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updated 5:28 PM UTC, Jul 22, 2019

Meetings

Ivanhoe moves forward with bond preparation

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By Chris Edwards
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IVANHOE – Ivanhoe City Council voted to begin moving forward with its bond preparation toward street repairs. The city won a $2 million bond election last November to address this citywide need.
The decision was made at last Thursday’s council meeting. Mayor Cathy Bennett and councilmember David Herrington shared information they learned at a training workshop the night prior to the meeting.

“If we’re going to fund roads and we’re going to have funding for roads, we need to figure out how to get those funds positioned,” Herrington said.

Herrington outlined the options for obtaining the funding and the process that awaits the city for seeing to the road repairs.

He said the city’s financial advisers are going out for a competitive bid package for selling the bonds. The bonds are rated based on stability, economy and general business structure of the city.

“Until we can levy the debt service component of the tax rate, we can’t afford to pay for the bonds,” he said. The sale of the bonds and setting of the tax rates must happen closely in sequence. Herrington explained that when the budget is adopted for the coming fiscal year and tax rates are set, the bond sale calls can occur.

In addition to the bonds, the city is also awaiting results of a grant application for FEMA funds. The city applied for $6 million. If any of these funds are granted, Herrington said they will be put toward engineering work on the roads project, which must be paid up front. The engineering phase is one phase of the project, he explained. The next will be a cost benefit analysis, which could cost up to 3% of the overall project. Another phase of the project is an environmental assessment, which can take up to a year.

Herrington said the city had hoped to have a response from the grant application before moving forward with the bond sale, but after consulting with legal and financial advisers, the city will have to move on getting funds in place for the project. “If the answer is no, we really need to be able to have funds available so we can start construction this next season,” he said. “If the answer is yes on the bonds, we really need funds available so that we can begin the engineering work to actually utilize the grant funds…if the answer is yes.”

If the grant funds aren’t given, Herrington said the construction process will actually begin sooner, and estimated April 2020 as a starting point. If the grant funds are awarded, he said the engineering phase would likely last until September 2020 with the construction phase beginning in April 2021. “If we’re going to be able to get anything done, the money’s going to have to be there up front, unless we want to delay this a year at a time,” Herrington said.

Bennett added that if the grant money is awarded, the city will have to start moving right away, as lack of progress would tell the GLO the project “isn’t that much of an emergency for us.”
“We have to move forward with issuing the bonds this season,” she said.

Herrington said that Bennett has been in constant contact with the office Rep. Brian Babin (R-Woodville). Babin has written a “really strong supporting letter” to the General Land Office in favor of Ivanhoe receiving the grant money.

In order for the city to satisfy its obligation to make the interest and principal payments to sell the bonds, it must be able to levy the debt service tax component, Herrington said. That will be due in September, along with adopting the budget and tax rate.

Herrington said it is an aggressive sellers’ market and a healthy time to engage. Councilmember Rowland Priddy said the low interest rates make it an ideal time to move forward with the bonds.
Herrington noted with the current state of the market, investors are paying a premium, and the city could wind up with a full $2 million, instead of having commissions and fees taken out.

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Commissioners approve ROW abatement; recognize service

The Tyler County Historical Commission receives the Distinguished Service Award at Monday’s commissioners court meeting. (CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB PHOTO)The Tyler County Historical Commission receives the Distinguished Service Award at Monday’s commissioners court meeting. (CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB PHOTO)

 

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – Tyler County commissioners approved a tax abatement for property owners who own land crossed by county-maintained right of ways.

Chief Appraiser David Luther spoke before the commissioners court at its regular meeting on Monday morning about the agenda item.

Under the Texas Transportation Code, property owners are allowed a tax exemption on land that is used by the government for a public purpose.

Luther said several taxpayers have approached him about the exemption and said there was no existing application or guidelines for the exemption.

Luther drafted a set of guidelines for the exemption and presented them to the commissioners and County Judge Jacques Blanchette.

The guidelines came about following consultation with legal counsel and a workshop with the commissioners.

Along with stipulations that specify what is eligible for exemption, the guidelines also contained an application. Taxpayers can obtain the packet from the appraiser’s office in Woodville.

Commitment for broadband coverage

Commissioners approved a maximum funding commitment of $19,275 in the coming fiscal year toward the expansion of broadband coverage in the county.

Lonnie Hunt, the executive director of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), was present, and said several other counties in the region have also approved a funding commitment toward broadband expansion. Hunt also spoke to the commissioners on the issue in a workshop conducted prior to the regular meeting.

In 2018 DETCOG approved a study for broadband expansion within the 12-county area serviced by the council. The money allocated for the study came from funds left over from Hurricane Ike Round 2.2 disaster recovery money.

Wright, TCHC recognized
The county recognized Dr. Sandra Wright for serving on the Burke Board of Trustees for 14 years with a certificate. Blanchette referred to the Burke network as “a very valuable and important component for the health and well-being of the area.”

Wright said it has been a pleasure to serve on the board and called it a “very good board to serve with.” The Burke Board of Trustees consists of nine members who are appointed by commissioners’ courts within the service area.

Commissioners also presented a “Distinguished Service Award” to the Tyler County Historical Commission. Blanchette noted that TCHC has won the award for several consecutive years and recognized several members who were present. TCHC President Bob Morris accepted the award on behalf of the group.

During Monday morning’s meeting, the commissioners also approved the following agenda items:
• An appointment for Dean Rivers to serve as the DETCOG Minority Representative for a three-year term. Precinct 2 Commissioner Stevan Sturrock recommended Rivers to serve in this capacity. She will replace Ivanhoe resident Wilbert Barnett as Minority Representative on the council.
• First National Bank of Jasper was awarded the bid for the county repository bank. Treasurer LeAnn Monk said the institution offers a higher rate of interest than others she had researched. The four-year contract extension was approved. Monk also gave a disclosure that she, her family and business all bank with FNB.
• The appointment of Pamela Narvaez as Assistant County Treasurer in accordance with Texas Local Government Code 83.009 was approved.

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Ivanhoe city council receives appraisal, legislative updates

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By Chris Edwards
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IVANHOE – Mayor Cathy Bennett presented the Tyler County Appraisal Board’s estimate of taxable values for the City of Ivanhoe at last Thursday’s city council meeting.

The certified estimate of property values in the city went up from $61 million in 2018 to $68. “This is an estimate, this is not the final,” Bennett said. “This will change before we do our final budget, but right now those are the figures that came out.”

Bennett said that based on the estimate, the effective tax rate for Ivanhoe property owners will decrease to $0.68 per $100 of taxable value, which would be a decrease of $0.07 from the previous tax rate.

During Bennett’s report, she gave an update on Senate Bill 2, and its ramifications for cities. The bill, which was recently signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, is designed to limit property tax growth, by limiting the ability of municipalities to make increases in property taxes.

The bill was controversial with many officials, because of the possible limitations it would place upon city budgets.

“Thank heavens,” Bennett said, as the bill will only affect cities with populations of more than 30,000.

Another bill from this year’s legislative session, SB 29, was defeated, Bennett reported. That bill would have forbidden cities from using the Texas Municipal League as a lobby.

Three city council members, Tommy Morris, Rowland Priddy and Chuck Vonderlin attended a TML debriefing in Austin of new bills passed into law. Each of them reported on a variety of new laws and how they will possibly affect Ivanhoe.

Morris spoke about SB 2 and said that the new law would require the city to hold an election if it wished to raise property taxes above the current 8% rate.

The councilmembers also shared information about a variety of laws, ranging from legislation concerning the open meetings act to the regulation of off-road vehicles within city limits.

Update on dog situation given

Municipal Judge Judith Haney gave an update on a situation involving several dangerous dogs. In May, an Ivanhoe resident, Michael Gray, approached Bennett, and demanded the city intervene and get rid of the dogs, which numbered around 50.

A court order was issued for the removal or disposal of the dogs. City ordinance limits the number of dogs a resident can house to five.

Haney said the city has “always had stray dog issues,” but many of these dogs were having multiple litters of puppies on Gray’s property. Twenty-three of the dogs were euthanized, 15 of them saved and 13 puppies were saved. Many of the dogs who were captured and evaluated were deemed un-adoptable, and five of them were returned to Gray after being tended to.

“The court is watching to make sure this does not happen again,” Haney said.

Bennett added that she is “very proud of the city and all of the volunteers who worked on this.”

Resolutions passed

Councilmembers approved two resolutions pertaining to November elections. One of them was an election order for the Nov. 5 election for three council positions which are up for re-election.

The other resolution was for a special election order for the city’s general sales and use tax. City secretary C.D. Woodrome said that new legislation has made it possible for all sales tax generated by a taxing entity to go into a general fund. Currently 1.25% of the city’s sales tax revenue is designated for roads. The special election would decide whether or not that percentage will increase to 1.5%. Woodrome wanted to clarify that this would not be an additional tax, it would just raise the allocation of sales tax gathered for roads.

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Colmesneil City Council awards construction contract

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By Mollie LaSalle

COLMESNEIL – Colmesneil City Council met last Tuesday and welcomed Susan Stover and Troy Whitehead, who spoke to council on the whys and wherefores of the bid(s) received for the North Pitser Street project.

Mayor Don Baird and council members were given specifics on the bid in question, which was submitted by Drewery Construction of Nacogdoches. Stover began by stating that the bid was re-worked, as it was too high; as originally written, the city would have to pay $11K out of pocket for the addition of the culvert and bridge repairs. Baird stated that, “I’ve been with the city over 20 years, and to my knowledge, no culverts have ever had to be repaired.”

Director of Utilities Keith Barnes agreed with the mayor, adding that he goes out every couple of years checking on culverts around the city that need maintenance, making sure they are sound. To that end, the contract was re-worked to exclude the culvert and bridge repairs, making the city responsible for only $2,900 out of pocket.

Council member Kenneth Davis said, “I don’t like this contract as written; I think it is overdone,” and added that he had missed the last council meeting and was not up to snuff on the specifics of the proposals. Davis and Whitehead exchanged comments back and forth, and in the end, Davis came around as Whitehead explained several key points that Davis had issues with.

After a lengthy discussion among council and mayor Baird, the city opted to accept the contract’s Option “B”, which is a Base Bid and Additive #1, no culvert work and no bridge repair. The city will pay the $2900.00 -dollar difference out of pocket, and Drewery Construction will be the contractors for the project. Work has not been scheduled to start on the project as of press time.

Minutes form the previous meeting, and all reports, including office, financial and investment, and water and sewer where approved in short order. Azalia Deckard has been hired as the new assistant city secretary; she began working in the front office in April.

With no further business to discuss, council adjourned for the evening. The next scheduled meeting will be held July 9 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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