Council maintains HOTDA funding, receives legislative update
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The Copperas Cove city council held a discussion about increasing the city’s contribution to the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance at its Tuesday night meeting.
Last fiscal year, the city and the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation contributed a total of $17,000 to the consultant, with $13,000 coming from the city and $4,000 coming from the EDC. But for the current year, the council reduced that funding to $5,630, to be paid for by the City of Copperas Cove.
The discussion item Tuesday night was brought to the table by councilman Dan Yancey, who wanted to see that funding restored to $17,000 for the present fiscal year. The city’s budget department included two possible options to the discussion, that of $17,000, to be paid by the city and the EDC, respectively, or that is a HOTDA contribution paid solely by the city.
Yancey tried to make his case to convince fellow council members of the work that HOTDA does for the central Texas area that could benefit Copperas Cove.
He said he wanted to go with option one for funding, calling HOTDA “a regional entity that advocates for Fort Hood and related defense industries in the central Texas area, and the economic impact of fort hood on the central Texas region.
“Copperas Cove shares a 6-1/2-mie border with fort hood, the second largest border, and one of the larger cities in the region to include Killeen, Copperas Cove, Harker Heights, Belton, Temple and Lampasas.”
He also reminded the council of a few of the initiatives that HOTDA is involved in, one of them a multimodal truck and rail cargo transfer facility.
“That project could potentially serve as an economic development engine for Coryell county and specifically for copperas cove,” Yancey said.
Matthew Russell cited the past history of the EDC paying $50,000 annually to HOTDA since 2007, and suggested that Yancey recuse himself from the discussion and any subsequent voting because Yancey was formerly the EDC’s chairman of the board “from 2005-2015.” He also questioned why the EDC increased its amount in to $50,000 in the first place.
He called the $5,630 a “good baseline” compared to what other cities pay HOTDA, citing examples he received from a freedom of information request he made of HOTDA back in 2015.
Councilman George Duncan said he wasn’t comfortable looking a citizen in the eye and telling them that the amount of HOTDA funding was well spent. He also wondered if, as in the case of the EDC recently agreeing to a population-based contribution to matching funds for a possible upcoming grant funding, that they could determine something like that for HOTDA funds.
The council ended up concurring what councilman Kirby Lack called “option three,” keeping things the way they are for now. Although Yancey and councilman Jay Manning were overruled, the other council members did agree to revisit the discussion at the next quarterly update provided by HOTDA.
During Tuesday’s workshop, legislative consultant Susan Ross brought an update regarding the regular and special sessions of the 85th Texas Legislature to the council.
“One of the biggest issues for the City of Copperas Cove that I work on is the disabled veterans’ assistance payments. That is a fund of money that allows cities and counties that are contiguous to a base to get some additional funding to help with your budgets whenever you hit a 2% disproportionate amount that disabled veterans get in their (property tax) exemptions.”
The funding had been passed in the 2015 session, but not fully funded, Ross said.
“Fortunately for us this legislative session, it was number one in the base budget and Comptroller Hegar made sure it was fully funded on both sides, the senate and the house,” Ross said. “I can tell you that for this particular session, you are fully funded for the next two years. You will get the full amount.”
She did warn the council to watch for the next session in 2019.
“This pocket of money is always going to be under attack. Representative Scott Cosper from Killeen did file HB 2356 that would have extended this program to other cities and counties that are not contiguous to a base, and that would have diluted the money because there were not going to be additional funds added just because that bill was going to extend to other communities. It’s something we are going to have to protect and think about how we can and get creative to protect Cove and make sure you get your funding.”
Ross also talked about the challenge of Senate Bill 2, which did not pass.
“It was a priority on the Senate side, to cut taxes, but what it was really going to do is harm local governments. It would have been devastating to police and fire, any kind of technology improvements you needed, any kind of mandated training, things the state requires you to do but does not provide funding to do it.” Ross said she would continue during the interim to work with the city manager on learning more about how city taxes work.
“You are very fortunate that you do have Andrea because she can boil it down in simple terms for people who don’t really understand how taxes work at the city level.” Ross said she wants to introduce Andrea during the interim to talk to some people who will be trying to effect those laws during the next session.
Ross also talked about trying to drum up funding for local public transportation, particularly to help disabled veterans.
“You have a unique situation here, a lot of disabled veterans who need transportation to get to their doctor appointments. But fi those appointments aren’t completed by 6 p.m., they have to depend on family or someone else to get them home.” Ross said they are searching for new funding streams to extend bus hours to 10 p.m. and that after she spoke in a hearing, Trent Townsend from TxDOT approached her, saying he would like to talk to her in the interim.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council:
- Held public hearings and voted to rezone 409 Allen St. to R-2 (Two-Family Residential) and 922 Brookview Dr. to R-2 (Two-Family Residential District).
- Reappointed Milissa Browning to the Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful Commission.
- Appointed Joe Acfalle and Sandor Vegh to the Board of Adjustments.
- Approved a contract between the city and Comal Transportation, LLC for hauling solid waste.
- Approved the purchase of a half-ton truck and two skid steer loaders for the Public Works Department.