NEWS HEADLINES

Decatur EDC looks into splash park construction

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, May 24, 2014

With sweltering summer temperatures on the horizon, the Decatur EDC board of directors is seeking information about constructing a splash park.

EDC Executive Director Mary Poche said at the May 15 board meeting that there might be EDC funds available to go toward the cost.

Decatur Public Works Director Earl Smith said at the request of the Parks Board he had sought a proposal for a “mega-park” in Decatur that would include a splash park, but he hadn’t planned on presenting it until budget talks later this summer, assuming it would be part of capital projects.

EDC board members said the entire expense might not have to come from capital projects.

“We’d talked about the two categories we can fund outside of regular categories,” said board member Jason Wren. “We’ve always focused on the Civic Center, but we’d like to spend more on some parks. We may not be able to do it all immediately, but there are some things we can consider.”

Smith said the proposal is based on a wish list for a “mega-park” that would include several ballfields, hiking and biking trails and a splash park.

“It’s a pretty comprehensive scheme,” he said. “It’s going to be a big deal. If you saw the wish list, you’d think ‘Man, it’d be sweet to have something like this!’ But we’re not a Keller or Grapevine. But you have to get started somewhere and have something to work toward.”

Board member Roy Eaton said he felt it was important to have a short-term and long-term plan and mentioned that they had one time discussed installing a splash park at Harmon Park.

Smith said parking at that location might pose a problem, but he was open to also considering other locations.

“The cost estimate for a modest one is $150,000, and that didn’t include things like parking,” he said.

Wren encouraged Smith to bring parks projects to the EDC board, “especially if there are smaller pieces,” he said, “they don’t necessarily have to go through the city’s capital expenditures.” He indicated the EDC board is open to pursuing more parks projects in the future.

Smith will present the mega-park proposal and all that it includes at the June EDC board meeting.

PROPOSALS

Poche told the board that three requests for proposals had been received through the state, but she didn’t respond to them because the city doesn’t have readily available the types of buildings or services requested.

“Until we get what I feel is a baseline of what we can go out and market in our community, we’re going to keep it low-key,” she said. “I can respond to anything at any time, but you don’t want to get a reputation that you just throw anything out there …”

Poche said two of the projects – Cannonball and Space Capsule – required existing buildings. Project Cannonball needed 100,000 square feet of building space, and Project Space Capsule was looking for a single parcel of land with existing facilities, including one 100,000 square foot building and one 150,000 square foot structure.

“They’re looking for a campus,” Poche said.

Project Sports Drink, an industrial biochemical plant, needed a rail-served site, which is not available in Decatur.

If these projects don’t find a permanent place to call home, they may be seeking proposals again in the future.

“We’ll see where we stand on things at that time,” Poche said.

Poch said she’s fielded other calls and been in discussions with other businesses, but none are to the proposal stage yet.

RETAINING BUSINESSES

Poch said she’d met with representatives of several companies, including Imperial Fabrication and H2X Hydroexcavation, as part of the business expansion and retention program.

“It almost goes without saying that with existing businesses, it’s easier to help them grow and work to retain them,” she said. “They’re already committed, and nothing is more of an economic developer’s nightmare than to hear a business is moving from your community.”

She said she’d also be visiting with businesses that are just outside the Decatur city limits to see what they need, and extending funding to them if possible.

“There are some companies that aren’t on my list of employers, however they are in the county and their employees work and spend money here. It certainly benefits our sales tax,” she said. “If we can’t have them in the city, I certainly don’t want them to leave the county.”

She said over the next five or six months she might bring candidates to the board for potential incentive grants for training or capital expenditures for pieces of equipment that would allow them to hire more employees.

OTHER BUSINESS

At the request of Decatur Civic Center Manager Lori Sherwood, the board approved paying half of the additional expenses for unexpected work to the center’s new air walls. The Civic Center will pay the other half.

“There were additional requirements to make it work as needed,” Poche said.

City Manager Brett Shannon reported that on an accrual basis, the Civic Center had brought in $399,796.34 with $566,489.33 in expenditures for 71 percent coverage.

At the end of the meeting President Andrew Sandford presented Eaton, who is retiring from the board, with a distinguished service award plaque.

“This has been one of the great joys of my community service,” Eaton said, “because this is an organization that can get things done. We’ve had money to do it and have been able to help the city financially to have things the city couldn’t afford.

“I know you guys are going to do great, and if you ever need anything, I’ll be right across the street,” he said, referencing the Messenger office.

Eaton is publisher of the Wise County Messenger.

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