By BECKY KISER
Is it a road to nowhere or bridge to somewhere?
Hays Mayor James Meier Thursday voted against improvements to East 41st Street from Home Depot east to Vineyard Park, calling it a “road to nowhere” and a “project in search of a problem.”
Commissioner Ron Mellick voted with the majority for the improvements, which include grading, pavement, storm sewer and waterline. The low bid of $629,133.50 was from Paul-Wertenberger Construction, Hays, and was less than the engineer’s estimate.
“I look at this as a ‘bridge to somewhere,’ ” Mellick countered. “You can’t develop on either side of the actual road. I think this is a bridge out to where a developer can afford to put in housing or even commercial.”
Meier clarified in discussion that he respects those who intended to vote for the project but pointed out over the past few years the commission has discussed whether development or infrastructure should come first.
“It seems to me that through those conversations we’ve come to the clear conclusion that putting in streets, water and sewer does not give us development,” Meier said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing here, spending money on infrastructure in the hope that something will develop and there’s absolutely no evidence to show that’s going to happen.”
Vice Mayor Henry Schwaller recalled the Phase II development “has been planned since the beginning when we entered into the agreement with Home Depot and the developer.”
“Our goal then as it is now was to connect Vine Street to Commerce Parkway,” Schwaller said. “This isn’t a ‘road to nowhere’ because it is our intention to see growth happen to the north and particularly to the east, and that’s why we took an option on a piece of ground at the other [east] end of this road.”
“I think we were making a statement when we purchased an option on that property,” agreed Commissioner Sandy Jacobs, “and I would love to see that street go all the way from Vine Street to Commerce Parkway. Having the ability now with the funds from the TDD money is a very good way to do this.”
Projects for Phases I and II totaling $4.4 million were approved in 2004 by a TDD ordinance and a 3/4-cent sales tax was enacted April 1, 2005, both for a maximum 22 years. The city then issued $1.77 million in TDD sales tax bonds to finance Phase I.
The TDD tax outperformed projections allowing the Phase I bonds to be called early and completed in January 2018. It was determined the 3/4-cent TDD sales tax could continue until March 2027 to fund a portion of Phase II improvements.
The Home Depot Transportation Development District currently includes Home Depot, IHOP, Hampton Inn, Town Place Suites by Marriott, JT Travel Plaza, Taco Grande, and an undeveloped area for 47,000 square feet of retail space.
According to Rupp, the TDD has collected a total of $2,730,214 over the last 163 months, averaging $247,000 annually the past three years.
“We project TDD sales tax revenue to increase to $282,000 per year. Based on these provisions, we agree the current annual TDD sales tax collections would support debt service, whether a bond issue or repayment of city idle funds.”
“I appreciate your recommendation on the idle funds,” said Jacobs, a retired banker. “I’m glad you analyzed it all the way around. That savings of $13,500 means a lot.”
Commissioners also voted 4-1 to adopt a resolution authorizing the improvements and providing for payment of costs.