By Devin Corbitt, The Belton Journal
In a short and sweet meeting Tuesday night, the Belton City Council welcomed back its four incumbents who were re-elected for another two-year.
The elections for the Belton City Council were held on Saturday, where six candidates vied for four seats on the council.
Of those six candidates, four were incumbents: Mayor Pro Tem David K. Leigh and councilmembers Jerri Gauntt, Dan Kirkley and Craig Pearson. Louie Minor and Richard Vasquez also cast in their hats for the seats.
But the incumbents could not be unseated.
Leigh received the most votes on Saturday with 229.
“I’m looking forward to starting my seventh term on the council and have been amazed at the level of growth and development in our area in new construction, new retail, and continued job growth,” Leigh said. “We will continue to work on strategies to have sustainable growth and a well-connected city. Belton has a unique character that blends our history with the modern era. I hope we continue to be a community that is defined by our people through our gathering together at work, schools, sporting events, downtown, the 4th of July, and our churches.”
Gauntt came in a close second with 228 votes.
“I’m so honored to continue to serve the citizens of Belton as a council member,” Gauntt said. “I especially appreciate the support of those who made time to come and vote.”
Kirkley and Pearson were not far behind in their fans, receiving 224 and 223 votes, respectively.
Minor received 74 votes, and Vasquez received 68.
The councilmembers were sworn in during the meeting. Gauntt nominated Leigh to once again serve as Mayor Pro Tem, which was unanimously approved by the council.
Following election business, Mayor Marion Grayson presented Chief of Police Gene Ellis with a proclomation declaring this week Police Week in honor of those who serve our community every day to ensure our safety.
“With the national news focused on police right now, it’s always great to remember that hundreds of thousands of officers hit the street every day and perform honorably and often heroically, including the 33 members of the Belton Police Department,” Ellis said. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the recognition and our support staff. We couldn’t do it without these folks behind us.”
The council then heard an update on the Belton Senior Activity Center from David Jones. For the past few years, the Senior Center has worked on an oral history project, recording the memories of the city’s most valuable historical resource: its senior citizens.
According to Jones, the project has made significant progress, and a book will soon be published with a collection of memories and stories from local citizens. For more information, contact the Belton Senior Activity Center at (254) 939-1170.
The council also approved an amendment to the resolution that will allow the City Manager to begin the submission process for the application to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) 2015 Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for Phase II of the Chisholm Trail Corridor Hike and Bike Trail. The original resolution was passed at the April 28 meeting.
During the presentation, city staff informed the council that the city was eligible for a $12,000 Cash Match grant, which meant that the city would be responsible for $321,000 of the $1,485,000 total project cost. However, TxDOT later informed the city that they were not, in fact, eligible for the grant. So, the city will actually be responsible for $333,000 of the project. The amendment was approved, with Jerri Gauntt opposing.
The council then considered an ordinance that would give Wire Rope Industries USA, Inc. a tax abatement. Wire Rope Industries moved to Belton in March 2014, occupying a plant on Kirkley Boulevard. The company is now ready to expand their facility, investing in new equipment and machinery to increase their productivity.
In their request for a tax abatement, Wire Rope Industries proposed to add four pieces of equipment, as well as a total of four new employees over two years to run that equipment with starting salaries of $25,000. The company plans to install the new equipment between April and September of this year. They requested a five-year tax abatement plan, beginning in 2016.
The abatement will result in an estimated loss of $84,687 in tax revenue over the five years for the city. However, due to the increase in jobs and improvements to a local business, the council unanimously approved the request.
The Public Works Department also got a win during the city council meeting with the authorization to begin designing the Nolan Creek Sewer Trunk Line Improvement Project Phase I. The line provides sewer service to nearly half the city, including downtown and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. The line was originally built as a 10-inch, baked clay pipe that runs along Nolan Creek.
Two problems have recently presented themselves since its original construction. The first is that the line simply is not big enough to meet the needs of the rapidly growing city. The second is that the clay has begun to deteriorate from the inside out, increasing the risk for lines breaking and for clean water seeping into the system and increasing the volume of water treated at the sewer plant.
The project to replace the portion of the line facing these problems is $114,420, which has been budgeting in the Capital Project Funds. The item was unanimously approved.
City Planning Director Erin Newcomer wrapped up the meeting with a final plat for the Starbright Subdivision, located on the corner of Main Street and Sparta Road. The developers plan to put a Goodyear Tire Shop on the property. TXDOT has approved a right-in/right-out only driveway, similar to the Walmart driveway off Main Street. The plat was approved unanimously.
The Belton City Council will reconvene on May 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the Harris Community Center, 401 N. Alexander.