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State funds to renovate local homes

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

Eight Lockhart homes will soon be renovated thanks to grant funds from the state.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, the Lockhart city council approved eight recipients of a rehabilitation/reconstruction grant from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Bud Love of Love Building Systems presente

d the potential applicants, each of which, he assured the council, had passed a lengthy screening process.

“Selection is based upon a number of things,” Love said. “Income and the condition of the house are only a part of it.”

The grant rules dictate that each recipient must have an income that is at least 30 percent below the median income of the area. Further, the applicants who fall into the “special needs” category, including the elderly, are given preference to those who do not.

“I do a surprise inspection on each house before I recommend it for the program,” Love said. “I don’t want anyone to have a chance to change anything. The selection is based upon how many people live there, who lives there, lots of things.”

Love also said that he used the “surprise inspection” as a method of weeding out those applicants who might not actually need program participation.

Each of the eight homes chosen will cost in excess of $30,000 to bring up to code. Love said the houses are in various states of disrepair, including termite damage, electrical and plumbing failure and rotting floors.

City Planner Dan Gibson and several members of the Planning and Zoning Commission made a plea to the council with regard to the impact fees that are currently being charged for commercial and residential new construction.

In an effort to stimulate economic growth, the council has frequently reduced or waived impact the impact fees, which were originally introduced in January, 2002.

Impact fees are collected to help the city with the costs of increasing infrastructures for new developments. These costs include roadways, water and wastewater and electricity. In essence, the impact fees are intended to ease the burdens caused by growth on the taxpayer.

Gibson and the commission asked for the review out of concern that the continued decreases in impact fees could in fact increase the taxpayer burden.

“What we’re asking the council to do is keep an eye on the future,” said commission member Nathan Block. “We are trying to plan for that future growth. At a minimum, the fees should be left as they are now to gain history, allowing the commission and staff to collect information.”

Due to the newness of the fees, it is difficult to collect information about their effectiveness.

Councilmember Lew White expressed serious concern about the impact fees in the current economic climate.

“I think that we have made strides in commercial economic development and we are in a climate where we are seeing very little commercial new construction,” White said. “I don’t think we are on a level playing field with these impact fees. I think that we are the only one in Central Texas that charges the road fees.”

White also questioned the logic behind charging the fees at all, when the council can waive them to attract businesses and developments.

In August, the council agreed to reduce impact fees for an additional six months. Tuesday night, they chose to continue with that reduction until February 2005, when the impact fees and their effectiveness will be reviewed again

White and Councilmember Paul Gomez voted against the motion.

The Lockhart Chamber of Commerce requested the council’s assistance with the cost of repairs and insurance for the Chisholm Trail Roundup parade float.

The float is co-owned by the city, the chamber and the Kiwanis Club. According to Wayne Long, the chairman of the chamber board, the float was in need of major repairs because it was becoming unsafe for the children to ride.

“This is the first real repair, besides replacing the tires, that we’ve had to do,” he said.

The council approved a contribution of nearly $1,600, one-third of the total repair bill, for repairs to the float.

The chamber also requested that the city assist in defraying the cost of liability insurance for the float. A recent audit revealed that the chamber is paying nearly $1,000 per year for the insurance. Because the city has a separate insurance policy, the council declined to share in the insurance costs.

In response to a number of concerns voiced by the public, the City Council asked the Caldwell County Appraisal District to present an official summary of the appraisal district’s 2004-2005 Fiscal Year Budget. Earlier this year, a number of Lockhart residents expressed concern to the city council about the district’s budget. Apart from being a taxing entity, the City of Lockhart owns property and pays taxes as indicated by the Caldwell County Appraisal District.

The report, in effect, was only for the information of the council. The district has already approved the budget for the 2004-2005 Fiscal Year. In the future, the council will receive the presentation prior to the approval of the Appraisal District Budget.

In other council business, they approved the sale of a Pierce Fire Apparatus for around $125,000 to a marketing firm in Canada. The firm will cover transportation costs for the equipment. The sale will leave the fire department with sufficient funds to purchase a light-duty truck, as well as providing $20,000 in matching funds for an Assistance to Firefighters grant.

Assistant City Manager Vance Rodgers asked the council to approve an application to the Texas Community Development Program – Community Development Fund through the Office of Rural Community Affairs.

The grant funds from the program are intended for use in replacing several cast-iron water mains.

“The mains to be replaced are causing problems in the water system,” Rodgers said.

Six water mains will be replaced with the funds, at a total cost of $296,000. Under the grant rules, $80,000 is meant to come from community matching funds.

The mains to be replaced run along Neches, Rosewood, Pearl, Monument, Llano and Ash Streets.

The City of Lockhart granted an easement 12 feet wide to Southwestern Bell Corporation (SBC) and Cingular Wireless of Texas. The easement is located within the Sports Complex on Carver Street and will be used by SBC to reroute a fiber optic cable, which currently runs under the facilities, including the athletic fields at the complex.

The Dr. Eugene Clark Library received a donation of several children’s books from the Community Action Head Start Program.

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