Growing opportunities: Mayors highlight challenges, development

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, March 30, 2019
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On Center Stage

ON CENTER STAGE – Mayors Barry White (Runaway Bay), Roy Steel (Paradise), Martin Woodruff (Decatur), Randy Singleton (Bridgeport) and Rodney Holmes (Boyd) spoke during the Wise County Chamber of Commerce’s Dinner with the Mayors Thursday. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

As the fifth mayor of the night to take the podium, Runaway Bay’s Barry White reflected on where his city and the rest of the county currently finds itself.

“We all face the growth that is coming in from the south, Fort Worth and Dallas. It’s coming our direction. It’s unbelievable the amount of growth we’re seeing every day,” White said. “With growth comes a lot of pain, but it also comes with a lot of wonderful things. But we all have to work together.”

White said the collaboration between cities is helping them meet the increasing needs.

He joined Boyd’s Rodney Holmes, Bridgeport’s Randy Singleton, Decatur’s Martin Woodruff and Paradise’s Roy Steel Thursday at the Wise County Chamber of Commerce’s Dinner with the Mayors at the Decatur Conference Center. All five mayors had an opportunity to give updates on their cities, including current projects, development and challenges.

Water availability and improvements were common themes in all their speeches.

Holmes explained Boyd’s current $5.9 million water improvement project that will address storage, lines and water quality and taste. He said the city will be taking bids by the end of the summer.

“Hopefully in the next few years, Boyd’s water won’t be as bad as its reputation has always been,” Holmes said.

Singleton touched on Bridgeport’s issuance of $2.2 million in bonds to its water system. The city is looking to put in a treatment pond to hold raw water before it enters its treatment facility.

“We hope the water quality coming out to our citizens will be much improved,” Singleton said.

Woodruff said the city of Decatur will likely be issuing bonds next year to construct a new elevated storage facility and take three older and smaller storage tanks out of service.

“We’re looking at a significant debt issuance next year,” Woodruff said. “It is primarily there to take care of our water needs going forward.”

In Runaway Bay, the city is currently working on capacity issues. White said when he started his term in May, the city was using 89 percent of its capacity.

“Since that point in May, we are over 92 at almost 93 percent capacity,” White said. “We’ve had to go as far as putting in a moratorium for anything in our ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction) and not allow any building until we can get a plan, execute it and get the money where we develop the ability to produce more water, treat it and work on our capacity to store it. We’re in the process now developing a new plant to treat it.”

White said the water and sewer infrastructure needs are the main issues for Wise County’s western-most city.

Paradise receives water from Walnut Creek Special Utility District. Steel said the city is in the middle of a $1.5 million water project.

“Each house in Paradise should have city water by October,” Steel said.

All the mayors highlighted the rapid development in and around their communities.

Holmes explained Boyd’s year-long process of working with Denton developer Bob Shelton on the recently annexed 153 acres on Cemetery Road that will feature the 595-home addition Spring Hill South.

“We did a public improvement district to pay for the infrastructure in that development,” Holmes said. “It will be paid for by the people that live in that development. No bonds will be issued until each phase is built out at 90 percent. That way we can make sure those people are going to pay for that infrastructure and the citizens of Boyd now are not. We also did a TIRZ, a tax reimbursement zone, that will take care of any infrastructure the city needs to install outside that development to handle that growth.”

Token of Thanks

TOKEN OF THANKS – Wise County Chamber of Commerce Director Sabrina Easley presents Bridgeport Mayor Randy Singleton a gift after Dinner with the Mayors Thursday. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Halsell Street’s resurgence in the past year in Bridgeport was the focus of Singleton’s speech.

“Our downtown district is virtually on fire with business,” Singleton said. “We did not know two to three years ago when we spent $5 million to rebuild our downtown district and redo streets, sidewalks and landscapes that we would encourage such growth. It’s gone far beyond our expectations.

“Just a few years ago, if you drove through our downtown area, you saw boarded up buildings and empty buildings. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find an empty building. If it is empty, someone has bought it and are about to put something in it.”

He credited the entrepreneurship of the Hayhurst brothers and Jonathan Cortez in leading the way in the development.

“I spend a lot of my time cheerleading,” he said.

Singleton also announced the city’s plans to purchase the empty Duckworth building on Halsell and raze it to put in a downtown park.

Woodruff pointed out similar economic development successes in Decatur, including the upcoming one-year anniversary of the Fairfield Inn and Suites at the Decatur Conference Center.

“It’s been very successful and has helped bring in multi-day events to this center, which will help us increase its use and help us to justify the cost of expanding this center which we will need to do next year,” Woodruff said.

He also touched on the recent development at the 162-acre Eagles Landing Business Park on Farm Road 2264. Its first tenant, Industrial Diesel Inc. and Industrial Diesel Manufacturing announced plans to build a new 70,000-square-foot facility in January.

“We’re continually in conversations with other companies that we would like to get located there,” Woodruff said. “That’s going to have a big effect on Decatur. If we can bring about a hundred million dollars or more of property value to the city of Decatur and our school district and county, we think that’s going to be a great success. It took us a long time to get that done.”

To the west in Paradise, Steel said the city is bracing for rapid growth. He expects the city to triple in population soon.

“It’s fixing to hit us pretty hard,” Steel said. “We have something like 180 acres that’s going to be developed in the near future – something like 500 houses.”

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