By Lindsay Starr Platt
Belton City Council listened to public comments after the regular meeting was called to order on Tuesday night.
During public comments, Mike Pedersen of Belton presented to city council a petition with 150 signatures asking the City of Belton to take action to help Dog Ridge Water Supply customers.
“We need clean water for our families, pets, and livestock,” said Pederson.
Dog Ridge Water Supply customers have been on a Boil Water Notice since July 28 and water samples had tested positive for coliform and E. coli bacteria.
Rucker Preston, Executive Director, Helping Hands Ministry spoke during public comments about the regulation of payday and title loans and the impact they have on the people.
“Our voices really matter,” said Preston. “These loan products are not ethical, they treat people without dignity and they can have interest rates as high as 400 percent.”
Also during public comments Kristen Bulgrien, Director, Community Partnerships, Helping Hands Ministry spoke to council about a small loan program available to residents and for Belton to consider starting such a program.
“There is such a program already running in Waco,” said Bulgrien. “We would like to see it come to Belton and Temple.”
The council approved Mayor Marion Grayson’s recommendations for reappointment of members terms to the following Boards and Commissions; Housing Board of Adjustment and Appeals, Historic Preservation Commission, and Civil Service Commission.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Belton and Hill Country Transit was approved by council regarding emergency transportation.
Belton Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) was authorized by council to execute a contract with Cedon Realty, Ltd. for the sale of their property at 420 E. Central Avenue.
“We bought the property in 2011 to build offices,” said Cynthia Hernadez, Director, BEDC. The BEDC is committed to moving downtown. Cedon offered to buy the property and build office buildings that will complement next door. They offered to pay $64,000 and we bought it at $55,000.”
Hernandez also gave a presentation of BEDC Annual Report and Budget for FY 2017. Hernandez announced that the former Rockwool property of 50 acres is now owned by BEDC. The 2017 goal is to develop the Rockwool property and to move their offices to downtown Belton.
Brandon Bozon, Director of Finance, City of Belton presented the budget for BEDC and said that the ending fund balance is just over $14 million.
“We got a big job ahead of us,” said Bozon.
Belton Police Chief Gene Ellis presented the annual goals and priorities from his department and also a presentation on FY 2017 for the police department.
“It is all about reducing crime and making Belton safe. Belton has a great quality of life and it is our job to keep it that way,” said Ellis. “Our CHIPS program is up to 90 members and crime has been reduced 15 percent. Our next Coffee with a Cop will be at Helping Hands Ministry.”
Ellis also mentioned that the department needs to replace its Mobile Crime Unit which is an old 1993 ambulance. And that staff retention is a priority and that it takes about three years to fully train a new police officer.
“I want to thank the police department for our safety,” said Mayor Grayson. Thank you, you have done a great job.”
Belton Fire Chief Bruce Pritchard gave a presentation on the annual goals and priorities from his department.
“Our department has hit a milestone, we have young firefighters and supervisors,” said Pritchard. “We want to get our Fire Marshall a Peace Officer Certification. We have to retain our firefighters.”
Pritchard mentioned that the first City Fire Corps will kick-off on September 29. The fire department will continue to work with Belton ISD to improve its current Fire Science Program and target students in the sixth grade to spark interest in becoming firefighters.
Belton Fire Department will be getting a rehab tent for firefighters. The tent can also be used by other entities in case of disaster or even a respite tent for large events like the Fourth of July.
“We will be the only fire department around here that will mandate the firefighters go to rehab,” said Pritchard. “When the firefighters go to rehab, we will have no one to replace them. We may have to ask for help from surrounding departments.”
One accomplishment for the fire department in 2016 was the establishment of the Swift Water Rescue Team.
Planning and Inspections goals and priorities were presented by Erin Smith, Director of Planning, City of Belton. Goals for Planning include the re-addressing of properties for IH-14, designation of historic landmarks and develop a recommendation for the development of recreational vehicle parks.
Smith also mentioned that in FY 2017 it is requested that a position open for Assistant Planner for a mid-year hire.
Current development projects that Smith said are under construction include: University of May Hardin-Baylor Performing Arts Center, Mi Pueblo, Commerce Marketplace, Expo Inn & Suites, Edward Jones, Goodyear Tire, Bush’s Chicken and the Bluebonnet Building.
Smith also named development projects that are coming soon to Belton to include: Arby’s, Popeye’s and NAPA Auto Parts.
A presentation by Public Information Officer Paul Romer informed council that the city is going to need a new website that is mobile device friendly.
“The library needs its own social media page and so does Matt Bates at Parks and Rec. Those are services we offer to our citizens,” said Mayor Grayson. “Our community is looking for community events.”
Bozon gave a presentation on Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) Fund Budget for FY 2017. Bozeman said projects on the horizon for TIRZ include, downtown beautification, 6th Avenue gateway, East Street sidewalks, signage plan and facade grants. Bozan stated that the Certified Tax Rolls were just under $1 billion taxable value this year.
Council voted to place a proposal to adopt the tax rate of 65.98 cents for FY 2017. This proposal will be placed on the September 27 agenda. Two public hearings will be held on August 23 and September 13 for the proposed tax rate at Harris Community Center.