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A new fire station?: Groves planning for possible projects

GROVES — With the city’s wastewater treatment plant paid off, Groves officials are looking to the next major project.

A possible project could be construction of a new fire station. The current station was built in 1951 making it 68 years old. And while the building is solid, there are other issues. Sewer lines and water lines are again and the next generation of fire trucks may not fit in the bays.

“The bays were built for trucks made in the 1950s. We’re almost at 2020,” Groves City Manager and director of the Groves Economic Development Corp. D. Sosa said.

When new fire trucks are purchased the dimensions have to be specific to make sure it fits in the station.

Sosa explained that as the debt from the wastewater plant came off the city was able to double the city’s budget for streets, bringing the number to $600,000, and give employees a raise.

The funding

Sales tax helps fund the Groves EDC and the city. One percent of sales of goods and services in Groves goes to the city for operations and a half-percent goes to the EDC. This means the EDC gets about $700,000 from sales tax a year; take away the cost of the economic development incentives plans, grants and other programs, that leaves about $350,000 not committed and there are laws regarding how the money can be used.

“The question is, are the city and the EDC willing to look at reallocating the debt service to the fire station?” Sosa said.

One cost saving factor is that the land for a new fire station is already owned by the city and is located adjacent to the police station.

Should the two entities decide on this option there is a process to go through such as passing a resolution and an ordinance.

Streets

The condition of the city’s streets has long been a topic of contention and was brought up at the recent GEDC meeting.

“No matter what, I want that dedicated to the streets,” Sidney Badon, who is both a councilmember and EDC member, said.

Currently there is the $600,000 for the streets program and the city is looking to receive about $2.4 million from the Texas General Land Office later this year that will go toward the streets program.

Kyle Hollier, also a councilmember and EDC member, asked about upcoming summer and winter street work.

Sosa later explained that curb work, which is performed by a contractor, can be done in the fall and winter as long as the weather is decent and not freezing. Chip seal for streets is a summer project because dry conditions and temperatures above 70 degrees are needed.

City leaders may take a cue from the city of Nederland, where, in 2007, voters approved to take a quarter of a cent from its EDC and move that to its streets program. By law, this has to go before voters every four years.

Some cost factors

The cost to run the police and fire departments in Groves totals about $5 million per year, Sosa said, with the police costing about $3.4 million and the fire department costing about $1.6 million.

This means that property taxes help cover police and fire, he said.

On the downside of the city’s budgetary issues is that the city does not have to collect any industrial taxes like some surrounding cities.

If the city were to go forward with the construction of a new fire station, with an estimated cost of $5-$5.5 million, they could use the estimated $300,000 debt service money and pay it off in about 20 years. To raise revenue enough to get to that pint would mean raising taxes 4.8 cents, which is not an option.

“That’s why the EDC sales tax is so attractive,” he said.

No decision yet

“These are just for discuss and ideas the EDC and city council will have to consider in the upcoming months,” Sosa said.