We put the following questions to the candidates for the Village of Salado Board of Aldermen. Their answers are below:
1. How is Salado doing in preparation for a sewer system? What approach do
you think is best for the Village, tying into Belton, partnering with developer(s) or going it alone? (200 words)
2. What can/should Salado do to expand its boundaries in terms of annexation? (100 words)
3. How is Salado doing in terms of the conditions of its roads? What should it do differently, if anything? (100 words)
Question One: The primary consideration in a sewer system is to deliver the best product to the citizens of Salado at a reasonable cost, and in a timely manner. When considering a joint venture with Belton, running a sewer line to the Lampasas River will be very costly, and we don’t know what the revenues will be. This is a very important aspect as to how the operations will be funded, and how Salado will be able to service the debt and retire the bonds. Going it alone will increase the time it will take to put in a sewer system by an additional year. Time to finish would be 30 months. Partnering with a developer that already has a WWTP permit may be our best alternative: (1) A developer can build a plant much quicker than the Village; (2) The Village would have oversight of the construction. (3) Instead of having a privately owned system at our back door that we cannot control, the Village could own and operate the facility, and serve the residents of Salado. (4) Construction time would be cut from a minimum of 30 months to 18 months or less, resulting in quickly resolving the sewer needs on Main Street and expanding opportunities on the West side of Salado.
Question Two: Any services that citizens expect in a community cost dollars, and those dollars come from taxes. The only way we can increase services without increasing taxes, is by taking in property that is in our extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) and expanding our tax base. Our ETJ is now being protected by Salado, which keeps other communities from annexing them. These areas use the services that Salado provides, like police and fire protection, without paying any city taxes. We need to decide if an area should be annexed into the corporate limits of Salado, or released from our ETJ, thereby reducing the costs to our Village.
Question Three: The committee that just completed structuring the road program for the Village has done an outstanding job of identifying, in order of need, the collector roads that have the heaviest traffic, down to the less traveled streets. There are 3 major collector roads that are set for construction this summer. The major problem is that the budget of the Village is very low, so in turn the amount of money that can be used for road repair or reconstruction is very limited. This, in itself, is another compelling reason that the annexation issue has to be addressed. Another way that additional revenue to the Village for street improvements will be gained, will be through the controlled new retail development on the west side of I-35. This will happen as soon as the Village can provide sewer service to this area.
Question One: The BOA, in my opinion, is not doing well in preparation for a sewer system. It has been six months since the bond passed, and we still have no land on which to build a system and have not started the 6-12 month process to get a permit. The Sanctuary wants the Village to build them a sewer plant that we can use for a while. We have looked once again at tying into the Belton system. Both of these options will require the Village to build a second plant for Salado use in the future. I personally don’t agree with all the secrecy regarding current negotiations with the Sanctuary and the Belton pipeline. I think that the people of the Village should hear the offers and have a say in the result. They are paying the bill. My personal opinion is that we should obtain land, get a permit and build our own plant. I don’t vote my personal opinions but rather what my constituents tell me is best for our Village. The BOA is no longer considering building a plant to take care of Salado and the growth a plant will bring-rather, one that will require many hundreds of users in order to operate cost effectively.
Question Two: Because of our size, Salado must have landowner’s permission and the property must be contiguous to the Village limits in order for the Village to annex any property. There are few options that Salado can employ. Tax breaks on property, trading or giving away property in the ETJ that refuse annexation. People living in the Salado ETJ need to understand that Belton, Killeen and Temple are aggressively moving towards Salado and due to their population they can annex without property owner permission or request. The board has chosen a team to work on this issue and results will be forthcoming in the next few months.
Question 3: As a people’s representative to the board for 4 years, I have seen little done on our roads in spite of the citizens asking year after year. We had a survey of the roads 5-6 years ago. Due to lack of work on the roads conditions have not changed. The same roads still need attention. Yet we wasted time doing another survey. This year some road work will be done with $400,000 being spent on roads; also $50,000 on Main Street. It will remain to be seen if there is $250,000 in the budget for road work next year due to all the commitments being agreed to by the board.
Question One: The BOA is progressing quite well with planning and executing a sound sewage treatment program. We are actively reviewing three options. We are studying with our engineer, a regional cooperative arrangement with the City of Belton that includes a treatment plant location approximately five miles north which will require running lines this distance. Cooperative agreements are usually cost savers, but this distance as well as other factors incur excess expenses for us. However, a plus for this option is that the completion time frame could be advantageous when compared to a stand-alone system.
We have re-opened negotiations with The Sanctuary Development Group that would provide a treatment plant location southeast of the Village. This will be a part of our expedited time line for system review and negotiations. This would include housing construction, hotel accommodations, retail sales, and entertainment theatre that must support the ambience of our Village.
The third option is a stand-alone system that requires some additional explorations which will further the expectations of our downtown area and west side of I-35.
Each option contains positives and negatives which include time-line implications, financial liability, and of course operational responsibilities. I will support the option that provides the absolute best value, with the most favorable time-line.
Question Two: I am a member of our ETJ/Annexation committee which includes specialists in real estate development, land ownership and economic development. We are currently reviewing sound processes that will positively impact land owners, many of which are owners of large tracts of property. Each of these properties will make a significant difference in funding our current Village and certainly will greatly contribute to future Village economic growth. Adding properties from the ETJ will enable the Village to continue a modest tax structure which will in fact, enhance the overall fiscal condition of the Village. I fully support the initiative of responsible annexation.
Question Three: I presently Chair the Committee on Village street and road repair. Our five (5) village residents and I have personally and collectively evaluated the entire Village road network structure. Further, we have consulted with proven experts in the areas of road repair and maintenance. We have initiated three types of repair: crack seal (local maintenance), seal-coating (inter-local, Bell County) and reconstruction (Wheeler, APAC contracting).
My view is to leave street committee in place, as they have prepared a practical, affordable plan. Continue with annual contracting services and inter-local agreements with Bell County. Each service has proven to be most effective and cost efficient.
Question One: It has been over 6 months since the Sewer Bond was approved. We are not where I believe we had hoped to be by now. A plan is only as good as the day you make it. Project management is really about managing change. We have seen a lot of change. Project management is also about risk management. How do we minimize our risk of further delays? One possible way is to break up the overall project into smaller bites. For example, running piping down Main Street, Royal, and Thomas Arnold could be separated from the decision of what Sewer Facility would be best for Salado. While discussions and options over sewer plant construction continue to be addressed, sewer line construction could be under way. Also, designing in optional tie in points in the system would facilitate future options and again reduce risk.
Question Two: Let us not forget that Americans do not like to be told what to do. Americans value their freedom, and especially their freedom of choice. If the Village of Salado desires to increase it’s size, then the Village of Salado needs to become a place that everyone wants to be a part of. The Village needs to stay on track to modernize infrastructure, invest in public access, and attract new businesses. The Village needs to demonstrate that there is value in being a member.
Question Three: I believe it is too early to make a judgment on the Road Improvement Plan approved by our current BOA. From what I have heard at BOA Meetings, repairs are moving forward ahead of schedule and recent assurances from TXDoT are potentially allowing our taxpayer’s dollars to go further.
Election Day is Saturday May 9 at the Salado Civic Center, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.