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Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Mayor proposes savings accounts

By William Kincaid
CELINA - Now that the city has a significant reserve, Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel has proposed creating three savings accounts - an economic development fund, a water line replacement fund and a Montgomery Field fund.
If approved by city council members, $850,0000 would be appropriated to the new accounts.
"This is a situation we haven't been in in a long time," councilman Mike Sovinski said about having reserve dollars.
Council members on Monday night also decided to pay off the $150,958 debt on its industrial park six years early, saving the city $39,290 in interest costs.
The water line replacement account would get $500,000 from the additional half percent income tax approved by voters a few years ago for fire and police protection.
"What we're looking at is funding the critical fire lines for water ... things that are critical that are specifically, directly in support of the fire department and fire protection for businesses and houses throughout the community," Hazel said.
Those lines considered the backbone of the fire department would be eligible for replacement with the funds, safety service director Tom Hitchcock said.
"This is a safety issue, bottom line," councilman June Scott added.
The half percent tax has been funding about $1.5 million of the combined $3 million annual budget for the police and fire departments.
  The Montgomery Field account would set aside $100,000 for the eventual replacement of the synthetic playing surface at Eastview Park.
Bill Montgomery, his family and business together donated $250,000 to install the field in 2007. The city has been repairing the field.
Hazel justified the expense by pointing out the city saved substantial money by switching from a self-insured policy to a fully-insured policy for city employees.
"We no longer have to set aside a large amount of money to accommodate any potential claims out there," Hazel said. "And because that money would have been spent anyway, we could justify the $100,000."
Hazel also proposed an economic development fund to invest in land options and purchases related to site development. He would like to see $250,000 initially appropriated.
"We don't have any land left in our industrial park," Hazel said.
The fund could be used by the city to buy property to allow a business to come in or, more importantly, negotiate to buy an option on a property, Hazel said.
"They (business) could negotiate directly with that property owner as long as we get the option on it," Hazel said. "Because the facts are, our industrial corridor is really 29 going east."
This would allow the city to immediately get options to know where it can expand, he said.
"But that doesn't make us a real estate agent," councilman June Scott said.
"That's exactly right," Hazel replied. "It does not. We have an obligatory duty to making sure to be business friendly, to be able to help businesses coming in that are bringing jobs to town and to develop land."
"It's a great idea," Scott said.
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