City eyes assistance for firms
Acknowledging the “post-Alcoa” era, the City of Rockdale expressed an interest Monday in giving special business incentives for firms providing employment for Rockdale-area workers.
The city council will look at creating a policy to study tax abatements after Miller-Starnes Chevrolet-Buick, which is considering options which may include moving from Rockdale, requested aid.
And the council tabled for study a cost-sharing compromise which might allow GFL Americas to expand its business at the US 77-79 intersection and resolve a tricky city limits problem regarding sewer service.
The council is also studying a proposal to assist volunteer firefighters with water bills after it was told the Rockdale VFD has lost about half its members since Alcoa closed in 2008-9.
TAX ABATEMENT—Miller-Starnes has requested tax abatement assistance on as-yet-unspecified new construction, a move that was backed Monday by Tom Manskey, executive director of the Rockdale Municipal Development District (MDD).
Manskey acknowledged that two weeks ago the MDD heard a request from co-owner Allan Miller for a $10,000 grant to help the business remain in Rockdale.
Miller told The Reporter the dealership must upgrade its 60-year-old facilities and one option is to leave Rockdale.
Manskey said the MDD has not acted on the grant request but urged the council to “encourage anything you can do to help create job growth.”
He said the Miller-Starnes intersection has “the highest traffic volume in town.”
City Manager Kelvin Knauf said if the council wanted to pursue tax abatements, a great deal of information and outside expertise would be required.
“I think its important we establish ourselves as a business friendly community whether we do this (Miller-Starnes tax abatement) or not,” council member Joyce Dalley said.
The council agreed and decided to start the process of creating a tax abatement policy.
Milam County has also been approached over a tax abatement for the dealership.
“It’s important to note this (abatement) would only be on the new construction, not the existing business,” Knauf said.
GFL—GFL Americas, which produces non-stick coatings, has a different problem.
The business straddles the city limits and currently uses a septic tank outside the city.
But it wants to expand with a half-million-dollar building, inside the city limits, according to Paul Freeman, building contractor for GFL.
City codes say any structure inside the city limits must tie into the city wastewater system, something that would require boring under US 77, according to Freeman.
Lon Williams, code enforcement officer, said cost of extending the sewer line could be in the vicinity of $100,000.
GFL was requesting a variance allowing it to place a septic tank outside the city limits and tie the new building into lines for that receptacle.
Freeman said the expansion would add 12 to 15 jobs over the next six months.
Councilman Doug Calame proposed a compromise, a plan for the city, MDD and GFL to share one-third the cost of linking the new building with the city sewer.
The matter was tabled for additional information on the project cost and to get more input from the MDD, which promised to discuss the situation at its Monday meeting.
RVFD WATER— Counci l members Colby Fisher and Calame requested that the city provide an amount of water, without charge, to volunteer firefighters, as it currently does to city employees.
They proposed the benefit as an incentive, noting the RVFD has lost about half its 40 members since Alcoa closed its Rockdale Operations.
“They put their lives out there for the community,” Fisher said. “I think that’s the least we can do for them.”
Council members were told the proposal might cost as much as $15,000 per year.
The proposal was tabled, pending more details being worked out.
In other business, council members:
• Applied for a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant. Part of the application will be a door-to-door survey in part of Rockdale to determine if residents in the area to be covered by the grant are “low to moderate income.”
• Accepted Classic Bank’s low bid of 2.63-percent interest for a $525,000 certificate of obligation being issued by the city.
• Re-appointed Gary Griesbach, Collier Perry, Elaine Gerren and Georgia Richards to the MDD board. Vote was 4-2 with Calame, Fisher, Toby Johnson and Melody Dawson voting in favor and Joyce Dalley and Willie Phillips voting against.
• Approved $58,775.20 in emergency repairs to the Texas Street water well.
• Okayed an additional $5,808 soil sampling under the Mill Street water tower legs and the Allday Street water tower.
• Recognized American Legion Carlyle Post 358 for its donation of American and Texas flags to the Patterson Civic Center.