Salado Village Voice put the following questions to the Mayoral and Aldermen candidates. Early voting begins on April 23.
Question 1: The projected initial demand on the sewer system is 341 Living Unit Equivalents (LUE) for a daily demand of 83,545 gallons per day, or about 40% percent of the total 200,000 gallon per day capacity. In its ninth year, it is projected to increase to 432 LUE and 105,840 GPD. Should the Village be considered with attracting more users to spread the costs of the sewer to a wider base and share the burden? If so, what steps can the Village take to do that? (250 words)
Question 2: There are several residential subdivisions being platted and built in the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) of Salado. Should the Village try to attract them into annexing voluntarily into the city limits? If so, how? If not, why not (250 words)
Question 3: In terms of growth for the Village, do you want more residential rooftops, more businesses, both or neither? Why or why not? (150 words)
Question #1: Yes, the Village should consider attracting more users to spread the costs of the sewer to a wider base and share the burden. There are vacant commercial buildings just waiting for the ability to connect to a sewer system. There will be a fair amount of un-developed property already along the main sewer lines (currently used as septic/leech fields) that will become available for commercial development. There are potential developers to the east side of Salado that have indicating interest in connecting to the sewer system (with required annexation). Increasing the user base certainly makes sense from a cost sharing point of view; however, allowing too fast of growth without balancing other infrastructure demands may have unintended negative consequences. Slow and steady wins the race.
Question #2: I am thankful that the Village is restrained from involuntarily annexing new subdivisions into the city. I truly believe that the Village should be focusing on improving the viability of the Village to provide services that are of value to our future citizens. Focusing on being the best Village in central Texas, where people want to live and work is paramount. We need new ideas about how we treat our current citizens when it comes to living in the village. They certainly know they are paying property taxes, but what are they really getting for their hard-earned dollars? Taking a hard look at how the Village treats businesses from a policy point of view is part of this issue. Are we encouraging new business or are we making it hard for businesses to be imaginative and creative in their attempts to attract visitors and potential new citizens. Although not specifically addressed in this question, but just as important is solidifying our ETJ boundaries. Salado is vulnerable to encroachment from Killeen from the south west. As Killeen continues to grow and expand its city limits, so there is an expansion of their ETJ. The Village must focus on closing our south west gap to protect the integrity of future Salado growth. Go to http://www.saladotx.gov/vertical/Sites/%7BE335E57E-154D-464E-BA2F-0E3AFCE2AD1A%7D/uploads/mpbell_etjs_mar08.pdf and see for yourself how Killeen’s ETJ is knocking on our back door.
Question #3: A balance between residential and businesses is prudent. Both bring unique advantages and challenges. Both bring much needed support to operating costs of the new sewer system. Residential brings added property tax revenue, while commercial brings some property tax but more so additional sales tax, franchise fees, and other revenue making taxes and fees, that keep our Village municipality running. Approximately 65% of our Village budget comes from businesses. Commercial/business potentially bring job opportunities for residents. Both are needed to continue Salado’s history and to create new history in Salado. Both residential and businesses bring road infrastructure challenges, parking challenges, and increase traffic challenges. The key to success is having a well thought out plan approved by the citizens and documented in our Village Comprehensive Plan.
Question #1: We can all daydream about easing the tax burden for Villagers, but Skip, Dave Williams and Frank Coachman, Fred, and Mike committed the entire Sanctuary capacity to Hanks JR/Sulaski or whoever they sell the land to, and whatever is built on that land for 45 years.
If you sell a “car” to someone, an ethical car salesman won’t try to sell it again. Everyone coming into office will have their hands tied. And the final insult? If we do not fulfill all the requirements of the Sanctuary contract, Hanks JR/ Sulaski may disannex.
Of course, we will want as many users as possible! So why didn’t the Village welcome ALL of Main St. businesses and ALL of West Village road to be included? Why not Brookshires and all the retail zoned Salado Plaza road? Why not the Salado Library, the cleaners/flower shop, the real estate office, Dave Swarthout’s barber shop, and even the two hotels?
On the West side, why not Sonic, the liquor store, Fairway Golf, Cowboys, Robertson’s and THE SCHOOLS!
All of the above structures exist right now, and if they had been included, would have provided more usage, more taxes, and taken a HUGE burden off Village residents.
Residents need to ask candidates at the April 18 forum (Wednesday) WHY the above contributors, who already exist in our community, WHY WEREN’T THEY INCLUDED IN THE SEWER?
Question #2: Almost all the residential subdivisions that surround Salado are in construction with septics in place. Beautiful new houses on half acre lots will contribute to paying for our schools and BELL County services, including roads.
Several years ago, at a joint Main Street and Economic Development meeting, Commissioner Tim Brown explained that rooftops do not provide enough tax money to cover the costs. ROADS are expensive to maintain. Tim’s factual information doesn’t get Salado to 5,000 residents, forced ANNEXATION and salaries for the mayor and aldermen, so he was ignored.
If residents decide to pass another bond (NOT holding my breath) and build a sewer plant on the west side, we could offer services to new developments. Right now, all our capacity belongs to the Sanctuary for 45 years.
When the Wildfire buildings are sold this week, and torn down by June, the Village loses taxes.
If a large apartment complex is built there, Village residents MUST provide the Sanctuary capacity or pay to pump and haul. Our hands are tied, thanks to Skip, Dave Williams, Frank Coachman, Fred and Mike.
Question #3: BOTH! (Within the Village!)
Since 2014 to the first quarter of 2018, we have had 28 houses built in the Village and 79 houses built in the entire school district according to BELL County. Realtor data shows about 191 houses for sale in the area with the highest area medium cost of $340,000.
This seems like decent growth for a 150 year old village of 2.2 miles and 2,300 residents. But we can and must do better!
I want to focus all our development IN the village. Too many buildings and lots on Main St. and West Village road are still empty.
Too many lots and houses in residential areas are empty or in perpetual construction chaos.
We must turn our focus inward and stop listening to promises of paving the streets with gold! We need to pave our streets ourselves, and care about the look and safety of the village, like the Volunteer Firemen, Salado six (God bless Hans), Susan Terry and Citizens on Patrol (COPS).
We can and MUST do better!
Question 1: The Waste Water Treatment (WWT) Plant capacity question has been studied carefully. The Village permit allows the Village to build up to a 600,000-gallon plant. The Board of Aldermen/lady (BOA) and our city Engineers researched, read official studies of I-35 predicted growth, and talked to surrounding community leaders and planners. Putting all the information together, the BOA and city engineers decided a 200,000-gallon WWT plant is the right size.
The facts are: (1) Major growth will be on the West Side of I-35 where sewer connections will be available. (2) Sanctuary, either as planned or sold, will be developed and connected to the sewer line. (3) Existing vacant properties on Main Street and Royal are being sold and will be connected to the sewer.
This being said, both the BOA and engineers are confident that the predicted growth alone will bring enough customers to share the debt. It may even be enough to pay off the sewer debt early.
Additionally, the BOA has discussed with various Developers the possibility of connecting to the WWT plant. Developers will pay for extending the sewer line to their development and must annex into the city. Appropriate Usage fees will be charged to the user. Developers have expressed interest since septic tanks will not be needed allowing for one or more houses to be built on an acre of land.
The Village’s City Administrator is constantly monitoring the WWT project.
Question 2: The following subdivisions are being built or will be started in the near future:
Salado Mills: 59 lots
Chick Subdivision on Lark Trail: 50 lots
Amity Estates up to 200 lots in 50 lot phases
Spring Creek Estate: 100 lots
Platted subdivision of Carothers homes: 60 lots
Subdivision off Mackie in Mill Creek: 49 lots
Mill Creek Springs Phase 8: 30 lots or more per phase.
Salado is being surrounded by Subdivisions not in the city limits. Developers are selling lots and houses by mentioning, “No Village property taxes. You can use Salado’ s infrastructure – roads, parks, police protection, environmental, and safety — without cost.”
Recently a Developer said, “My buyers will shop in Salado and the Village will get Sales Tax to help with the cost. Why would we want to annex just to pay property taxes?”
The Village does not meet all the criteria for annexing property — a sewer system, 5000 population within the city limits, and a water department. Sales tax will not pay for maintenance and improvements. Without raising property taxes, the Village must find a way to fund future maintenance and repair of their infrastructure.
Offering Developers incentives is an alternative. For instance, buyers of development properties will pay 50% property tax for two years if the subdivision is voluntarily annexed into the Village. At the end of 2-years, the owners will pay 100% property tax. Common sense says 50% of something is better than 50% of nothing.
Question 3: It takes BOTH for a Village to be healthy and stable. Without roof tops, businesses cannot survive on weekend visitors. Likewise, rooftops without business sale and property taxes will have unwanted high taxes while neighboring towns reap the benefits of a strong business and residential community.
The time has come to stop “disliking” growth. It is here now and will continue. The Village focus must be on embracing growth and controlling it. Updating the Concept Plan is a beginning. The Overlay plan for the West Side of I-35 needs immediate attention. Ordinances updated. Citizens of all ages must be included in the planning and implementation.
The Village needs quality businesses. Citizens need affordable activities and safe places to go. The historical must be protected and maintained. The contemporary, a friendly “Salado-look.” Continued excellent customer service. It takes businesses and rooftops working together to ensure a healthy, stable Village.
Editor’s Note: We will have another round of questions next week! All profiles and questions and answers are also posted online at saladovillagevoice.com.