City manager gives annual State of City address
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The City of Copperas Cove marked its 138th birthday on Wednesday, and the city welcomed all to attend the 9th annual State of the City address at the Copperas Cove Civic Center.
This year’s luncheon was catered by C&H Hawaiian Grill, with culinary arts students from Copperas Cove High School serving the meal.
Promptly at 11:30, city manager Andrea Gardner gave the address, which was accompanied by video and PowerPoint presentation, with Joe Lombardi serving as emcee as well as providing some of the narration for the address.
Leading off the address, city manager Andrea Gardner focused first on common questions the city is asked, first of which is if property taxes paid for the city’s new water meters. Gardner said the meters were funded by the issuance of debt backed by water and sewer fund revenues, not property taxes.
Another question often asked is why the city can’t get a grocery store on the west end of town.
“Ultimately businesses decide where they locate,” Gardner said. “The only authority/control the city has regarding new development is zoning and platting of the property. Most sites purchased by developers are private transactions that do not involve the city. The City and CCEDC (Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation) may elect to enter into an incentive agreement with a particular developer to encourage the development to locate in our city but certain restrictions apply.” In the address, Gardner also named several projects completed in 2016 as part of the city’s capital improvement plan, such as Fire Station 2 the northeast water transmission line project phase 2 that is now complete.
She named projects planned or expected to be completed during 2017 to include the Avenue D sidewalk improvements, parks maintenance shop, library interior renovations, the new information systems building, phases 1 and 2 of the southwest water improvements, the utilities relocation on F.M. 116, the Advanced Metering Infrastructure water meters, northwest wastewater treatment plant improvements, Civic Center tourism department office renovations and the golf course cart path improvements.
In 2016, the city was able to fund five new positions to include a budget analyst, risk manager, city planner, building inspector and recreation Aide. Gardner also mentioned the transfer of utility administration employees to other departments of the city as part of the city’s transition to Fathom Water Systems for utility account management, and also the transfer of all golf maintenance staff from the golf course to parks and recreation maintenance.
The Copperas Cove Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division received kudos for its investigation of a December 2016 aggravated robbery at a Copperas Cove pawn shop that led to the arrest of several armed suspects. Along with the CCPD, the Harker Heights Police Department, Killeen Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a total of six suspects were arrested. Up next for the department this year is a new plan for community oriented policing which includes restructuring of patrol districts with a focus on crime prevention. Also, a new physical readiness testing process for officers will be implemented.
Gardner also discussed that in November 2016, Copperas Cove voters approved a reallocation of sales tax revenue by reducing the sales tax dedicated to the Economic Development Corporation and instead dedicated some of those funds to street maintenance. She said the city is currently working on a transportation plan to begin a street maintenance program.
For the city’s community services, Gardner shared statistics for the library, which had record attendance with last year’s summer reading program, with 2017 being the start of library renovations. She also mentioned the Senior Center and its activities, with some overnight trips being planned for 2017.
The golf course’s user fees have generated more than $10,000 which will be used for future updates at the golf course. Last year, the golf course began offering a quarterly junior golf camp for youth.
The city expanded special events last year, beginning with the Safe Trick or Treat, rebranded as Fall-O-Ween festival. This year’s Polar Bear Plunge and 5K had 200 participants. New for this year will be a farmer’s market in City Park, starting on May 4 and continuing every Thursday through October.
“In October 2016, the City Council directed the transition of Economic Development Corporation staff to become a department of the City. While the transition is ongoing, many cost savings opportunities have been revealed and the City looks forward to further enhancing the economic development operations,” Gardner said in her presentation. “As with most City technology applications, the IS Department was key to the successful transfer of many of the software programs and webpage data for the EDC.”
The new HomeBase store was mentioned, along with the construction of the next part of the Five Hills Shoppting Center, and CDL Research and Development, LLC which will be building a truck driving school in the Narrows Business & Technology Park.
“The Council, Economic Development Corporation Board and Economic Development staff are dedicated to attracting full serve restaurants to our City,” Gardner said. “The City asks that the community support our local businesses to ensure they remain and we are able to continue further attracting new businesses.”
At the close of the presentation, Tracy Molnes, Kayla Flewelling and Erin Molnes joined Gardner on the stage as the late police chief Tim Molnes was recognized. Mayor Frank Seffrood read a proclamation and gave Tracy Molnes a framed copy, which designated March 22, 2017 as Tim Molnes Day in Copperas Cove. He announced that Saturday’s golf tournament raised more than $7,000 for the scholarship fund.
Gardner also presented Molnes’ daughters with a pair of flags, an American flag flow over the United States capitol and a Texas flag which was flown over the Texas capitol in Austin.
“He came to me one day, when he knew his time was short with us, and he said, ‘Andrea, I need a favor’,” she said. “He asked me to get a flag that had been flow over our state capitol and our nation’s capitol for his two girls.” She said she was able to get the flags with the assistance of Congressmen John Carter and Roger Williams, and with the assistance of Susan Ross in Austin.
“From your dad, girls. Our two families will forever be connected because of Tim and our relationship.”
After the conclusion of the address, Mayor Seffrood cut the first piece of a birthday cake donated by H-E-B Plus!.
The full event is available for viewing on the city’s website at copperascovetx.gov.
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