Sheeran said the USDA has low interest funds available to help the city with water and/or wastewater improvements. He said his area is in charge of providing financial assistance to rural communities. “We have all kinds of programs, about 48 programs, for infrastructure, water, wastewater, roads, or drainage. Currently the interest is 2.75 percent with terms up to 40 years. I don’t know the size of the project you are considering, but if it is 6 or 7 million dollars, you can extend the payments; plus there is no pre-payment penalty.”
George West Mayor Sylvia Steele asked if the city could get help through grants.
City Manager Sandra Martinez answered, “Some through grants and some through low interest loans. We have to put our heads together and you all give us direction where do you want to City of George West to go, then we have to look for funds. We will try to can get as much through grants and then look at low interest loans like the one from the USDA.”
“There is no other funding source that gives 40 years and 2.75 percent interest rates. On average most projects are $2-4 million; the longer you wait the money might not be there or the interest might be higher,” added Sheeran.
Eric Villarreal, project manager with LNV Engineering of Corpus Christi, gave a brief outline of what costs the city can expect for improvements. “About a year ago, [Director of Public Works] Ruben [Peña] asked us to looked at citywide water and wastewater improvement; that was under a different city manager. To give you a ballpark figure, a year ago we estimated it would be $3.5 million. That is citywide water line replacement of old basic pipe valves and pinnings, reconnection of water, all the water connections and then electrical and control upgrades for the water treatment plant.”
He added, “I was also asked to come up with a number to replace all of the meters with radio read meters so that you can track water loss accurately and you are looking at about $300,000 to replace all of your meters. Between those items you are looking at about $4 million in water improvements. For the wastewater improvements, it is $1.5 million and that again is citywide. So $5.5-$6 million for water and wastewater.”
The council did not vote on the matter; they moved on to hear four charitable organizations vie for two spots on the city utility bills.
Michael Ginster, CEO of Boys and Girls Club in Live Oak County, made the plea for his organization. He said, “The Boys and Girls Club are all about youth development. We are the largest 501.C in Live Oak County with a $250,000 budget.”
Next, Glynis Strause spoke for the Dobie Theatre. She described it as “the premier downtown venue.” Following that, Chuck and Kathy Campbell petitioned on behalf of the George West Food Pantry. “We purchase and order 5,000 pounds of food from the Corpus Christi Food Bank at 14 cents a pound. Most that need food are senior citizens,” said Kathy Campbell.
Lastly, Cindi Robinson made a plea for Unify to Beautify. She said the organization is made up of women who get things done and make a difference in George West. “Our projects extend to city and county levels. You can’t go very far in town without encountering a UTB effort.”
Following a brief break, the council voted to allow the George West Food Pantry and UTB a place on the utility bill for voluntary donations.
In other council news, the agenda item to close Frances Street and give property back to Raul Gonzales was tabled.
The council voted affirmatively to approve re-plat of Lots 7-12, Block 32 of the original townsite.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, businessmen John Bednorz and Joe Fiest addressed the council and said they would like to see the council give a tax-abatement to the owners of the proposed Holiday Inn Express.
Bednorz said, “I learned last week that perhaps maybe you all have put some kind of a stamp of non-approval for an abatement for the hotel. I am here to provide some positive sides of what an abatement could do for our community. Please reconsider it and think of it as an investment in our community and not think of it as giving away tax dollars.”
Fiest had similar sentiments, “I don’t see it as tax we are giving up but tax we are not getting right now. If the tax abatement is the deal breaker and it is not approved, then we are really, by default, self imposing our own tax abatement that is permanent.”
Reportedly, during the special meeting of Oct. 6 the council heard a few business leaders that did not support a two-year tax abatement for the proposed Holiday Inn Express.
A motion was made by council member Jim McGee to “not pass” the first reading of ordinance No. 713 with reference to said abatement.
Following the council meeting, McGee told The Progress, “I made the motion to revise the way the ordinance was written. It was written to apply to only a specific two-acre track of land and nothing else. Eventually, we would have to go and do it all over again if another business sought an abatement. I asked that it be amended to apply to the whole town site, which is being done. I think by doing it this way, we can just make an amendment to the ordinance in the future if needed, instead of a whole new ordinance.”
The decision to give the proposed Holiday Inn Express a two-year tax abatement has not been made because of the amendment made by McGee. However, the abatement issue will be back on the agenda at the next meeting.
In other special session news, the council voted to contribute $6,000 toward emergency management for the 2011 budget.