground (including those city-owned) water and sewer utilities. The cost of the reconstruction is estimated at $500,000 with the idea being a split of those costs. The vote in doing so is not binding at this time, because a contract is not ready and bids have not yet been opened.

The council also got good news in terms of significant savings with the work of Public Works Director Nick Williams and the public works finance committee (Nix, Zachery, McClinton and Waggoner). The College Street Bridge Project is now forecast to cost $250,000 less than first anticipated. Work on the project has already gotten under way.

Lewis Crain of Rutledge Crain and Company presented the bright picture of Stephenville’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, but did warn the Council things like unvested employee retirement and governmental regulations can change that picture.

Crain was also complimentary of city finance officer Walter Wood for his dedication to the job and readiness to provide information, citing Wood as being instrumental in Stephenville’s “accomplished rating”.

TSU students Grant Johnson and Lauren Motloch updated the council on the university round-up service project/
TSU students Grant Johnson and Lauren Motloch updated the council on the university round-up service project/

Director of Community Services Jeremy Allen led off meeting along with Tarleton students Lauren Motloch and Grant Johnson, who updated the council on TSU’s Round-Up Service Project. More than 1,100 students are expected to take part in beautification and reconditioning projects on April 2.

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