Three ordinances received final approval following public hearings and four additional city ordinances were introduced at the Sulphur Springs City Council meeting Tuesday night, September 1, 2020. A “commercial-industrial” reinvestment zone; involvement in Sulphur River Basin Authority; and contracts for masonry, concrete and steel for the new Grays Building were also considered.
The City Council approved, on the second and final reading, amendments to zoning ordinances which define and establish eligibility and design standards for accessory dwelling units. This effort will maximize available space and infrastructure while providing additional housing within the city limits. The amendments will also define permanent makeup and cosmetic tattoos as services which salons and beauty shops in multifamily dwelling and certain commercially zoned districts will be allowed to provide as ancillary services without requiring a special use permit.
Also approved on the second and final reading is an ordinance amending the 2019-20 budget ordinance. The total budget appropriation change is for $1,065,528, this includes adjustments for CARES Act grant funding, fees and funds associated with the park improvement projects, as well as debt service adjustments.
The Council approved on first reading four ordinances, which will be heard again at a future meeting before a final vote is taken.
After a public hearing regarding the proposed city property tax, the council heard on first reading an ordinance to set the tax rate at 44-cents per $100 property valuation.
City Finance Director Lesa Smith said the wording of the proposed ordinance may seem like the tax rate is being increased, but it is not. Property value increases account for a 0.16 percent tax revenue increase, which requires a public hearing as worded. This is the same tax rate the city has had for at least 18 years, according to the city manager.
The Council also heard the first reading of the appropriations ordinance for the 2020-21 budget as proposed by city staff. The budget is very similar to the 2019-2020 budget approved last year, with a few capital construction projects changing, but no other major changes. This year, the budget reflects funding related to the planned construction of the Grays Building, Pacific Park improvements and Senior Citizens Center projects in the works, according to city officials. The proposed 2020-21 budget is available for download on the city website, sulphurspringstx.org, by selecting the Required Tax Rate and Budget Posting link from the main page.
Also introduced was Ordinance No 2272, which authorizes updated service credits, which enhance each retirement account of current employees for inflationary factors above specific thresholds. This is designed to help balance the lower amounts paid earlier in the city employee’s career with inflation increases over time.
City officials reported this simply updates service credits for all current full-time city employees. The city’s 2021 TMRS contribution rate is 7.76 percent without updated service credits and increases to 8.12 percent with the adoption of updated service credits. The funded ratio will decrease from 94.8 percent to 94.2 percent. The cost for the updated service credits is estimated at $32,690.63 for the 2021 funding year.
Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski presented on first reading a proposed ordinance which established the 4,857-acre coal mine property now owned by the city and annexed into the city limits as a commercial-industrial reinvestment zone. Establishing a reinvestment district would allow the city to issue time limited tax abatements on properties within the district if substantial enhancements or upgrades are made to the property in the area that help promote economic development in the city. This would serve as placeholder help initiate investment potential. Approving the reinvestment zone would not, however, guarantee issuance of a tax abatement; it would simply give the city the ability to grant one if desired in the future, the city officials noted.
The $2 million Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation budget, presented by Executive Director Roger Feagley, was also approved.
Feagley reported the budget has very little change, but does include the $200,000 approved by taxpayers to go to the city for the senior center and Pacific Park improvements. Most line items, he reported, will stay the same. Personnel will continue to account for 22 percent of the budget, promotions 5 percent (allowable is 10 percent), 23 percent to debt service. There are no budgeted capital projects this year. A 1 percent increase is budgeted for operations, but the “unallocated” fund was adjusted by 1 percent. Unallocated funds include “everything left over from the budget coming in, which can be used to pay incentives out of.
The City Council also approved contractors for masonry construction, building concrete and structural steel materials for the new Grays Building in Pacific Park.
The city and Tandem Consulting sent out notices to more than 50 potential bidders for four work categories and received 5 responses. Two were considered “non-responsive” because they did not meet bid specifications, particularly the requirement to submit a bid bond for amounts over $100,000. They did not.
Sulta Manufacturing’s bid of $60,310 was approved for steel materials. These bids came in a little higher than anticipated. Potts Concrete’s bid of $136,887 was accepted for concrete construction. J&J Masonry’s bid of $39,685 was accepted for masonry work.
The City Council, after an executive session, reconvened. A motion was made giving the city manager authorization for an agreement with a consulting firm for future economic development services.
Sulphur River Basin Authority
A resolution authorizing $25,000 a year for 5 years in fees and dues for involvement in the Sulphur River Authority was presented for City Council consideration.
“I think we should support the Sulphur River Authority, which regulates the affairs of the Sulphur River basin. If there’s a future water project on river, and I believe will be, they’ll have a great deal to say on how that gets managed. I expect see movement in 3-5 years. That means we pledge membership to the organization,” City Manger Marc Maxwell said. “This will show local support for the organization to avoid sun-setting and give more clout on how water should be managed in the basins.”
The resolution received council approval. This is listed as dues and membership in the city’s utility billing budget.
The City council also approved a resolution calling for the annual review of Investment Policy as required by the Public Funds Investment Act. It is unchanged, Smith said.
Transfer of an airport ground lease agreement for Lot 1220-15b from Steve Hudson to Brian and Mattie Jacobs was approved.
An emergency mutual aide agreement between the cities of Sulphur Springs and Commerce was approved. Sulphur Springs Fire Chief David James reported the cities have had an unofficial agreement in place for sharing resources if needed. This would make it official. This would allow the each department to send additional apparatus or staff to assist in emergency situations if requested.
The city also agreed to allow the police department to spend $22,500 from the asset forfeiture fund for department purchases.
A resolution approving a negotiated settlement between Atmos Cities Steering Committee and Atmos Energy Corporation, Mid-Tex Division was approved by the council. This is something that comes up annually, which shapes the amount of rate increases the company charges. Atmos had proposed a $141.2 million settlement largely due to significant repairs to the system, but the committee negotiated it down to $90 million. The approximate impact on the average residential bill will an increase of about $5.15 or 9.9 percent and for commercial use by about $15.48 or 6.56 percent per month, according to Maxwell.