Big Spring residents will have an opportunity to voice their opinions regarding a proposed 4B project to overhaul the municipality's water and wastewater facilities using up to $13 million in economic development funding. The public hearing will be held Tuesday evening in city council chambers.
The project calls for the Big Spring Economic Development Corporation to provide $750,000 a year for the first two years, and then 40 percent of its sales tax revenue â€” with a floor of $500,000 and a ceiling of $750,000 for the following 18 years â€” with the city of Big Spring picking up the remainder of the tab on the renovations. The total tab is expected to be up to $13 million.
Big Spring City Council gave its approval â€” on a unanimous vote â€” to have the proposal placed on the May 12 ballot during its Feb. 14 meeting, a unified decision that came after several months of intense debate, both among the council members and city residents.
According to state law, because the Big Spring Economic Development Corporation, which is funded by local sales taxes, is designated a 4A entity, it can only fund 4B projects â€” in this case, an initiative to improve the city's infrastructure â€” if the project is approved by voters.
Unfortunately for the city, it's hard to say what the municipality's part of the bill will look like until the project matures, according to City Finance Director Peggy Walker.
â€śThese first two years, we know the EDC will be paying the $750,000, and the way sales tax revenues are projected right now, that won't be a problem for them. So, at least for 2013 and 2014, things are very stable and easy to project,â€ť Walker said. â€śUnfortunately, it's when you go beyond that you begin to tread into unknown waters.
â€śWe're anticipating debt service on the project to be between $800,000 and $850,000 a year. If the EDC's 40 percent holds up around the $750,000 to $800,000 mark, the city will be able to make up the difference through the utility fund. However, should something unforeseen happen and that 40 percent suddenly become something much less than that, we'll have to get creative.â€ť
The proposal also contains an agreement City Attorney Linda Sjogren said she hopes will quell the idea within the community the city council will begin using the Big Spring EDC â€” and, more importantly, its tax funding â€” as a revenue source, an idea at the heart of many arguments currently surrounding the proposed 4B project.
â€śWe also added a provision to belay any concerns the city council was going to keep coming back to the well and pushing the EDC in this direction,â€ť Sjogren said. â€śIn the future, if the city council proposes a 4B project and it is approved by the voters, the amount of the (new) project would reduce this project. This was just to show the spirit of the agreement.â€ť
The city of Big Spring has struggled with its water and wastewater systems, most recently being cited by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality numerous times due to high levels of turbidity in municipal waters.
Also during Tuesday's meeting, the city council is expected to discuss ongoing negotiations between the municipality and Alon USA to amend the raw water agreement, an issue that has already been tabled twice.
According to Walker, negotiations between the oil giant and the city are once again expected to go down to the last minute, but she fully expects the council to vote on an agreement during the meeting.
Tuesday's meeting is to get under way at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers, at 307 E. Fourth St. For more information. call 264-2401. A copy of the agenda can be found online at www.mybigspring.com