Council approves tax zone, other plans for downtown
By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor
Nov 8, 2007 - The Sulphur Springs City Council took a few more steps to making the revitalization of downtown a reality Tuesday, approving a special taxing instrument to raise money for improvements and discussing a way to pay for putting some electrical lines underground.
First up was a public hearing and then vote on the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone. Basically, it's a zone encompassing the downtown area where the taxes from rising property values will be captured for reinvestment into downtown.
The money can be used for several projects already planned for the zone, including a central park; reconstructing economically important streets and sidewalks; grant programs to fund improvements to buildings, such as facades; inducements for development; and other ways.
Only one person spoke about the ordinance during the public comment period, Downtown Business Alliance President Rita Edwards, who was unabashedly happy to support it and whose group was one of the driving forces behind the redevelopment effort.
"We have been inundated with people all over the community wanting to support what we are trying to accomplish," she said. "The most common comment I hear is, 'It's about time.' This is one giant step in support of what we are trying to achieve downtown."
Over the 25-year life of the TIRZ, it is anticipated to generate about $8.34 million. Adjusted for inflation, Maxwell said, that equates to about $.6 million in today's dollars.
Council members unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance creating the zone. Maxwell said his next job will be to present the idea to the Hopkins County Memorial Hospital District and Hopkins County government to see if they'll join in.
"They don't have to, but we certainly hope they do," he said.
In other business, Maxwell proposed a plan that would get ride of overhead power lines on the north side of Main Street.
Putting the lines underground would not only be more aesthetically pleasing, it's a smart time to do it, as the street and sidewalks will be rebuilt next year.
The citizens would actually pay for the project, but through a novel way.
Sulphur Springs is part of a consortium of cities that fought a rate increase request by Oncor, with a settlement being reached last year. Part of that settlement included an agreement that Oncor could levy a small fee to help cities pay for electrical infrastructure work.
Maxwell said the cost of the project, currently estimated at around $48,000, would incur a likely charge of 83 cents per meter in the city. Alternatively, it could be set at 36 cents per meter for residential customers, and 19 cents to $5.76 for commercial Oncor customers, although one industry would pay some $275 a month due to the way its electricity is delivered.
Maxwell did not propose council members vote on the idea immediately, but said he wanted to present the plan and give them time to study it further.