- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
The Paris Economic Development Corporation on Tuesday postponed until June 11 its discussion on a proposed 2012-2013 budget, saying it needs an attorney general’s opinion on whether it can legally fund the R3bi Incubator and other incentives for small business.
“I really have a problem with whether we can do that under 4A,” said the board’s newest member, Rebecca Clifford, who joined the PEDC in April.
“I’m not against small business. I believe in small business, and I realize that small businesses are the backbone of a community, and I’m not opposed to that,” Clifford said.
“But the list I saw in the paper (of small businesses being helped through the business incubator), none of them are manufacturing or industry,” she added. “I think we could do it if we were a 4B corporation, but not as a 4A corporation,” she said, referring to the two different set-ups.
“It’s a matter of semantics, isn’t it?” board member Toni Clem asked.
Under either a 4A or 4B corporation, the PEDC would get about $1.2 million a year from the sales tax, but Clifford said her understanding after poring through the attorney general’s economic development guide is that Paris’ focus must be on manufacturing or industry.
“I think we are all in agreement with you that we don’t want to break the law,” Clem said. “We need to figure that out.”
In past meetings, PEDC members Kenny Dority, now the board chairman, and Bruce Carr questioned whether the board was getting its money out of what it was paying consultant Richard Seline, who helped set up the recent Lamar County Days in Austin, and consultant Rickey Hayes, who through his company, Retail Attractions., sells Paris as a good place to do business.City attorney Kent McIlyar said he believes the PEDC is OK because of a 10 percent marketing promotion exception for Type 4A corporations.
“The times I’ve seen Rickey Hayes, it does seem that what he was doing was lifting up the city of Paris as a retail site, a shopping center, that type of thing. As long as he stays within the 10 percent limit in your annual budget, I think it’s OK.”
Carr suggested: “Why don’t we write the attorney general and ask him for an opinion on our specific situation? I’m really struggling with this thing. We need to flush this thing out, and probably we could do that through a request for an attorney general’s opinion.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Dority said.
“For me, my main concern is I just don’t think it fits into our scope of work, what we’re trying to accomplish as a board. I think we have many other worthwhile things we could do that will have a by-product of what we do hopefully, and so I think we ought to narrow our focus a little more.”
Clem made a motion, quickly seconded by Carr, to table the budget and scheduled a budget workshop in June for further talk.
The board, which has only four members at present because of the death earlier this year of chairman Doug Wehrman, approved the motion 4-0.
The PEDC will meet again on June 11 at 3 p.m., preceded by a budget workshop the same day at 1 p.m.
McIlyar cautioned the board that the attorney general’s office typically takes six months to come back with an opinion. That means the board probably is facing the likelihood it must make a decision about the budget without an answer on the legality issue.
PEDC executive director Steve Gilbert’s proposed $600,000 budget includes $89,980 in operating support to R3bi and $33,000 to renew for another year a $33,000 contract with Retail Attractions. Between the two, that is more than 20 percent of the entire budget.
Gilbert said Clifford, in an effort to “get up to speed,” asked him several “very good questions” – including a question about how much money the PEDC had spent over the past two years and in the current year with Hayes and Seline.
“I’m putting together a written memo in response to her questions, and I’ll get that to all of you,” Gilbert said.
He added: “I’ve heard from all of you, I think, questions about whether we’re getting our money’s worth” from the two consultants.
Gilbert sat quietly through most of the discussion on the merits of the business incubator and of the PEDC’s doing business with consultants.
Finally, Clem commented: “Steve, you’ve been quiet. What’s your take?”
Gilbert said he agreed with what the city attorney said about the permissibility of helping small businesses through a 10 percent marketing promotion exception..
“I think it does fall under that marketing 10 percent. If it comes right down to it, I think it comes down to whether you want to spend that money to do that or not,” he said.
“On the question of the incubator, that one concerns me. There are several Type A communities who operate incubators through the Type A funds. That’s not something that’s out of the ordinary.”
Then he launched into a strong defense of the PEDC’s “program of work – our two-year business plan.”
“We didn’t lightly arrive at the action steps in that business plan. We went through a pretty rich community involvement, a community engagement process. And the business plan was contemplated by this board and approved by this board, and I think it’s been embraced by our community,” he said.
“So if y’all want to eliminate or reduce significantly, or not support the incubator, that’s a decision you can make. And certainly, if it’s illegal, none of us wants to be a part of that. So that’s something we’ve got to figure out pretty quickly.”
The bigger issue for him, Gilbert said, is abandoning the PEDC’s business plan.
“If we make significant changes to what we’re doing, we’ve got to not only look at our budget but we’ve got to go back to that business plan, and we basically can toss out 40 percent of it,” he said.
“Two of the five strategies that we’re pursuing are related to small business entrepreneurs. That’s fine; you all set the policy, and I’ll move that ball forward, however you decide. But I think there are some bigger considerations that we all need to think about,” Gilbert said.
“The other thing is, in a fairly short time frame, with our business plan, we’ve seen great success. If you read about the latest in economic development, we’re doing what we ought to be doing.”
By CHARLES RICHARDS
A special community event will take place Saturday at a little-known, all-but-extinct cemetery hidden away in the Johnson Woods subdivision in southeast Paris.
District 6 city councilwoman Cleonne Drake is heading a volunteer effort to clean up and restore the Pride Cemetery, starting at 8:30 a.m. The City of Paris and the Lamar County adult probation office will lend their help, she said.
Access to the cemetery is off Pride Circle.
The cemetery — which is bounded by Johnson Woods, Pride Circle, Southeast 31st Street and Abbott Street — is in Drake’s council district, but Drake did not know about it until Lamar County Sheriff Scott Cass told her about it a couple of months ago, she said.
“The Pride Cemetery has been neglected, and time has obscured it. Many do not even know it exists – including nearby neighbors. According to records, a Union soldier supposedly was buried there,” she said.
“The oldest grave dates back to 1843, and at one time there were 39 identified graves in the cemetery,” she added.
Now, a committee has been formed to lead the clean-up and restoration effort.
On the committee are Drake, Cass, District 2 councilwoman Sue Lancaster, Paris fire chief Larry Wright, city manager John Godwin, city finance director Gene Anderson, county adult probation community service program director Jimmy Don Nicholson, and J. B. and Doris Bankhead, who are descendants of Louisa A. Cass.
“We are going to do everything we can to not disturb the neighbors that surround the cemetery and in the immediate area,” Drake said.
“There will be heavy equipment and power tools used, but we will not be blocking driveways or streets,” she said.
Drake said she has either contacted neighbors in the immediate area or left information on their doors informing them of the upcoming event.
Anyone with questions or concerns is asked to contact Drake (903-783-1202) or fire chief Wright (903-784-9225). Drake can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Open Letter to eParisExtra.com from Rick Browning (who, incidentally is the assistant fire chief for the Faught Volunteer Fire Department):
My brother-in-law and sister, David and Teresa Palmer (of Houston), and their daughter Sophie, are visiting us this weekend in Paris.
While David, Teresa and Sophie were enjoying our beautiful Downtown Paris, it seems that David lost his wallet.
You can imagine his anxiety, knowing that all his money, credit cards and driver license “were gone forever.” Well, not necessarily in Paris. ….
I called the Paris police department. The dispatchers told me that someone from the Paris-Lamar County Chamber of Commerce had reported that a wallet was found by one of our numerous honest citizens.
The wallet was waiting at the Chamber. Becky Semple (tourism director of the Paris Visitors and Convention Center) offered to come meet us at TEN O’CLOCK at NIGHT on Saturday!
David got his wallet back, WITH ALL THE MONEY STILL IN IT!!!!
Paris is the ONLY place where this would have happened. What a wonderful town we have!
– Rick Browning
City councilman Matt Frierson won re-election and a proposed $45 million bond issue to replace the city’s deteriorating water and sewer lines sailed to easy victory Saturday in the 2013 City of Paris election.
Voters in District 5 gave Frierson 82 (77.36%) votes to 24 (22.64%) votes for Danny Booth, who was making his first run for elective office.
In the two other city council seats that are up this year, Dr. Richard Grossnickle in District 4 and Dr. AJ Hashmi in District 7 had no opponent.
The bond issue passed even more overwhelmingly — 869 (91.86%) for and 77 (8.14%) against.
The council will canvass the votes on May 20 and then, as customary, the council will select from itself a mayor and mayor pro-tem for the coming year. Hashmi has been mayor and Grossnickle mayor pro-tem for the last two years.
Frierson, Hashmi and Grossnickle have finished their first 2-year term. Holdover members are Jim Wright of District 3, in the middle of his second 2-year term; and Aaron Jenkins of District 1, Sue Lancaster of District 2; and Cleonne Drake of District 6, all in the middle of their first two-year term.
Longview-based KSA Engineers, which specializes in city infrastructure, has spent the past six months analyzing the condition of the city’s underground utilities.
A citizens advisory committee will meet with KSA officials later this month to prioritize projects to be undertaken, and the committee will meet jointly with the Paris City Council in June.
Contacted Saturday night, Mayor Hashmi expressed delight with the huge margin of the vote that the bond issue received, but he was disappointed in the turnout.
“On the one hand, I’m euphoric because the water and sewer bond passed by an overwhelming majority, and I want to thank those who performed their civic duty by voting. I’m having a difficult time stopping smiling,” Hashmi said.
“On the other hand, I’m deeply saddened that many of our citizens did not vote, and I would encourage them to examine their conscience as to why they did not participate.”
The 946 votes that were cast for the bond proposition was just 7.23 percent of the city’s 13,076 registered voters. And five of the city’s seven council districts did worse than that.
The percentage of registered voters who actually voted, by district, was:
In District 5, more people voted on the bond issue (114) than for the council race (106).
“With a low voter turnout, it is not difficult for special interest groups to gain control of our city — election after election,” Hashmi said. “All in all, however, I am quite happy.”
More than twice as many voted in the seven early days of voting than on Election Day itself. Of the 946 total votes cast, early voting from April 29 through May 5 accounted for 640 (67.67%); mail votes accounted for 52 (5.49%); and Election Day itself accounted for 254 (26.84%).
It’s a lesson for politicians; if you wait until the final week to mount your door-to-door campaign and buy full-page advertising, you’ve too late with two-thirds of the electorate. They’ve already voted.
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Over the past six months, KSA Engineers – which specializes in infrastructure planning – has had teams of engineers working on a comprehensive replacement plan .
KSA provided members of a citizens advisory committee with maps in which the streets with the worst water lines and the streets with the worst sewer lines are outlned in heavy lines and different colors. The bolder the lne, and the darker the color, the greater the need for replacement.
(See maps at the bottom of this article for a display of the worst water and sewer lines. To enlarge the map for easier viewing, hold down the CTRL key and press the “+” key … more than once if necessary.)
The city’s streets also are given a score, but the advisory committee’s focus is on water and sewer lines, since the only street work paid for under the bond issue would be those that have to be put back after work on bad water or sewer lnes underneath them.
The city’s best water pipe got a score of 2; the worst got a score of 79.
The city’s best sewer line got a score of 2; the worst got a score of 162.
Over a series of three meetings, KSA has apprised a Citizens Advisory Plan of the degree of severity.
A fourth meeting is planned between the citizens’ committee and KSA for May 21 or May 22 to prioritize the projects, and that will be followed by a joint meeting between the citizens’ committee and the Paris City Council in June.
A six-month contract between the City of Paris and KSA Engineers will expire on May 31.
In Paris, the process of replacing water and sewer lines has been complicated by their location under city streets. Every time a leak has developed – and those leaks have been extensive – it involves tearing up the street to get to the pipes.
KSA used data collected from the city’s AutoCAD water distribution system base map and work order GIS files to analyze flows and pressure through the City of Paris water and sewer systems. The higher the score, the worse the line.
KSA came up with the following point scale for water and sewer in the City of Paris:
WATER DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM PIPE SCORING:
SEWER SYSTEM PIPE SCORING:
By CHARLES RICHARDS