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Council votes to send bond election items to citizens

LeAnda Staebner
Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Stephenville Bond Proposition A would fund a combined use facility of the senior citizens center, recreation center and city library.
Proposition B would help fund the ongoing Historic Downtown Revitalization project.

The Stephenville City Council on Tuesday paved the way for the upcoming municipal election and for the city's residents to decide a number of bond items.

Before the council took any action, Mayor Pro Tem Mark McClinton announced the passing of Sherilyn Svien, wife of Mayor Doug Svien, and expressed his condolences on behalf of the himself and the city.

Place 6 councilman and family friend Alan Nix led in prayer, asking for comfort for the Svien family and others in the community who have experienced loss.

As the meeting progressed, the council voted unanimously to approve the Authorization of Election for the May 1 general election.

According to previous E-T reports, there are four Stephenville City Council positions up for election in this cycle. They include: City Council Place 1, currently held by Mayor Pro Tem Mark McClinton; City Council Place 3, currently filled by Nick Robinson; City Council Place 5, currently held by Ricky Thurman; and City Council Place 7, currently filled by Gerald Cook.

The last day to file with the city clerk for this election is Feb. 12. 

In addition to the council positions, voters will be asked to decide on five municipal bond items.

Assistant City Manager Jason King gave a brief rundown on each item, including what is involved in the projects and their estimated costs.

"There are countless man hours that have gone into this presentation," Mayor Pro Tem McClinton said. "We did not take a fast track to get to this point tonight. Some of these items we've been talking about for two years."

The five bond propositions include:

• Prop A: Combined facilities use. Approval of this proposition by voters would combine the senior citizens center, city recreation center and city library into one new facility. Funding would cover the design, construction and equipping of the new facility. The estimated cost of this project is $8 million.

• Prop B: Historic Downtown Revitalization. If approved, these bond dollars would provide funding to the ongoing downtown revitalization project. According to King, the funds would help with certain target areas such as redoing streets, sidewalks, lighting, etc. The estimated cost for this project is $5.385 million.

• Prop C: Improvements to Belknap Street. Approval of this proposition would fund improvements to a section of Belknap Street from the Fort Worth and Western Railroad to Mason Street. This would not include the street improvements included in Prop B, according to King. Projected cost for this project is $2.16 million.

• Prop D: Street improvements to First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Cage and Swan streets. This project is estimated to cost $3.73 million.

• Prop E: Next phase of the Bosque River Trail. According to the city's website, "the Bosque River Trail is a walking, hiking and biking trail that runs along the north bank of the Bosque River in Stephenville. The trail measures about 1.5 miles and is both open and wooded at various points. The trail connects the City Park, Boy Scout area and Historical Museum to the downtown area." Estimated cost of this project is $2 million.

Additional information on these proposed projects can be found on the city of Stephenville's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cityofsville

"Voters have the ultimate choice here," McClinton said. "Our decision tonight is simply whether or not to place those bond items on the ballot for May."

After King's presentation, the council unanimously approved by roll call vote to present all five propositions to Stephenville voters on the May 1 ballot.

"100% of the power lies in the citizens to make the decision. That's the way democracy is supposed to work," said Place 5 City Councilman Ricky Thurman.

Ashleigh Feuerbacher, assistant director and senior project manager with the Stephenville Economic Development Authority, updated the council on several ongoing business projects around the city.

Feuerbacher said SEDA officials have been hosting STX Washington Partners, the group behind the Washington Commons retail project. According to previous E-T reports, Washington Commons includes more than 150,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on a 17-acre parcel of land next to Walmart. 

Feurerbacher said retailers that have officially announced locations in Washington Commons include Hobby Lobby, Ulta, TJ Maxx, Five Below and Old Navy, adding that 94% of the space in the development is already leased.

"More retailers are expected to announce in coming weeks," Feuerbacher said.

In addition, the SEDA official gave an update on the Fireside District residential neighborhood near Tarleton State University.

Spector Student Living has announced multi-family development in the district as well as proposed single-family homes, which are expected to be completed and ready for move-in by the fall semester, Feuerbacher said. 

Clean Control, a $100 million Georgia-based company, is in the process of "refurbishing and refitting" the former Rayloc building, Feurerbacher said. The company produces a number of popular cleaning products and is expected to bring up to 75 jobs to the community when the local facility opens.

Project Blue, a proposed restaurant and retail facility, has formally enlisted marketing brokers to help recruit business for its site. Feurerbacher said the project's initial focus has been on eateries.

"They're getting wonderful responses. We'll keep you posted," she concluded.

Director of Finance Monica Harris, CPA, gave the monthly financial report stating, "We're looking good this year, so far."

The city received $2.52 million in property taxes in December, resulting in $173,000 or a 5.77% increase over funds collected through December 2019. 

The city collected $542,000 in sales tax in December, resulting in $18,000 or 3.36% more than what was collected in December 2019. 

Lodging establishments reported $56,000 in Hotel Occupancy Taxes through December, as compared to $132,000 through December 2019. Four entities are one or more months delinquent, Harris reported.

The target budget for operating revenue is $8.08 million. The city received $8.19 million in revenue through December, resulting in $108,000 over the target budget.

"This is a result of sales taxes, property taxes, and service charges," Harris said.

The target budget for operating expenditures is $5.5 million. The city $5.32 million through December resulting in $230,000 under the target budget.

To close the meeting, several councilors shared their experience with the recently opened COVID-19 vaccination clinic housed in the former JC Penney building. 

"Thank you to all our community partners that have allowed us to get this vaccination center open," Councilman Thurman said. "It's amazing what they have put together in such a short amount of time."

More on the vaccination clinic and the current COVID-19 situation in Erath County can be found elsewhere in today's edition of the Empire-Tribune.