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2012 building permits surpass $56 million

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News-Telegram Staff Writer
    In terms of growth, 2012 can only be described as a banner year for Sulphur Springs with construction permits totaling more than $56 million for the year, more than doubling all of 2011.
    In October alone, permits were issued for construction projects valued at more than $27.5 million.
    Highlighting the October permits was $14,245,000 for the construction of an apartment property on Arbala Road at Wildcat Way which was followed closely by an expansion at Bob Evans Farms’ Owens Country Sausage plant on East Industrial Drive that will, when complete, double the size of the facility at a cost of $12.5 million.
    Also figuring prominently in the growth is the renovation of several buildings downtown.
    Shane Shepard, community development director for the city, said the investments being made both downtown and in the industrial sector can only lead to more growth.
    “I think there is a lot of excitement all over town,” the community development director said. “There is a presencence of community; and the downtown, I think, has a lot to do with it because downtown kind of represents the fabric of the community.”
    With the city taking care of the downtown area and improving it, building owners are making more investments there, too.
    Sulphur Springs Building Official Mark Hardin agreed.
    “We’ve got a lot of growth, a lot of excitement going on in the city. It’s hard for us to predict what’s going to come in the future,” Hardin said. “We have had a number of clients and architects come in and express interest in projects and building. Whether they come or not, who knows. But, if half of them come in, it will be a pretty good year for the city.”
    Shepard said he anticipates this year to present as much, if not more growth than last year as things get moved to the “front burner.”
    “I tell you, we get a lot of phone calls every week, usually every day at least showing interest in town, especially downtown,” he said. “We have several buildings under renovation right now and another one that is going to be a really great renovation coming up.”
     There are still a number of buildings downtown that are vacant and in need of renovation and Shepard said that will change this year.
    “Right now we have about 15 vacancies downtown,” he said. “Hopefully, by this time next year we will have it down to five vacancies.”
    A significant change the city made to make the downtown area more inviting to growth was the adoption of the International Existing Building Code which makes the permit process much more friendly.
    “One of the things we let the prospect know is that we are certainly interested in their business coming into town,” Hardin explained. “We offer assistance — instead of saying ‘here’s the permit procedure, you figure it out,’ — we meet with them, we have all our department heads in a meeting where they can get all their questions answered at one time. We want to respond to them in a quick, efficient way and not ‘well, we will get back to you.’
     “One of the things we really stress, and have made a big improvement in, is getting the departments together and getting answers in a reasonable period of time,’ he continued. “One of the things we strive for is to get permits out in three to five days. When you go to  other cities like Dallas, it takes 60 days and sometimes longer to get permits out.”
    Hardin, who is president of North East Texas Building Inspectors Association, said the things Sulphur Springs is doing is getting a lot of positive attention.
    “Almost every inspector in these other member cities have asked about the downtown improvement and how we did it,” Hardin said. “It’s really been a positive thing. We’ve really stepped out and done a lot of things to enhance people coming into the town.”




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