Council gives go-ahead to contract for new EDC building

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

Feb. 7, 2007 - The local economic development corporation got a thumbs up from the Sulphur Springs City Council Tuesday to proceed with constructing a new office building for the agency.

Roger Feagley, executive vice president of the Sulphur Springs/Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation, told the council the EDC board has discussed building a new facility for about a year.

The EDC's new offices would be located just off Interstate 30 behind the NetData and Owens Country Sausage buildings. Projected cost is just under $282,000.

Initially, Feagley said, plans called for construction near the Texas Department of Transportation building on a site that would be adjacent to the future home of the Sulphur Springs Higher Education Center.

But strict regulations about driveways and access points for the community college facility led them to choose a different site, Feagley said.

"And it will cost $68,000 less," he said.

Locating near the modern NetData and Owens Country Sausage facilities will also project a good image, Feagley said, and a location on Interstate 30 will make the EDC easier to find for prospects from out of town.

"People who come to see us aren't usually from Sulphur Springs," he said.

The EDC offices were originally inside City Hall, but board members decided in 1996 to move to new offices constructed at the Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Freddie Taylor wondered aloud Tuesday if some arrangement couldn't be made to stay at that site.

Feagley, however, said new offices make fiscal sense in the long run.

"By the time we move out, we will have paid close to $200,000 in lease fees [for the Chamber offices]," he told the council."

Plus, "We wanted our own identity," he said.

Councilman Clay Walker, who also serves on the EDC board, agreed.

"I think it's important that the EDC has our own identity and not be viewed as part of the Chamber or any other entity," he said. "If you have a prospective business you're trying to entice, you don't want them coming through some other guy's foyer. We need to put our best foot forward."

Councilman Larry Powers also questioned whether there was a trend toward legislation that could see EDCs as we know them today being changed significantly.

"I'm not sure of the viability of the EDC concept in the next five years," Powers said. "Have you heard anything about changes by the Legislature?"

"Ever since I started in this business," Feagley said, but added no bills have been introduced this session addressing EDCs.

"But I don't want to go on record saying Austin won't do anything," he added.

Council members ultimately voted to approve the contract.

In other business, City Tourism Director Joey Baker was given the go-ahead to pursue a partnership with CGI Communications Inc. to provide streaming video services on the Internet.

Baker said Texas Muncipal League has partnered with CGI, and several cities have already availed themselves of the company's services, including Abilene, Duncanville and San Angelo. Baker said he had contacted some of those cities to get a feel for the service.

"There's been no real negative feedback, except some marketing approaches were "a little too New York for Texas," Baker said, but added CGI representatives said they would coordinate to tailor a more appropriate marketing approach.

CGI would sell advertising to businesses, with the endorsement of the city, to sponsor the streaming video.

The pros of the plan are obvious — no cost to the city for professional services, and CGI is also partnered with search engine Google to optimize searches under Google Video so the city would show up in the early listings of searches for "Sulphur Springs."

"The real draw for me is the attachment to Google," City Manager Marc Maxwell said.

The council voted without dissent to approve the measure.

Council members also voted to call an election for May for Place 4 and Place 5 on the City Council. Place 4 is currently held by Freddie Taylor, who is finishing his first three-year term on the board. Place 5 Councilman Larry Powers was first elected to the panel in 1995.

Candidates should be able to begin filing for either of the two places on the board on Monday, Feb. 12, with filing continuing until Tuesday, March 6. Local municipal and school elections will be held this year on Saturday, May 12. 

NOTES: Mayor Taylor read a proclamation at the end of the meeting declaring February "Black History Month" in Sulphur Springs and urged all residents "to join together in making this a period of rededication to the principles of justice and equality for all people" ... Boy Scout Hayden Smith attended the meeting as part of the requirements to earn his Citizenship badge, and unfortunately got a taste of bureacratic boredom — the council had to read through 21 ordinances approving zoning changes on property annexed last year. Thankfully, it only took 15 minutes to approve the changes ... Three condemned structures are scheduled to be torn down in the near future: 1116 Church St. (60 days), and 106 Able St. and 858 Putman St. (30 days each) ... City Manager Maxwell said Rockdale Road will be a place to avoid for a couple of months as the city has installed water mains and is installing sewer mains, and reconstruction of the street with reinforced concrete will begin when that work is done. Maxwell said there was a recent incident with one individual who "REALLY didn't like what we were doing," and asked that the public be patient until the project is finished.

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