Three candidates are running for two two-year terms on the Village of Salado Board of Aldermen: Frank Coachman and write-in candidates Amber Preston-Dankert and Linda Reynolds.
We asked each of them the following questions:
Question 1: What do you think will be the greatest challenge facing the Village in the next two years? the next five years? the next 10 years? How would you recommend addressing these challenges? (200 words)
Question 2: What can the Village do to bring more properties into it? (100 words)
Question 3: How would you rate the emergency services of our Village, including police, fire and ambulance. What can be done to improve these areas? (200 words)
Question 4: How would you rate the infrastructure of our Village (streets,lights, sidewalks, utilities, parks)? What would you recommend or support to improve these areas? (200 words)
Question #1: Our immediate greatest challenge in the Village will be dealing with the waste water system construction on Main Street, West Village Road, Thomas Arnold, Salado Plaza, and Royal Street. It may be necessary for the Mayor and the BOA to be vigilant with the contractors to ensure minimal disruption to traffic and commerce during construction.
Over the next five years we will be facing development growth in the ETJ immediately surrounding the Village limits. These developments must become part of the Village as we need the increased financial support to maintain our infrastructure. If the Village becomes entirely surrounded by developments not in the limits, we will become land-locked and those of us in the current Village will bear the cost of police, fire support, maintenance of roads, and platting services for everyone using these resources but do not live in the Village.
During the next 10 years we will see significant growth along the I35 corridor from Jarrell to Salado. Salado must work to obtain and develop our share of the corridor. If we do not quickly pursue the opportunity to bring I35 developments into Salado, then Jarrell, Killeen, and Belton will do so.
Question #2: I believe we must provide incentives to developers in order to make voluntary annexation attractive. At this time, voluntary annexation is our only means of growth. The ETJ and Economic Development Committees are currently discussing options for incentivizing annexations. Remember, the result of these developments will be increased use of our infrastructure and human resources. Sharing the growth with the developers for a designated period of time is better than receiving nothing at all.
Question 3: Our volunteer fire protection is second to none. Chief Berrier and the department provide outstanding service to the Village and their very large rural jurisdiction. The Village does support the department with a yearly contribution. We are also hopeful we can find grant opportunities to assist in replacing the truck lost during a recent call.
Our police officers do a tremendous job with the resources they are provided. I do believe the on duty schedule can be improved to allow for 24/7 service. I also believe we will be faced with budget challenges for maintenance and upgrade of vehicles and other necessary equipment.
Ambulance services are not provided by the Village. We are currently receiving private service through Scott & White. There is usually a unit on standby near or in the Village. During my first term, there have not been any issues brought to the BOA regarding the level of service. I am sure future BOAs will be cognizant of any possible needs in improving or expanding services.
Question #4: Our Village is relatively young in age. Almost all of the current infrastructure has been inherited from past development. Our streetlights were placed by developers building the neighborhoods. The Village now pays a monthly fee for the lights in place. Sidewalks were not required at the time of these past developments. Do we want to add sidewalks to our current residential areas and require them in our future residential developments? I think part of the charm of Salado is not having sidewalks in the residential neighborhoods. We are planning trail-like sidewalks for the commercial areas in Salado, and a TxDOT funded hike and bike trail is currently being planned for the area around Salado Creek along the South banks between Royal Street and Center Circle. Salado is about to embark on providing its first utility. We are endeavoring to add infrastructure to Salado mainly through the use of grants and minimal budgeted funds. Each penny of the 19.99 cent Ad valorem tax rate in the Village limits generates approximately $16,700.00 for the Operation and Maintenance Fund. If we as a Village desire to add street lights, residential sidewalks, and improve parks, we must find the means to fund the projects.
Dr. Amber Preston-Dankert
Question #1: Over the next two years, it will be critical to see the sewer system and highway completed. With the completion of the highway, businesses will be ready to start construction in Salado. Having our sewer completed along the west side will be an even larger draw for businesses. In 5 years, we must have a plan for roads and other infrastructure improvements. Our current budget only allows for maintenance for most of our roadways; however, major fixes are needed in several areas. We must start budgeting now so we will have the funds in 5 years to get our infrastructure fixed right to keep up with our growing village. We must also complete our review of all ordinances to ensure they do not inhibit growth, but that they do safeguard the areas that need to be protected. In 10 years, we must be thinking about development and its impact on our natural resources. If done correctly, we should see no impacts to our water quality, water quantity, or wildlife. We must do our part to ensure that the Salado Springs Salamander is not listed as endangered, which would severely impact new development and what we can do along the creek.
Question #2: Two items are critical to new properties coming into the Village limits: ordinances and offerings. We receive much criticism about the current ordinances’ fee structure and design standards. We must take a hard look at the delicate balance between following codes for life, health, and safety, and being prohibitive to development. We must also have something to offer those that come into the Village, whether it be incentives for new development or utilities such as sewer service. Incentives must not cost the Village more than it will make on development, but rather offer small incentives to entice developers to annex.
Question #3: I believe that for a Village our size, Salado is blessed to have outstanding emergency services. Response times to emergencies are low and the talent of our first responders is outstanding. The Fire Department has had a couple of emergencies this year that has taken trucks out of commission, and we have lost one police vehicle. Funds are being raised to replace those. I do believe that we need assistance with writing and securing grants to assist both departments in getting the tools they need to succeed. We need better barriers at areas that tend to flood, and more high-tech equipment and tools. We also need an emergency alert tower to alert citizens of severe weather events. Finding a good grant writer would assist in getting funding for some of these items. I also hope that soon, our Village will be able to have 24-hour police support. We have the personnel, but we need to change the way our scheduling currently works to make 24-hour support a priority. Faster ambulance response time and availability is a topic that should be answered by our current first responders, and if they need Village support, we should be there to assist.
Question #4: There are two types of infrastructure, that which is critical and that which is recreational. Streets, lighting, and utilities are critical and must be addressed now. We must consider taking a more proactive stance in our FY17 budget for these items. Streets are beginning to improve, and sewer is on the horizon. Lighting on Main Street is a project that is also currently in the works. But, we must continue to stay on top of these high-priority items to ensure they are done quickly, and done right. As far as recreational infrastructure such as parks and trails, I feel this is another area where grants will be critical. We currently have a $300K grant to add a hike and bike trail along the south side of Salado Creek. Our parks are in serious need of a facelift to bring in bigger and better events. I would love to see a Dog Park or a Splash Park. However, with the current needs of the Village, these items are often placed on the back burner. Our kids and pets are important, and we have established a Parks Committee to come up with a plan forward. Look for great things to come!
Write-In Candidate Linda Reynolds
Question #1: SISD will graduate seniors soon, and in the first two years of their future at college or the work world, their Salado Village parents will owe a Dallas bank over $800,000 in interest. That will be a huge challenge the mayor, Mr Coachman, Mr Brown, Mr McDougal and Mr Williams committed their parents to, July 27 at 7:00 am while most villagers slept.
Five years? If all goes well, the 2016 seniors will finish college (though college debt may linger), or be realizing that work is work and trying to buy a house. But their Salado Village parents will have to pay $1,710,000 interest during the three years, so counting on family help may not be possible.
10 years? The challenge may seem impossible. The Village of Salado will owe a Dallas bank $2,850,000 interest.
Right now Salado taxpayers send in a little over $300,000 in taxes to the Aldermen to run this beautiful little village.
Math is a challenge for many individuals. Debt is also a challenge for many. I think both math and debt will challenge the board of alderman and mayor, whoever they are, for much more than 10 years.
The debt is owed to American National Bank fixed at 2.94% from 2016-2035. SISD seniors will be approaching their forties before the debt is repaid.
That is a real challenge.
If you want someone to “marry” you, a debt of $8.2 million may quash romance.
Whatever is in the agreement with Mr. Hanks, Jr., it wasn’t enough to encourage him to annex his beautiful house off FM 2268 or Shepard’s Glen. Looks like property tax deals are not enticing.
At the March 10 BOA meeting, a board of adjustment hearing was held to act on two variances. One granted a fence along VanBibber. The other was for a subdivision in the ETJ. Alderman Coachman offered the variance, in a motion, in exchange for annexation. I thought that sounded like “ETJ variances by bribery”.
The developer walked away.
Question #3: In retirement, a baby boomer really doesn’t need much.
A friendly neighborhood, a safe neighborhood, and nearby medical services. And I suspect generations WXYZ also require the above.
The emergency services in this beautiful little village are outstanding. I feel safe and protected, but then I always try to buckle up, follow the speed limit, just say no to drugs, avoid drinking and driving, and try to avoid breaking into my neighbor’s house.
When I hear the constant sirens on rainy nights along I35, I know who will be out there at 3:00 am and I send my prayers (and the occasional apple pie) as thanks.
Improvements? I go with, if it ain’t broke…..
Question #4: Salado is a charming village of a little over two thousand. Businesses mostly roll up the welcome mats when the sun goes down.
Royal street is starting to light up the night and draw crowds on weekends, but sewer completion is critical. Restaurants and breweries must have sewers.
But the most critical infrastructure to produce sales tax income and pay our debt will be development along the west side access road.
As soon as West Village Rd acquires sewer, CEFCO, Bush’s and Sonic will be joined by other excellent sales tax producers and travelers along I 35 will make our debt burden manageable. I35 businesses, with the help of Johnnies and Brookshires sales tax, could control village resident’s taxes.
Perhaps then, village taxes could be used to keep the creek clean, fill the many potholes we have all come to detest, and allow villagers to use, fee free, the one park we have.