Council directs city staff to develop lease for Head Start facilities, properties
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Another leasing agreement was up for discussion by the Copperas Cove city council at its Tuesday night meeting.
This agreement is between the City of Copperas Cove and the Hill Country Community Action Association, which has operated the federally funded Head Start Program in Copperas Cove. The council was asked to authorize the city manager to create and establish a long-term lease agreement for the Head Start program.
Presently, there is no current lease for the program, with the most recent lease on record having commenced on Feb. 10, 2015 and ended on Jan. 9, 2016. At the March 1, 2016 meeting, the council approved extending that lease with Head Start for 45 days until after the March 2016 city council retreat. According to the March 1, 2016 meeting minutes, the council was to have discussed the lease at the March 8 city council retreat. However, the March 8 retreat minutes don’t reflect any discussion about a lease for Head Start, but a discussion did take place concerning a “leasing policy” for city properties.
Both Councilmen Jay Manning and Councilman James Pierce Jr. asked Tuesday night why the subject of the lease had never come back to the council. A lease had been presented at the March 1, 2016 meeting that would have taken the HCCAA program through February 2017, but was never approved by the council due to the above extension.
Parks & Recreation Director and Deputy City Manager Joe Brown, who sat in for City Manager Andrea Gardner, took responsibility for the lease development not being followed up on.
“It just didn’t happen; the ball was dropped. We didn’t move forward with developing a three-year lease. It wasn’t intentional,” Brown said.
On Feb. 9, 2016, Tama Shaw, CEO of HCCAA, had written a letter to Brown stating HCCAA’s intent to renew the current lease with the City of Copperas Cove as written.
Part of the discussion regarding a lease, long-term or otherwise, with HCCAA surrounded whether or not the City could deed the property to the association, similar to Cove House. However, according to Shaw, who was present Tuesday evening, it is not possible for HCCAA to own property.
“We would love to own the building, but there’s two reasons; we don’t have any funds, and 20 percent of our budget must come from in-kind donations.”
Shaw said 90 percent of their facilities in 13 counties are contributed by cities, counties, or housing authorities. Head Start’s modular building on Leonhard street is owned by HCCAA.
She also said that the local Head Start program services 104 families and their children, and the payroll for 28 local employees is more than $1 million annually. She said the program purchases all its groceries, diapers and supplies in Copperas Cove, and uses local plumbers and carpenters, and pays for all the renovations on the buildings it uses. She estimated the program puts $2 million into the local economy. Without the buildings being available to Head Start, she said they would have to leave the community and stop local services. She said HCCAA also helped the city build the North Drive buildings with grant funds.
The council instructed Brown to go forward to developing an updated lease with HCCAA for the properties and bring it back to the council at the second meeting in July.
During the workshop preceding the meeting, the council discussed an ordinance regarding payday loan companies. The subject had come before the council in February 2014 as a presentation.
“The city as a home rule city has the authority to have regulations for these types of businesses to help protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens,” said the city’s attorney, Habib Erkan Jr. “You have noted some of the concerns that members of council have raised, predatory type interest rates that some of these businesses charge and the need to protect your citizens.”
Killeen, Belton, San Antonio, Austin and Houston all have regulations for the “payday loan” industry.
Erkan said that he would be able to work with city staff to come up with a set of regulations that would fit Copperas Cove. He later added that San Antonio vetted the ordinance through community and consumer groups to put together meaningful regulations.
“I think most everybody up here feels equally that this is an important aspect of protecting our citizenry,” said Councilman George Duncan. He also added that the idea wasn’t to over-regulate businesses as part of a free market society, but to prevent predatory businesses from taking advantage of citizens.
Councilman Jay Manning offered his comment about the idea of the council developing such an ordinance.
“The thing that strikes me about this, while I recognize it is a very serious problem and I have concerns personally about people there, coming from a body who has trouble meeting their obligations without raising taxes continually, it seems a bit hypocritical to me….and let me include fees.”
The general consensus was to create a committee to look at creating regulations for those businesses. Both Duncan and councilman Matt Russell volunteered to sit on the workgroup. Joe Brown suggested the city planner as well as the city’s building superintendent as city staff possibilities.
Councilman Dan Yancey asked that the payday loan business owners be contacted for their input regarding the ordinance.
The council also discussed amending the maximum allowable height of a fence located on residential properties. Presently the maximum height of a privacy fence is six feet in Copperas Cove. The consensus was for city staff to develop an amendment to up that height to eight feet.
The council held a public hearing for the rezoning of 7.258 acres along the eastern right-of-way of Grimes Crossing Road from AG (Agricultural) to R-1 (Single-Family Residential), which was followed by a vote to approve the request.
Kendall Cox, director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, gave a presentation to the council about Fort Hood’s status and troop activity, as well as an upcoming BRAC, or base realignment and closure, that will affect the Army possibly as soon as 2021. The council voted unanimously to release funds to HOTDA in the amount of $4,250.
The council approved the first amendment to the Professional Services Agreement with Hidell and Associates Architects, Inc. the firm which is designing the library renovations. Construction costs for the multi-year project are more than previously anticipated, which in turn has caused the cost of the architectural design to increase as well.
The council approved a utility easement from Kasada, LLC, for the frontage of the property that is the site of the future Raising Cane’s restaurant located at 2730 E. Bus. 190. The council also voted unanimously to appoint Cesar Munguia to a vacancy on the Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful Commission.
The city’s 2017 Certificates of Obligation bonds were approved unanimously by the council. Gary Kimball representing Specialized Public Finance, the City of Copperas Cove’s financial advisor, said the city received eight bids from firms, with the best bid at 2.41 percent. He also said the city’s affirmed bond rating from Standard & Poor’s is AA, which he said is based on “very strong management at city staff level and very strong budgetary performance and very strong liquidity.”
This year’s bonds include nearly $10 million in projects, to include tax-supported projects such as parks improvements, library renovations, capital outlay plan, and transportation improvement projects; water/sewer supported project like city park sewer line replacements, phase III of the Southwest Water improvements, and the relocation of the Killeen/Cove 20-inch water line relocation; and golf course improvements.