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By CHARLES RICHARDS
The City of Paris has collected more hotel and motel occupancy taxes this fiscal year than at the same time a year ago despite the failure of La Quinta Inn to pay the city for the July-through-September and the October-through-December quarters.
City finance director Gene Anderson, responding to an inquiry from District 5 councilman Matt Frierson at Thursday night’s city council meeting, said all Paris hotels are current on their occupancy taxes except La Quinta.
“La Quinta is delinquent for the first quarter of 2011, but paid the bulk of its obligation for the second quarter of 2011,” Anderson said. “They are also delinquent for the third and fourth quarters of 2011.”
On Feb. 7, Anderson and city attorney Kent McIlyar met with the owner and hotel manager, who promised to stay current on occupancy taxes from now on, plus pay $3,000 per month on the back taxes owed until the indebtedness is erased.
“At that rate it will take approximately 15 months for them to pay the back tax due,” the finance director said.
Frierson asked, “Based on past issues, do you think they will live up to the agreement?”
“Well, they made the first three payments,” Anderson replied. “I’m not going to predict from there. But I think they want to do that. They realize if they fail to do that, they’ll end up in court and more than likely would have to shut down, and they don’t want that to happen.”
According to Anderson’s monthly financial report, the city has collected $328,344 in hotel occupancy taxes through the first seven months of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, covering from Oct. 1, 2011, through April 30, 2012.
That’s $21,419, or 7 percent, more than the $306,925 the city had collected for the first seven months of the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Anderson also reported:
The city is seven-twelfths of the way through the fiscal year, and three city departments have spent more than seven-twelfths of their annual budget, Anderson.
He identified the three departments as the police, the city airport, and the wastewater treatment plant.
He attributed the police department overage of $58,619 to supplies for the animal pound, and higher than anticipated expense for the emergency notification system, funds for confidential informants, information technology expenses, and maintenance of buildings and equipment.
The overage at Cox Field amounts to $25,959 and is due to the grant match payments to TxDOT for paving runways at the airport, he said.
The overage at the wastewater treatment plant is $40,354 and is due to chemical costs, TCEQ license fees, and maintenance of pumps and motor maintenance.
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
The five-member governing board of the Texas Department of Transportation on Thursday gave final approval for the request of the Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority (SuRRMA) to borrow up to $4.428,039 from the State Infrastructure Bank for the Texas 24 widening project in Delta County.
“All that is left is to have signatures placed on all final draft documents. A big thanks to everyone involved since the start of the Highway 24 campaign,” SuRRMA chairman Delbert Horton said in an e-mail to community leaders.
In Paris on Thursday night, applause broke out during the meeting of the Paris City Council when Steve Gilbert, executive director of the Paris Economic Development Corporation (PEDC) announced the commission’s approval at Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Texas Department of Transportation.
The action gives TxDOT the go-ahead to widen Texas Highway 24 along the last 10 miles of two-lane highway between Paris and Interstate 30. It means trucks in the not-too-distant future will be able to travel on divided, four-lane highways to Paris and will open up a new north-south four-lane corridor using the Indian Nation Turnpike..
Upon the recommendation of commission chairman Phil Wilson, the commission gave the preliminary OK during its April meeting for the loan to SuRMMA, the City of Paris, Lamar County, Paris Economic Development Commission, the City of Cooper and Delta County.
The Texas Department of Transportation will perform the work, including right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation, and SuRRMA will pay 100 percent of the costs of right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation for the project, which stretches from Cooper to the Hunt County line.
The City of Paris, Lamar County and the Paris Economic Development Corporation agreed earlier this year to borrow $1.5 million each. Delta County and the City of Cooper are participating to a less degree.
SuRRMA intends to make payments due on the loans with funds provided by the various government entities. Delta County is not participating in the SIB loans, but is expected to contribute cash for its portion of the costs.
The loan is at 3.68 percent interest over 20 years.
Based upon departmental review and analysis of the application, the commission made the following findings: (1) the RMA has pledged repayment of the SIB loans with contract revenues to be received by the RMA pursuant to the interlocal agreement to assure likely repayment of the financial assistance; (2) the project is consistent with the Statewide Transportation Plan; (3) the project will improve the efficiency of the state’s transportation systems; ( 4) the project will expand the availability of :funding for transportation projects or reduce state costs; and (5) the application shows that the project and the applicant are likely to have sufficient revenues to assure repayment of the financial assistance.
“IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED by the commission that the application for SIB financial assistance submitted by the RMA to borrow an aggregate amount up to $4,428,039 from the State Infrastructure Bank is granted final approval. The executive director or his authorized representative is directed and authorized to enter into the financial assistance agreements as negotiated with the RMA. The loans will be repaid over a period of no more than 20 years at 3.68 percent interest per annum. The final maturity date will be June 29,2032.”
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
The Paris City Council now gets a report monthly on the status of structures that the code enforcement staff has marked as dilapidated.
Included in the council members’ packet for Thursday night’s meeting, were the following properties that the city’s Building and Standards Commission has given owners of the following properties 30 days to take down:
The commission has given the owner of the following property 90 days to have the structure demolished:
The Building and Standards Commission has issued the following orders with respect to properties, mostly in the downtown area, that are alleged to be dilapidated and in need of repair or demolition. Also given is the deadline, and any repair, if any, that has occurred:
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Airport Advisory Board (Thursday, April 19, 2012):
Status of Airport Improvements: airport director Shawn Napier said Blue Bay construction has started the project at the airport. TxDOT aviation has informed the city that hangar grants are no longer a 75/25 grant match; they are now a 90/10 grant match. To take advantage of these grants, the air side must be completed. Napier will be getting with Sandra Braden to review what is left to complete on the air side so the city can look at applying for grant monies the following year. There will be money left over that can be used for additional repair items, and board members were asked to get a list of such items to Napier or airport manager Jerry Richey.
There was a discussion, but no action, on the findings of a subcommittee regarding an open house/fly-in at the airport.
Airport Manager’s Report: Richey said the taxi ways would be completed for Phase 1 and 2 by late April, and that runway 324 would be closed to allow repair on it. That should take a couple of weeks. Richey also said work was continuing on trying to complete two water leaks, and it was uncertain why those continue. He said if the problem can’t be fixed, “we may want to look into changing contractors.” Napier said the entire pipe could be rusted and might have to be replaced. Dr. Fred Williams asked if the water faucet at the west hangar is working yet; Richey said he would find out and report back.
Paris Public Library Advisory Board (Wednesday, April 18, 2012):
Under the guidance of chairman Linda Vaniver, the board examined and approved the updated “Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials” policy and request form.
The budget and statistical reports were presented. It was reported that the budget is on track, with half the funds expended through the first six months of the fiscal year.
The board was told the new public access computer tables have been installed. The young adult collection of fiction, mystery, and science fiction have been separated from the adult collection and are now shelved in the section close to the adult mysteries. The summer reading program starts June 1 at 11 a.m. and will be held on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Library director Priscilla McAnally said she will ask for some increases in the next budget. Because of the loss of “Loan Star Library Funds,” postage costs will increase. Utility prices are ioncreasing, necessitating increases there. The materials collection is aging, so an additional $20,000 will be requested for that. An additional $4,000 will be requested for repair of building and grounds. An increase also will be requested in order to replace the public copier, which is “quite old.” The total budget request increase anticipated is $29,950.
Building and Standards Commission (Monday, April 16, 2012):
The committee had a list of structures for possible repair or demolition, but it was discovered that the date for the required listing of the meeting in the newspaper had been listed as Feb. 20, 2012, rather than April 16, 2012. The board asked assistant city attorney John Lestock, who was present at the meeting, if it was legal to take any action during this meeting on the properties, and he said it would not be legal. The committee asked code enforcement supervisor Robert Talley to re-post the properties with the correct date for the next meeting.
Harper Holland was present to update the commission on property owned by We Reit, LLC, at 266-270 1st St. SW, which is a building across the street north from the farmer’s market and the skateboarding park. Holland said the plan is to gut the inside of the building, whose roof has caved in, but leave the outside walls standing. The company has several other projects going on, but will get to this one. In the meantime, the building would be secured so outsiders could not get it. The repair is to come later and will be handled through the city’s permit department.
The commission studied a spreadsheet showing possible substandard structures that have been looked at, along with the progress on them to date.
Talley had pictures of several downtown roof tops. He said city fire marshal Dale Maberry took the photos after a recent rain to show that very little water was standing on the roof tops. Commission chairman Don Wilson wanted to know if Talley was still going to start a systematic check of the downtown buildings. Wilson said he would like to have proof the inspections had begun.
Future agenda items:
1) All properties listed on this agenda need to be put on the next regularly scheduled meeting.
2) The committee would like an updated report on how many downtown buildings had been spected and how many were leaking.
3) A system needs to be established on getting the downtown buildings inspected.
4) The report needs to state if anyone refused to allow the city onto the property, and what process was taken to get access to the buiding.
5) 5. Cherry Street Manor needs to be on the agenda for the regular May meeting.
Wilson said he wants to put more focus on saving buildings. He said the commission needs to have a backlog of demolitions. Talley said 20 to 30 homes are on the list for demolition, but the city stopped demolishing structures last summer after the state supreme court’s decision in Stewart vs. Dallas. Commission member Johnny Norris asked if there are structures that can be saved. He said if a property is open to the public, it should be taken care of first. Talley said more than 400 structures have been taken down in the past few years. Commission member Zach Saffle asked about the time frame for getting the 20 to 40 dilapidated houses demolished. Talley said demolitions would start again in May, and that depending on the weather up to 25 could be taken down in one month. Saffle said he didn’t want the city to lose focus of getting rid of dilapidated houses. Wilson said downtown structures needed to be evaluated over the next 30 days. Talley told the commission that eventually a process will be formed for downtown businesses.
The “Paris Leadership Summit” will begin at 8:30 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m.
In a statement, the PEDC said the Paris Diversity Initiative will give its final report and address the issues and opportunities identified in the report.