Orr Honda of Paris celebrates grand reopening with “Pre-Party Party”

OrrHondaHundreds gathered today for the grand reopening of Orr Honda. The event, advertised as a “Pre-Party-Party” for next week’s Festival of Pumpkins, began at 10 this morning and continued until 6 this evening.

Those in attendance were in for a fun-filled day. The event kicked off with the Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting ceremony. Dozens gathered behind general manager and partner Dwayne DeMedio as he did the honors. Inside, DeMedio and co-owner Steven Burns presented $500 checks to the Bridge Breast Network and Dylan’s Drivers, both charitable organizations dedicated to saving lives. DeMedio took the time to express his gratitude to all involved, including Orr, the Orr Group, Light it Pink, the Chamber of Commerce and Dylan’s Drivers.

“We’re so proud to be in Paris, Texas. We’re so thankful for our whole staff that has really been behind me to get this business up off the ground,” he said. “We’re just so thankful for the whole community and we will be very involved and look forward to a lot of business here…”

Steven Burns, like DeMedio, also expressed the importance of the community’s role in the business.

“We understand this dealership is part of the community…” he said. “And we’re going to get back to our roots and make it a great store.”

The party then continued outside in the parking lot. Callihan’s Steak & Que provided free hamburgers and hot dogs, and a bounce house and slide sat nearby for children and adults alike to enjoy. Guests could meet two local radio DJs, and, later in the day, sit back and enjoy the band East of Azle as they performed live on stage. All the while, as music played in the background, guests had the opportunity to show their support to local Joann Robinson in her fight against cancer. Donations to the cause could be made via a bake sale or through t-shirt sales. As of 3:15 this afternoon, donations had already totaled over $700. All proceeds will go to help with Mrs. Robinson’s medical bills.

Throughout the day, visitors were able to submit their names for a prize drawing, set to occur at around 4 p.m. Brandon Flannery won a Blu-ray player, Matthew Wood won a 32″ flat screen television and Joseph Filkins received a free event t-shirt.

Charitable organizations in attendance of the event included Light it Pink Paris, Dylan’s Drivers, and a local blood drive.

If you would like to make a donation toward Mrs. Robinson’s cause or would like more information about the event, contact Jonathan Robinson at 903.249.7497

Orr Honda of Paris is located at 1505 Loop 286 NE.

By Courtney McNeal, eParisExtra

City Council approves contract for storm damage repairs to Grand Theater

grand theaterLocal contractor Bobby Smallwood was approved for two contracts at Monday night’s City Council meeting. He was given a $125,000 contract to make storm damage repairs to the Grand Theater.

He also won a contract for just under $400,000 for the Safe Routes to School project that will encompass sidewalks and bicycle lanes around Justiss Elementary School and Crockett Intermediate School.

Among other things in a four-hour meeting, the council:

  • approved a residential tax abatement plan for most of the city inside the loop. None of City Council districts 6 or 7 are included. Residents will be exempt from taxes on new homes or on improvements for five years. None of City Council districts 6 or 7 are in the tax abatement zone. The council had tabled the item several weeks ago, but at the behest of Mayor AJ Hashmi agreed to approve the earlier plan and to decide in a year whether to further tweak the ordinance.
  • approved the final plat, and a zoning change, for a tract in the 3900 block of Bonham Street, just west of the loop. The existing service station and Ward’s West Side Restaurant will be torn down to make room for a 5,000-square-foot convenience store. The restaurant will relocate into an existing building directly to the west of the present cafe.
  • agreed to lease to the Valley of the Caddo Museum and Cultural Center space in the depot adjacent (to the north) to the Paris Economic Development Board. The space has been used previously as a transportation museum. In an arrangement similar to the genealogical society, the city will pick up the utility costs. Dr. Phillip Bandel and Gene Stallings were present to represent Valley of the Caddo Museum.
  • spent more than two hours hearing presentations from four large engineering firms interested in designing the first $35 million in Paris’ $45 million infrastructure bond issue. Members of the council had questions for each presenter. The council will meet in a special meeting next Monday with each council member instructed to have rankings on each of the four and suggestions as to how many to go with. None of the four firms was allowed in the council chambers for their competitors’ presentations.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra


City Council approves 89 projects earmarked for infrastructure replacement

The Paris City Council agreed Monday on an updated list for city-wide infrastructure projects to be undertaken during the first $35 million phase of a $45 million bond project approved on May 11 by voters.

Among the top projects on the list is replacement of water and sewer lines on Pine Bluff Street between Main Street and 20th Street,  and Southwest 19th Street.

The Southwest 19th Steet project is one that would improve the infrastructure for Turner Pipe, Kimberly Clark and the power plant.


City Manager, John Godwin

The list is a combination of projects recommended by KSA Engineers under a 10-year capital improvement plan, and projects suggested suggested by City of Paris field staff, “who we believe know which projects are most needed,” City Manager John Godwin told the council.

“It is our plan to begin construction in Spring 2014,” Godwin said.

Here are the Top 15 projects — designated as “Tier 1″ projects on the council-approved 89-project list for infrastructure replacement (including the number of water and sewer work orders over the past three years):

  • Pine Bluff, from Main Street to 20th Street (water and sewer). Water work orders: 16; sewer work orders: 142.
  • East of Johnson Woods Drive, from Lamar Avenue to Mahaffey Street (sewer only). Water work orders: 0; sewer work orders: 7.
  • Downtown Paris, from the Plaza one block south and three blocks in each of the three other directions (water and sewer). Water work orders: 37; sewer work orders: 23.
  • Lamesa Heights Addition (water and sewer). Water work orders: 17; sewer work orders, 74.
  • Southwest 19th Street, from Bonham Street to the southwest loop (water and sewer). Water work orders: 42; sewer work orders: 65.
  • Southwest 7th Street, from Field Road to the southwest loop (water only). Water work orders: 3; sewer work orders: 0.
  • Along the southwest loop, in the vicinity of Southwest 19th Street (water only). Water work orders: 3; sewer work orders: 0.
  • From West Washington Street cross-country southwest to Field Road (water only). Water work orders: 4; sewer work orders: 0.
  • Southeast 33rd Street, from Lamar Avenue to Clarksville Street (water and sewer). Water work orders: 17; sewer work orders: 64.
  • Southeast 3rd Street, from South Church street to the south loop (water only). Water work orders: 11; sewer work orders: 2.
  • Southeast Loop 286, from Clarksville Street to Jefferson Heigts (Big Sandy to FM 1507) (sewer only). Water work orders: 0; sewer work orders: 0.
  • Carson Lane, from Southeast 28th Street to Johnson Woods Drive (sewer only). Water work orders: 3; sewer work orders: 12.
  • West Houston Street, from Northwest 34th Street to the west loop (water and sewer). Water work orders: 6; sewer work orders: 45.
  • Dawn Drive, from the east end of Dawn Drive to the Loop 286 crossover (sewer only). Water work orders: 10; sewer work orders: 1.
  • Northwest 19th Street, grinder pumps (sewer only). Water work orders: 0; sewer work orders: 32.

 By Charles Richards, eParisExtra


Former city councilman accuses Clifford of ‘misleading and unethical’ report

PEDC Chairman Rebecca Clifford

PEDC Chairman Rebecca Clifford

Rebecca Clifford, chairperson of the Paris Economic Development Corporation, asked the Paris City Council on Monday for an opportunity to address the council at its next meeting concerning a citizen’s complaint she gave the council a “misleading and unethical” report.

Mayor AJ Hashmi asked City Manager John Godwin to honor her request.

“I would like to go over everything. I will go through, line by line, and I will show the council where I got every detail,” Clifford said of a Sept. 9 report to the council in which she compared the PEDC’s annual expenditures for administration and promotions, compared to other Texas cities.

Businessman Don “Pinky” Wilson, a former city councilman, wrote a letter to all seven council members Sunday afternoon.  He said he had met with the mayor personally and again by phone “several times during the past four weeks to request that Clifford explain and disclose “the altered figures” in her report.

“I have received no response,” Wilson wrote.

His complaint concerns the spreadsheet comparison of the PEDC with other Type 4A economic development corporations around the state. Paris showed the highest percentage spent on personnel and administration.

Wilson said first of all, Clifford used operating expenditures as a percent of total income, rather than as a percent of sales tax revenue, which led to misleading percentages — apples vs. oranges.

Also, Wilson said, she took figures for the seven comparison cities directly from the state comptrollers “Texas Ahead” website, but did not use the numbers that Gene Anderson, City of Paris finance director, reported to the comptroller’s office regarding the PEDC.

Clifford altered six of the 10 Paris entries in her report, Wilson said.

Using her numbers, Clifford came out with 74 percent (instead of 57 percent) for the PEDC’s percentage of income spent on salaries and administration, Wilson said.

“In fiscal year 2012, PEDC spent more than any of these peers for personnel, administration and marketing in both absolute dollar amount as well as percentage of income,” she said during her Sept. 9 presentation.

“PEDC spent approximately $900,000, or 74 percent, of our current year’s income on these categories. No other city in our peer group spent more than 27 percent,” she said.

At the beginning of her presentation, Wilson wrote, Clifford gave her accounting education, professional credentials and work experience to add credibility to her presentation.

“Therefore, her report should be covered by the Public Accountants Code of Ethics,” Wilson said in his weekend letter to the council.

“This complaint is not about whether Gene Anderson’s figures in Texas Ahead are correct or Rebecca Clifford’s altered figures are correct,” Wilson said.

“The issue is a failure to disclose that the Paris figures published in Texas Ahead were altered, which resulted in a misleading and unethical report.”

Wilson quoted from the “Public Accountant’s Code of Ethics,” which states:

  • “A professional accountant should not be associated with reports or communications that contain A) materially false or misleading statements, B) statements of information furnished recklessly, or C) omits or obscures information required to be included where such omissions and obscurity would be misleading.”

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

Applicants for PEDC board must live in Paris city limits, City Council agrees

PEDC Director Steve Gilbert

PEDC Director Steve Gilbert

The Paris City Council unanimously said “no” on Monday to a change in the PEDC bylaws to allow members of the board of the Paris Economic Development Corporation to live outside the city.

But the council went along with four other proposed bylaws changes, including one that will allow directors who resign in the middle of their terms to continue on the board until the City Council has appointed a successor.

PEDC Executive Director Steve Gilbert told the council that both proposals grew out of the resignation in early June of then-chairman Kenny Dority.

Dority, who was building a new residence outside the Paris city limits, became immediately ineligible to remain on the board as soon as he moved out of his home in Paris.

Afterward, Gilbert said, he was contacted by several individuals who live outside the city limits but who own businesses in Paris and do all their business in the city.

“The board did not recommend this,” Gilbert stressed, “but they wanted to bring it before you to make the decision.” He said he had heard from people who felt for, as well as people who felt it should remain as it is.

“But, if someone lives in the county but owns a business in the city, maybe they could serve,” Gilbert said.

City Attorney Kent McIlyar said he researched state law and found no restriction for a Type 4A corporation, like the PEDC, to have directors who live outside the city.

“But I think it has to be clear. It would have to be the owner of a local business, not just an officer,” McIlyer said.

“That could get cumbersome (to enforce),” District 5 Councilman Matt Frierson said.

Out of the 8-1/4 percent sales tax collected by Paris merchants on sales, the state comptroller’s office rebates 1-1/2 percent back to the City of Paris and 1/2 percent back to Lamar County. Of the city’s 1-1/2 percent, 1/4 percent — amounting to about $1 million a year — goes to fund the PEDC.

District 6 Councilwoman Cleonne Drake noted that the name of the organization is the PARIS Economic Development Corporation.

At first, Mayor AJ Hashmi said he supports individuals in the county being eligible to serve on the PEDC, “because they do business in the city.” Also, he said, easing the restrictions would bring in more talent to the applicant pool.

“If that’s the case, why are we stopping at the Red River?” District 3 Councilman John Wright asked.

“I think this is getting too complicated, and I agree, it was voted by the people to be the Paris Economic Development Corporation,” Hashmi said.

“And, this is just a thought, but suppose someone who lives in Reno were appointed to the PEDC? They would have access to confidential information, and what would keep that person from going back to use that information to help Reno?” Hashmi asked.

“I don’t mean that as any reflection against the City of Reno. It could be any other town in the county,” the mayor said.

The city attorney said any changes in PEDC bylaws would require a super majority approval by at least five out of the seven council members.

The council voted unanimously to approve all but the proposed residency change from city to county.

The three other PEDC bylaws changes approved by the council were to align the language with current policy:

  • The bylaws said directors were to be appointed by the City Council on the first council meeting in April with all terms beginning on May 1 and ending on April 30. The change was to the appointments being made at the second council meeting in June, with terms beginning on July 1 and ending on June 30.
  • The current bylaws language specified that the PEDC must submit its budget to the council on or before June 30 of each year. That was changed to “on or before July 1.”
  • Last year’s decision by the City Council requiring the PEDC to get council decision for any incentive agreement of $400,000 or more for an industry was made a part of the bylaws. The language includes the prohibition of the PEDC authorizing tax abatement agreements without formal review and approval by the council.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra