By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (March 10, 2017) – Stephenville Economic Development Authority (SEDA) made a move Friday aimed at shaping the future of the city.
The board of directors appointed Matt Harpole, board president; Gerald Cook, vice president; and Wendol Hollingsworth, director, to serve on a task force that will develop a comprehensive plan addressing economic development incentives.
The city of Stephenville has an existing program that Mayor Kenny Weldon, an ex officio board member, called weak in terms of options available to existing businesses.
Weldon advised the task force will serve the city and its citizens by developing a modern policy to be implemented across the city and not just to be used as SEDA tool.
The task force is expected to meet in mid-March and review the existing program details while working to form a new plan that attracts growth, development and quality jobs while at the same time providing options for established businesses.
Executive Director Dr. John Hubbard said the task force would make a recommendation on the economic development policy to the entire SEDA board. Once SEDA reaches a consensus, the authority will forward a policy recommendation to Stephenville City Council for approval.
Hubbard said the formalized process should include set guidelines and requirements – defining what is eligible and what is ineligible – when considering awarding incentives, but not serve as an entitlement program that guarantees support for simply meeting set criteria.
He said the program should offer some flexibility, while at the same time work off a cost-benefit analysis that shows potential incentive recipients can provide a favorable return on investment.
In other items of business, the board unanimously approved the relocation of the SEDA office to Clark Field Municipal Airport, which is owned by the city.
The current office at 198 South Belknap Street is under-utilized, and Hubbard suggested the relocation to the more cost-effective space.
Jeremy Allen, deputy city administrator, offered two offices and the use of the airport boardroom for $300 per month. SEDA would responsible for phone, internet and housekeeping services.
The Belknap office comes at much higher rate, $1,648 per month, with added phone and internet expenses.
“It is estimated SEDA will save approximately $1,248 per month if we relocate to Clark Field,” Hubbard said, adding the savings over a 12-month period will be almost $15,000.
SEDA is expected to relocate by May 1.
Meanwhile, the monthly treasurer’s report showed sales tax receipts collected in February – derived from December sales – were more than $46,000, up about one-percent from last year. Hubbard said fiscal year-to-date collections, from sales made October through December, are almost $124,000, or a little more than 26 percent of the $466,000 annual budget.
A long-term project previously discussed by the board, the formation of a tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) is also expected to gain traction in the near future with the formation of development committee.
Hubbard reminded the board that a TIRZ is not a new tax, but establishes a “base tax value” for a designated geographic area when the zone is created.
He suggested the committee include two representatives each from the city council, Planning and Zoning Commission and SEDA, as well as a representative from Erath County.
“I am scheduled to present ‘TIRZ 101’ next Wednesday evening at the P&Z meeting,” Hubbard said.
The six to eight-month process will include identifying a base area, base valuation and potential projects.
There was not much discussed from an anticipated report on a private developer looking to partner with the city in the construction of a public events center at U.S. Highway 281 and Lingleville Road.
Interim City Administrator Wayne McKethan said a meeting with the private party is expected to occur in the near future, and new City Administrator Alan Barnes would spearhead discussions.
Mekethan also said an engineering firm working for the private investor did not yet have plans available.
The next few weeks will be busy for SEDA. First on the agenda is a trip by Hubbard and Harpole Saturday to Austin, where they will attend a SXSW networking conference that will include a wide array of developers. The board is also preparing for a Tuesday, March 21 trip to the state capitol where city and Tarleton State University officials will meet with state legislators and ranking officials on various boards and departments.
Finally, Hubbard is expected to present a job description for a part-time administrative assistance at the board’s April meeting.