2017-03-17 / Front Page

Officials consider tax abatement for food plant

BY DAVID LOWE
DISPATCH RECORD

After about a 20-minute executive session Monday, the Lampasas County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to work on a possible economic development agreement that may involve tax incentives.

The court's motion was "to direct staff and county attorney to work with the city of Lampasas staff and city attorney to develop a Chapter 381 agreement for possible tax abatement for food processing facility in Lampasas County."

County Judge Wayne Boultinghouse and City Manager Finley deGraffenried, who participated in the executive session, did not elaborate.

Chapter 381 of the Local Government Code authorizes commissioners courts to develop and administer programs "to stimulate, encourage, and develop business location and commercial activity in the county."

The Commissioners Court's meeting agenda listed consideration of a tax abatement "regarding location at Lampasas Business Park" on U.S. Highway 183 South.

City officials met with the Commissioners Court earlier this year about the possibility of giving tax incentives to Ajinomoto Windsor Foods, which has a food-manufacturing plant on the downtown square. In addition, the Lampasas City Council has voted on a few items related to the food company and the business park.

On Feb. 13, the council voted to apply for up to $1.5 million from the Texas Capital Fund. The resolution to seek funding described the application as a potential "award for Ajinomoto Windsor" for infrastructure at the business park.

On Monday, the council approved the second reading of an ordinance to designate Ajinomoto Windsor a Texas Enterprise Project through the governor's Economic Development & Tourism office and the Economic Development Bank.

The ordinance lists several types of incentives, including tax abatements based on job creation, the city may make available to Ajinomoto Windsor.

The council voted in open session about the Texas Enterprise Project designation and the Texas Capital Fund application, although city officials did not elaborate. No members of the public spoke during a Feb. 27 public hearing that preceded the first reading of the Texas Enterprise Project ordinance.

The potential economic development agreement is not the only matter on which the county may collaborate with another entity. At its meeting Monday, the Commissioners Court discussed the possibility of creating an inter-local agreement with Coryell County for road work and materials.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Bobby Carroll, who represents the southeast portion of Lampasas County, said he has discussed the idea with Coryell County Road and Bridge Administrator Justin Latham, particularly because of work on County Road 3640, which crosses the Coryell County line in multiple places. Carroll said Latham suggested if the two counties worked together on the road, the whole road could get fixed at the same time and might stay in good condition for a while.

Carroll also said Coryell County has its own gravel crusher, and it might be possible for the two counties to trade some road materials.

Carroll said at the Texas Association of Counties meetings they attend, county officials are encouraged to pursue inter-local agreements. The commissioner said he wants to consider creating an agreement so that if Lampasas and Coryell counties decide to pursue joint road projects, all the arrangements already would have been made.

"Like I said, this is something we've been just visiting about," Carroll said. "But I didn't want to wait until the last minute and say 'OK, yeah, we're going to pave together' and not have it before Commissioners Court and be approved."

County Auditor Chris Munn said County Attorney John Greenwood and Coryell County's attorney will need to draft the details of a proposed agreement. So, the Commissioners Court took no action Monday and decided to wait for Greenwood to prepare a draft.

In other business, the court voted unanimously to abandon a platted subdivision that dates back to 1870.

Attorney Scott Cooley requested the abandonment of the F.W. Chandler Subdivision -- part of the Lampasas township plat from the city's early days -- on behalf of his client Marie Gillen. Cooley said his client is trying to sell property on the north side of U.S. Highway 190, across from Family Medicine Clinic, and the title company involved with the potential transaction wants the county to abandon the plat.

Cooley said about three years ago, the Commissioners Court abandoned the part of the subdivision south of U.S. 190 so Family Medicine Clinic could secure title insurance. Then, in August 2015, the Commissioners Court voted to abandon a road that goes from U.S. 190 through the platted subdivision and provides access to the Gillen property.

Despite those earlier actions, Cooley said the title company still wants the entire platted subdivision to be abandoned.

On another matter, the Commissioners Court unanimously approved a utility installation permit for a water line that will run down County Road 2323 and cross County Road 2109 in two places.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Mark Rainwater said the utility installation in the north-central part of the county will create a looped water line to improve water pressure in a subdivision.

In other items, the Commissioners Court:

• authorized the sale of fireworks -- except for missiles with fins and skyrockets with sticks -- for Memorial Day. The vote was 4-0, with Carroll abstaining. The commissioner said he abstained from the vote because there is a fireworks stand on land owned by his wife's family.

• voted to contract with Wright Asphalt Products and Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions Inc. for asphalt and emulsion.

• approved a resolution to adopt a hazard mitigation plan -- required every five years for local governments to be eligible to receive certain types of federal funding. The plan is about 500 pages long. The Lampasas and Kempner city councils also voted this week to adopt hazard mitigation plans.

During the public comment portion of Monday's Commissioners Court meeting, Human Resources Director Dorothy Person announced her last day working for the county will be May 2.

Ms. Person became the county's elections administrator in 2007, and she was named human resources director in 2012.

Ms. Person said she will do human-resources consulting and will continue to live in the area.

Carroll told Ms. Person he is sorry to see her leave her county position, and Precinct 3 Commissioner Lewis Bridges wished her well in her future endeavors.

Munn also addressed the outgoing human resources director.

"Dorothy, I know your department and my department haven't always seen eye to eye," the county auditor said, "but since I've been here you've done a good job as HR administrator, and I know the county really appreciates your effort and service."

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