Four candidates have filed for three two-year terms on the Village of Salado Board of Aldermen.: Rodney W. Bell, John Cole, Dr. Amber Preston-Dankert and Linda Reynolds. The election will be May 4 with early voting April 22-30. Below is Q&A with the candidates.
Here are the first round of questions:
#1. How would you rate the economic health for Salado businesses? What would you suggest/support as an aldermen to improve this? (200 words)
#2. Will you support Economic Development Agreements with developers to bring more property into Salado? Will those agreements include waivers or reductions of the Sewer Impact Fees? How about property tax rebate, hotel motel occupancy tax rebates or sales tax rebates for commercial developments? If so, how much? If not, why not? (250 words)
#3. Should Salado pursue an agreement with the developer and owner of the TECQ wastewater certificate in the northwest ETJ (northwest corner of FM 2484 and I-35) in order to bring that future development and potential sewer facility into the Village? Why or why not? (200 words)
Rodney W. Bell
#1. Since there is not a rating metric identified, I would say that we should always continue to improve and work for the economic success of Salado businesses. We should have a steadfast commitment to existing businesses and continue our focus on tourism and attracting visitors to our community. Maintaining a strong partnership with the Salado Chamber of Commerce and working together will help ensure a strong economic foundation that will benefit our existing businesses and residents.
#2. It will be highly unlikely that I would support an Economic Development Agreement with a developer to bring more property into our village. Our commitment needs to maintain our standards by adhering to our comprehensive plan. In addition, I would NOT agree to waivers or reductions to fees or taxes. My belief is that existing businesses have paid the cost in the past to invest and grow their businesses under a set fee and tax structure. We should reward the existing businesses that invested in our community. We cannot and should not blindly change the standard just to attract new growth. If developers want to be in our community, they should not expect waivers and tax breaks.
#3. The agreement being considered is a prime example of adding to the growth of our community. This cannot be done just to attract growth or additional revenue. I would be open to listening to the details around this addition, but I would not support tax rebates or waivers to our existing fee structures. In addition, I have a great concern for the environmental effects on the community as a whole. There is also a concern on how or if this facility would contribute revenue to the existing wastewater system or be independently operated. At this stage there are serious questions that need to be addressed before we move forward.
#1. From my point of view and without a comparison study with other communities of similar make-up, Salado appears to be struggling some. A few brief conversations with business owners and shoppers have revealed a few interesting points: similarity of items from store to store, the cost of doing business, the impacts of e-commerce trade, and unequal store recognition. As an alderman we must do our very best to support our downtown business that are the backbone of Salado. Some examples would be: fully recognize the impact of decisions that are about to be made by the BOA before they are made, review in-detail the return on investment for all village funded programs and activities that are in-place to help our businesses, hold open forums with business owners to hear their comments and concerns first hand and respond accordingly, work closely with TEXDOT to minimize the future impact of the main street improvement project, just to name a few.
#2. First off, NO on special agreements with developers. The existing BOA have imposed stringent demands on our existing businesses and the impacted residents regarding the new waste water system, so why give developers a break. We have a newly revised village comprehensive plan in-place to provide guidance and direction, and we have committees to oversee committees. If we make special agreements with every developer that comes along, we are setting a precedence by admitting we will do whatever it takes to develop out of desperation. We must stick to our plans and be smart about development and expansion or get rid of our plans if they no longer work in our best interests.
As far as taxes, waivers, and rebates etc. NOT YET. We need revenue to maintain our roads, access ways, community upgrades & needed repairs, to include outfitting our fire department and our police department with the latest technology to address any emergency they may encounter. We need revenue to help sustain our community, and ONLY after these needs are addressed; taxes, waivers rebates etc. can be discussed. But remember, this is not a one man show, these types of decisions are a culmination of group discussions that should result in the most logical decisions.
Developers want to come to Salado, so we need to stay the course. We need to guide them, so they develop in the best interest of Salado vs developing in their best interest. If we demand anything less, we will always fall victim.
#3. I think all existing and future services that may be beneficial to Salado need to be fully examined, modeled and analyzed. Any opportunity that can augment the city budget by adding a positive return on investment that may result in an alternative to future tax increases, should be fully investigated.
In closing; the next two years as very critical for Salado. Many see only negative, but I see only positive. We must stay focused and seek out all opportunities and potential benefits, identify any and all road blocks early on, and push forward today for a better Salado tomorrow.
Dr. Amber Preston-Dankert
#1. It seems that business is picking up in Salado. But, we cannot forget those businesses that have closed during the I-35 construction, and current construction projects. I feel that, although economic health is critical to a successful, well-balanced Village, the Board of Aldermen need help in monitoring this. With input from the Chamber, Tourism office, and direct business contact, we should first understand the needs of the businesses. Are the issues they face related to advertising? Access? Infrastructure? I believe that the answers will vary according to their location and business type. But, the root of the issue starts with communication. And, in order for businesses to communicate with the BOA, they have to trust the BOA. Relationship-building is step 1.
#2. The answer is one I don’t like to give often: it depends. I believe that a development agreement, when done correctly, can be beneficial to both the Village and the developer. But, “selling the farm” has become more of the norm in the Village. We have to first understand that people WANT to move to Salado. We need to have documentation ready to pass out to potential developers about all the PROS to being part of the Village. Infrastructure plays a BIG part of that discussion. Reductions, waivers, and rebates can be on the table, but not at the expense of increasing the tax burden on current residents and business owners. And, we must always consider how infrastructure repairs (i.e. roads, utility lines) will be funded if we give away too much. Property tax rebates, hotel/motel tax rebates, and sales tax rebates impact our bottom line, and we are not able to do as much to support current residents and businesses. It can be a slippery slope, and caution must be used before making promises we can’t keep. With the school expansion and associated tax increase, and the sewer tax increase, residents are TAXED ENOUGH.
#3. Absolutely! This plant would provide the ability to expand even more along the west side of I-35, provide closer access to the hotels, and allow for more development along FM 2484. That is, IF the facility could be procured without additional tax implications to the Village residents. Should the plant and infrastructure be donated, and the only cost would be to additions to capacity and regular maintenance of the plant and existing lines, it would be an excellent opportunity. Special caution must be given to the development of the plant, and its proximity to Capps Branch creek. And, the Village Engineer must be involved as early as possible to ensure that the specifications and requirements are appropriate for the needs of the Village.
#1. HAPPY DAYS ARE….Every month, our Village Manager says Sales Tax is up over last year! The economic health of the village is excellent!
Can it be improved? Of course there is always room for improvement. As one businessman said to me, “I just need the village government to stay out of my way!”
The best action the BOA can take is to put money back into resident’s pocket with a 10% tax cut. The village already receives in sales tax and franchise fees more dollars than property taxes.
Put money back in local tax payer’s pocket, so they can enjoy a night out at many of our wonderful dining options. Put money back in tax payer’s pocket so they can shop for Mother’s or Father’s day presents in our beautiful gift shops.
Let’s boost the Salado economy and stay out of the business communities’ way.
#2. I WILL LISTEN. You would think ANYONE elected to the BOA would support Economic Development as long as the highly paid Village manager and our Village lawyers give the OK. I will listen.
I would also want the go ahead from any neighborhood that may be impacted by a development project. Elected officials need to cause no harm to those who already chose to live in Salado.
I once heard an Alderman say, developers should want to be in Salado. We shouldn’t have to give it away.
How about a survey? We did it for the deer. Why not ask the residents about economic development and how they envision the future of Salado.
I’ve heard enough people tell me why they moved to Salado to make me be VERY careful about all development plans. If our manager and lawyer say NO….as was the case with the Sanctuary….I will listen.
If Bell County says, “Don’t pass the concept plan..”, I will listen.
If flooding concerns are expressed by neighbor’s, I will listen.
If traffic concerns are expressed by neighbor’s, I will listen.
In the past, decisions were made by three aldermen and the others were ignored. I may be one alderman, but you can count on me listening and making all decisions with the best interests of the whole village in mind.
#3 THAT COW HAS LEFT THE BARN! The gentleman developing the northwest corner of Salado tried, during the past year, to connect to our sewer. The two hotels that have been supporting the village with hotel and sales taxes also tried to join the sewer.
The current BOA with Fred Brown as mayor pro-tem would not support a deal. Everybody keeps waiting for the pie-in-the-sky Sanctuary.
I think it is ironic that The Music Man is being performed in Temple, (Charlatan snookers a small town!)
Even with the past Village manager and lawyers saying NO…three aldermen pushed through the Sanctuary agreement.
I suspect the Belton mayor is waiting to welcome Pampa development group into their town as soon as the Salado Commercial Center WWTP is done and building begins…perhaps by summer.
I know I am hoping to be at the top of a list for condo purchase.
Cow out of the barn…ship has sailed.
A new BOA should certainly try to reach out….but I will not be holding my breath.