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Council grapples with tax breaks

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

After nearly a year of negotiations and preparations, Lockhart Place, L.P. and Walgreen’s have finalized plans to build a store in Lockhart.
The project has caused headaches, though, for some members of the Lockhart City Council and is a source of concern for some residents.
“I try to support the little guys wh

en I can,” Lockhart resident Dave Studer said to the council. “Now this chain is going to be right around the corner, and I hope it doesn’t have a negative effect.”
Studer also berated the council for approving a three-year tax abatement for both the real and personal property at the location.
The idea of the abatement was widely argued and hotly contested among members of the council, mostly because there is no standard policy in place for tax abatements.
“We have so many of these things on the horizon that I think we have to get some kind of rhyme or reason to it,” said Councilmember Lew White. “It can’t be a matter of we’ll do one thing for one company, and another thing for someone else.”
White’s comment came after discovering that Lockhart Place, L.P., who owns the property located at 200 S. Colorado, where the store will be built, had originally asked for a seven-year tax abatement. Economic Development Director Sandra Mauldin, however suggested a three-year program, offering a 25 percent abatement the first year, a 50 percent abatement the second year, and 100 percent the third.
“One thing that we have to remember about these abatements is that they don’t apply to existing property,” Mauldin said. “It will only apply to the new construction, not anything that is currently on the tax rolls.”
While White resisted offering the tax abatement, Councilmember Dick Wieland suggested the council should grant Lockhart Place the full abatement as requested.
“We have to go along with what staff recommends,” Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram said in response to Wieland’s concerns. “They can ask for them, and we can give them whatever we want to, or nothing, but when we have staff doing research and running the numbers as to what we’ll get out of it, it’s irresponsible not to follow their recommendations.”
Bertram, along with Councilmembers Frank Estrada, Paul Gomez and Kenny Roland voted to approve the three-year, tiered abatement. White, Wieland and Councilmember Michael Sanders voted against it.
In brief news:
City Manager Vance Rodgers announced that the police department has tested and interviewed seven candidates for open positions. Rodgers said the department plans to make offers to six of the candidates this week.
The council scheduled a “Community Cleanup” to help residents affected by last week’s storms. The cleanup will be held on Saturday, May 12.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Room at Lockhart City Hall.

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