County, EDC approve property swap
By LYNETTE SOWELL
In anticipation of the future construction of a joint-use facility, the Copperas Cove City council, the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation board and the Coryell County commissioners court voted to approve a property transfer between the Economic Development Corporation and Coryell County.
The three entities held a joint meeting on Thursday during which the officials discussed the property swap and what it will mean for all. The properties are the Coryell County Annex at 201 S. 2nd St. and the EDC building, located at 210 S. 1st St.
City manager Andrea Gardner said that both she and county judge John Firth came up with the idea of the land swap between the county and the EDC. The joint meeting was held to avoid having multiple meetings, with the council needing to approve any action by the EDC board. Gardner told those assembled that there is no future intended use for the EDC building by the city, with the transition of EDC employees’ offices over to city hall.
The property swap was approved by the EDC board, after which it was approved by the city council—but not unanimously, passing 5-2, with councilmembers Jay Manning and Dan Yancey voting against the agreement.
Manning said he was accustomed to reading agreements before voting on them, he had not seen the 12- page agreement until that moment at the meeting, and he thought a vote at that time was “inappropriate.”
Yancey asked the county commissioners and the EDC board if they had seen the proposed agreement, and Firth said the commissioners had seen the draft prior to the meeting. Gardner said she had discussed the agreement fully with the EDC board and it was not “new news” to them. EDC board president Marc Payne said he was seeing the actual agreement for the first time at the meeting.
“So it’s not new news to the EDC or the county commissioners; it’s just new news to us,” Yancey said.
After the council’s vote, Firth conducted the vote for the county commissioners, which voted to unanimously approve the property transfer.
“The reality is, long-term, if there is an opportunity to save our many mutual taxpayers money by having a joint facility that we can share, parking space we can share, common waiting rooms, restrooms, meeting rooms, in such a way that it really does give ‘single-stop shopping’ for all of our residents, there really is advantage to that,” Firth said prior to the vote. “It also certainly shows our residents that we are committed to working together to conserve resources wherever we can.”
He called it an opportunity for all citizens to gain both short-term and long-term. Firth said in the intermediate term, the land swap is an opportunity for the justices of the peace to be in facilities to better support their citizenry. Firth said the Texas Department of Public Safety driver’s license office vacating its portion of the annex gave an opportunity for the county and city to make the scenario work.
The agreement includes a 90-day closing period so the court’s boundaries can be drawn and documented. The county will eventually transform the new-to-them facility on S. 1st Street to the new county annex, which will house the justices of the peace office and courtroom, as well as have an office for the Coryell County sheriff’s deputy and provide space for voting at election time.
EDC board chair Marc Payne said a citizen asked him if there would be enough parking at the EDC building during election time, because the county uses the annex for a polling site.
Firth said he did discuss with the county election official, Justin Carothers, as to how the EDC building would work at election time. As far as parking goes, Firth said Carothers is “confident” there will be enough parking in the EDC’s lot based on the average voting per hour, about 60-70. Carothers did recommend adding to the 20 spaces in the lot by removing the curb at the former drive-through beside the EDC building, increasing it by approximately eight spaces.
The two properties are not being transferred in an even exchange; rather, the 2016 assessed value for the 50-year-old EDC building of $413,970 is $37,510 higher than that of the 60-year-old county annex, assessed at $376,460. The agreement includes a payment by the county to the EDC for $37,510. The figures in the agreement between the EDC and the county use the 2016 approved values for the property swap. The 2017 preliminary assessed value for the EDC building is $429,650, higher than the preliminary assessed value of the county annex of $366,740, a difference of $63,180.
In late June, the city has plans to move council meetings to the new Information Technology building at 508 S. 2nd St.
The county annex will eventually be demolished due to its deteriorating condition and the property, along with that of the old police department at 201 S. 4th St, currently leased by Star Group-Veterans Helping Veterans, as well as the former police station on the corner of Avenue E and South 4th. The properties will then eventually be developed into a joint-use facility for the city, county and the EDC.
During Thursday’s meeting, Adam Martin, vice chair of the EDC board, requested a future agenda item for the EDC, that negotiations be held for permanent space for the EDC in the future joint-use building and that the EDC not have to pay rent to the city for its space. A facility needs assessment which included a proposed joint-use facility was completed by the city in November 2013.