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Mayor’s Newsletter – July 2018

Greetings from the Mayor’s office. As most know by now the city council elections were held May 05, 2018 and new council members have been seated. Alderman place 1 Ryan Neal, Alderman place 2 Marla Butler, and I all look forward to working with the other council representatives to move the city forward in a positive way.

We have already made progress on a couple of fronts. City Hall will be moving to new offices on Main street, hopefully, by August 01. The new offices will easily accommodate the city’s needs for several years to come and keep vital services in the downtown area. Plus parking will be close by.

The second important item was the new pay scale recently adopted for the police department. Interim City Manager Lane Jones was able to secure a pay raise in the existing budget that brought the police department pay to be more competitive with area cities. Our city had been at a great disadvantage trying to attract and retain officers. The new salary structure puts us close to the other cities in the area and because Van Alstyne is a great place to live, it will now be a great place to seek a law enforcement career.

The city will be sponsoring its annual fireworks show at the football stadium this July 04. The celebration usually starts a few minutes after dark.  This is a great opportunity to get out, meet your neighbors, introduce yourself to strangers, and celebrate our country’s birthday. Please come out and enjoy yourselves. Summertime is a time for family fun, trips, and get togethers. Remember the youngsters are outside playing. Please exercise due caution when driving through neighborhoods. Watch for the children. Another thing to remember is with the temperature as high as it is in the summer, take frequent breaks and drink plenty of liquids. Have a good time but have a safe time. Another, and last summertime warning, is it is against city ordinance to sell, discharge or cause to discharge fireworks in the city.

One issue that has been a constant thorn for both city officials and citizens is water. How we get it, how we treat it, and how we deliver it. It is incredibility complicated how water is delivered from the source to the customer. We get many complaints about the water when it smells, when it tastes strange, and when it doesn’t look the way it should. These are valid concerns and we appreciate you feedback. We receive water from three sources, Lake Texoma, Lake Lavon, and our own wells. Each source has to be uniquely and specifically treated. Rest assured, anytime you have a problem, we have a problem and we spend resources to correct issues as quickly as possible. This has been long term problem but it is an important issue to council, the City Manager, and staff. We are going to see this through.

Since I am new to the council many may not know me yet. My contact information is: Mayor@cityofvanalstyne.us or telephone 903-482-5426. If need be, drop a note by city hall addressed to Steve Riley or Mayor and staff will ensure I receive it.

Mayor Pro Tem’s Newsletter – April 2018

Van Alstyne is experiencing growth at a very fast pace.  In an effort to keep the public updated I am presenting the following list of the latest developments in our area.

Developments in the south area will have a total of 216 homes which makes the total count for the Georgetown area 574 homes.

GEORGETOWN VILLAGE PHASE 2 (Stonehollow) is still in the development stage.  When construction is completed they will have 99 homes.

GEORGETOWN VILLAGE PHASE  3 (Horton) is still developing.  When construction is completed they will have 55 homes.

GEORGETOWN VILLAGE PHASE 4 has been approved for 62 lots. This is located behind the Partin Elementary School.  This development should start construction in the next 30 days.

THE THOMPSON TRACT was annexed and zoned in 2008. This is located on FM 121 west at Jim Jones Road.  There are 136 acres of which 24 are reserved for commercial.  There will be approximately 400 lots inside the city limits. There is a zoning change request that will be presented on April 10th at the city council meeting.  They are planning to start construction this summer.

THE SANFORD PARK DEVELOPMENT has been approved by the city.  There are 111 lots that are located south of the middle school and east and south of Sanford Elementary School.  This is presently under construction.

GREYWOOD HEIGHTS is in their next phase which is along Greywood Drive, south of Spence Road.

The final plat has been approved for 127 lots.  They will be in construction in the next 30 days. CHAPEL CREEK FARMS has been approved and is under construction for 60 one acre lots.  They are located on Hwy. 6 and Judd Road.

ROLLING RIDGE 1, north of Redden Road on Hwy. 5 has not been approved but is in the process of annexation and zoning.  There are 59 one acre plus lots with an anticipated price range of one-half to one million dollars each.

ROLLING RIDGE 2 is for 56 one acre lots on Redden Road.  This will probably be developed in 24 to 48 months.

Van Alstyne has gone from 700 proposed lots to l ,100 and there are more to come.

A Thoroughfare Plan was presented at the March City Council meeting.  The plan serves as a guideline for future traffic planning patterns.   An item of particular interest is that all six lane roads have been removed from the downtown area.  This had been in an earlier thoroughfare plan.  Waco Street (Hwy.5) will be a four lane street and will utilize the existing, in use, right of way for that purpose. Also Hwy. 121 will circle the downtown area on both the north and south sides.

FYI:  Vail and Associated will start their Internal Control Study the second week in April.  The study will be on the Administration and Department of Public Works Departments.  The next City Council meeting will be April 10th. Early and regular city voting will be at Grayson County College, Hwy.121 west.  Early voting starts April 23rd and ends May 1st.    Regular voting is May 5th.

 

Teddie Ann Salmon, Mayor Pro Tern

Mayor Pro Tem’s Newsletter – March 2018

It is nearing that time of year when spring storms and tornado season starts.  We would like to encourage you to register for CODE RED.  This is a free program that notifies you of any emergency in your specific area.  Emergencies such as weather, Amber Alert, Silver Alert, and any problems with the city water system are samples of the type of alerts you would receive.  You do not have to live in the city limits, anyone in Grayson County qualifies for this program. You will need to go to the Grayson County Web site, www.co.grayson.tx.us and go to the directory, click on Emergency Management and click on registration.  If you have a problem doing this, call 903-813-4231. Your safety is important. Also, Fire Chief Dockery would like to remind you that the Red Cross has made available free smoke alarms thru their department.  These are at the Fire Department and available upon request.

Council has approved an lnterlocal Agreement with VATSD regarding a School Resource Officer (SRO). This is a joint effort between the Police Department and the ISD and is financially supported by the school. The hiring process has started with the minimum requirement being 2 years experience as a police officer, preferred SRO experience. The officer will be first and foremost a law enforcement officer. Other news from Chief Barnes is that his department has received a grant from the governor’s office for 9 ballistic bulletproof vests.

Library Director Judy Kimzey announces that Ashley Ramon, Library Circulation and Admin. Assistant is the proud mother of a handsome boy.  Mother and son are doing fine, proud father is still walking on air.

Council approved contracting with Vale and Associates, P.C.  for an lnternal Control Audit that will be for the Administration and Public Works Departments. The cost will be $10,500.00 for the Administration Department and $17,000.00 for the Department of Public Works.

Downtown striping for parking will be done in March.  Striping will be on Preston from Cooper to Fulton, on Marshall from Main to Waco, on North Main from Cooper to Marshall , and on Jefferson from Waco (Hwy.5) to Main.  All parking on Jefferson Street will be striped for parallel parking.

Council has approved the 2018 scheduled cost for street repairs that are to be done by the County. Scheduled on Dallas Street is from Hynds to Fulton, on Kelly from County Line to Houston, on Valley from E. Jefferson to City Limits, on E. Shreveport from John Douglas to Sherman, on Austin from Main to Sherman, and on W. Fulton from Wilkins to Dallas.

March 5th is the starting date for Van Alstyne’s Part-time Interim City Manager Lane H. Jones.  His prior experience includes work as Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, Business Operations for Marine Corps Community Services, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton where he served for 20 years.  He was employed as City Manager in Healdton, Oklahoma before accepting a position here.

CITY EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES – Applications are available online and at City Hall.

Administration-Full time Utility Billing Clerk

Fire Department- Full-time fireman

Police Department-Three openings for full-time police officers

Department of Public Works- Wastewater Operator.  B license required.

 

The next regular City Council Meeting will be March 13th 6:30 p. m., Van Alstyne Community Center.

Teddie Ann Salmon, Mayor Pro Tem

Mayor’s Newsletter – February 2018

Fellow citizens,

            We are well into our typical, off-and-on winter again.  We could use some more precipitation, but we can hope for the kind that doesn’t pile up on the roofs and roads. 

            The first thing I want to take up in this letter is the role and efforts of our Community Development Corporation (CDC):  I’m sure that you are already aware that the CDC serves a different purpose than the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).  The EDC largely presides over the city’s assets in the industrial park.  In this newsletter, I want to applaud the work of the CDC Board and the Director (Rodney Williams) who offer their support for the development of the rest of the city.  In particular, they are striving to bring commerce to our city so that we develop businesses we can all enjoy and support.  The CDC does this in different ways.  They actively seek out the types of businesses that will provide services and products that are perhaps not currently available in Van Alstyne.  If their efforts are not yet quite evident, they soon will be. 

            Existing businesses may also benefit from the CDC’s work, especially through their program for helping businesses to dress up old facades.  If yours is a business that needs some façade updating, you should talk with the CDC – they may be able to help you with some funding.  For example, our former downtown hardware store building was purchased and restored by Kristy Bryant, and she made great use of the CDC’s façade program.  Our senior center has also used the program.  Additionally, the CDC has provided funds for our parks and there is talk of more funding.  I am also proud to say that the CDC is very open to informing city government of its efforts and allowing us to participate in its meetings. 

A very worthy partner for the CDC (and the EDC too) is our Chamber of Commerce, always willing to advocate for new, existing and prospective businesses.  The biggest difference between the CDC and the Chamber is the fact that the CDC receives a portion of the sales tax allocation earned by city businesses while the Chamber raises its own funds. 

The search for a new city manager continues.  Obviously, the interviews being done by the city council will be invaluable and they are still ongoing.  Hopefully a new manager will be chosen soon. 

Keep our May elections in mind.  There are three city council places in play and there are likely to be some contests for those seats.  Voter turnout has not been great in recent past years and I am hoping that our citizens will show increasing interest.  With the changes likely in our near future, voter participation is becoming more and more important. 

I wish you all well. 

Yours truly,
Mayor Larry Cooper

Mayor’s Newsletter – January 2018

December 27, 2017

Fellow citizens,

The new year is here and we’ll all pray for a good year.  New residential growth looks very promising with possibly 300 new homes on developer’s planning boards.  I believe that Van Alstyne’s population will exceed 4,000 by the end of 2018.  We will be due for a new water tower soon, and it will be built near our #5 well, north of Hwy 121 near the college.  The city’s budget is extremely tight, but hopefully we will be pleasantly surprised by tax and enterprise fund receipts.   Commercial development is hard to speculate on.  New commerce will depend largely on the number of residential rooftops that we have, and, as I mentioned, that number will increase. 

Growing pains are inevitable for our city, and some of those will be in the political realm.  I’m sure there was a time when anyone willing to volunteer would get the job he or she sought and serve successfully, but now there are sharper divisions and voters will need to be more selective.  Here, I will say that, thankfully, our Independent School District leadership remains autonomous and they are handling their business exceptionally well without much city government input.  This is a great thing because, right up there with our geographical location, our school district is Van Alstyne’s biggest selling point.  Thank God for our ISD leadership!

In contrast to our ISD, our city council is not united on what is best for our city.  Our elections will become increasingly important.  While it may be more complicated, it appears to me that most generally, the biggest divides concern, not surprisingly, the older part of the city versus newer development.  Nonetheless, I think that no citizen wishes to diminish the character of the older, central part of VA. 

Because of the importance of upcoming elections, I am going to break with my own notion that I should not endorse any candidates for city government places.  Brad Clough is up for reelection this May as Place 1 Alderman.  He has truly been a bright light on our council in his first term and, if he will run again, he should be reelected.  He does his homework and carefully considers his votes.  He is always diplomatic, never vindictive, spiteful, or self-serving.  Brad Clough deserves to be reelected and Van Alstyne needs him.  I hope he will run again. 

Please keep in mind our city staffers who have continued to do their best for our city in spite of politicians who sometimes praise them, and then sometimes wish to micromanage them, or load them up with busywork.  Our city staff has remained dedicated and steadfast.  They deserve everyone’s support. 

Happy New Year everyone!

Yours truly,
Mayor Larry Cooper

Mayor’s Newsletter – December 2017

November 26, 2017

Fellow citizens,

There were other things that had to be included with the last two water bills and so I haven’t written in a while.  I hope everyone is well.  I hope that Thanksgiving was good to you and that you are looking forward to Christmas. 

The rate of growth in VA is not slowing.  Stonehollow and D.R. Horton continue to build in Georgetown.  Stonehollow will soon start their second phase south of Partin Elementary School.  With progress on the new Sanford Elementary School and work on the new housing going up between that school and Blassingame, things are very busy up north.  The Blassingame gap will soon be filled too.  Furthermore, new housing will soon be going up north of the city near Old Highway 6 and more yet north of FM 121 near our college. 

Commercially, things are happening too.  Perhaps everyone has tried our new Jafar’s Mediterranean Grill.  Our downtown is looking better all the time with Jafar’s and with all of the improvements that Kristy Bryant has made to her buildings at Preston and W. Marshall.  If you haven’t tried Jafar’s, you should – and Kristy Bryant’s buildings are bound to attract some great businesses. 

McDonald’s improvements and remodeling are very impressive.  Also, on the east side of 75 and Van Alstyne Parkway, by year’s end there should be two new shops in the Lone Star Mobil station building:  Mi Taco will replace the Burger King, and the TexaKona Coffee Lodge will be opening directly across the aisle.  We also have a very new gift shop in town – The Bluebonnet Floral & Gift Shop is just north of the Exxon and the Home Town Donut shop on N. Waco, and is well worth checking out. 

Planning continues for a new city hall.  It is looking more likely that it will be built near the old public works building.  A portable building on the public works lot may be a temporary home for our administrative staff before too long.  Improvements in our infrastructure continue, along with repairs to old infrastructure.  It is also probable that within the next few years we will be building a new water tower north of west FM 121 near our well #6. 

By the time you get this letter our Community Development Corporation, Keep Van Alstyne Beautiful and the Chamber of Commerce will all have collaborated on decorating Dorothy Fielder Park.  Our Christmas Parade will be on Saturday, December 9th starting at 2 P.M. 

Please pat our dedicated, hardworking city staff members on the back whenever you get a chance.  They all deserve our thanks and well wishes. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

Mayor Larry Cooper

Mayor’s Newsletter – October 2017

October 12, 2017

Fellow citizens,

As most of you already know, Van Alstyne has to begin a search for a new city manager.  The city council and I are asking for input from citizens and we would greatly appreciate as much opinion as we can gather from you.  Neither I nor the council have a great deal of experience in such a search, though we all have thoughts as to what we will need in a new city manager.

There has been some discussion in executive session as to how we should proceed and one unanimous notion was that we will need the thoughts of the citizens.  A more official start of the search will begin as a special called council meeting on Monday, October 23rd at 5:30 P.M. in the community center.  It is our hope that we will have input from you prior to that meeting so that we will be able to sort your comments and recommendations in order to see whatever consensus there is.  The public portion will be very brief.  There will be no time to listen to comments at that time because as soon as the special meeting is convened we will be moving into executive session and try to get off to a good start. 

As for your input, please contact me or your favorite council person via email, phone or whatever means is convenient for you.  Contact information is on the city’s web site.  My own phone number and email is 903-421-3422 and lolincooper@yahoo.com. 

You are free to mention the names of individuals if you like, but what we are more interested in are your thoughts about the qualifications you are most concerned with and also the character traits you would hope for.  For instance, there are post-graduate degrees in city administration and management; there are accountants, engineers and there are individuals trained in emergency management.  As for character traits I think honesty and integrity are givens – otherwise there are individuals who are gregarious, and there are highly skilled men and women who are more reserved.  Do you want a city manager who acts politically or someone who enforces the law with few or no exceptions?  These are just a few examples of the type of person you believe would best suit the city.  You will have many more ideas and adjectives. 

Please keep in mind that we are looking for a person who will head up the executive branch of our local government not a legislator.  Please remember the fact that our form of government here is what is called a city manager plan.  Under this plan the council and I are the legislative branch of local government while the city manager is the chief executive.  The legislature makes the law and the city manager is the person who sees to it that the laws are enforced.  He enforces the law through managing his various departments (public works, police, fire/ems, & etc.). 

One more thing on which we would like you input:  The mayor and council are elected volunteers here and draw no pay.  The city manager should be a skilled executive, and he or she must be paid.  In big, round numbers, how much do you think such a person should be paid in annual salary? 

Of course, the above is just a short list of the kinds of things on which we want your thoughts.  We hope you will have much more to say. 

I thank you in advance for your consideration and assistance. 

 

Best wishes for all of you,

Mayor Larry Cooper

Mayor’s Newsletter – September 2017

August 23, 2017

Fellow citizens,

First, if you didn’t already realize, I write and sign these letters personally.  What I write is not necessarily from the council, though the council and I often agree on things. 

I would like to discuss the shared-use path project.  As much as the project is for safety of pedestrians, folks in wheelchairs, or riding electric scooters and bicycles, it is also for connectivity to important spots in the city, such as schools and work places.  Also important is the chance that the city has, with the federal grant money through TXDOT, to greatly improve our curbs, gutters and streets where the paths run.  Generally, the grant money covers 80% of the costs.  This seems to me to be too good to pass up, especially in areas where sidewalks, curbs and covered drainage are poor or lacking. 

The first real problem with the intended trail came from a 3-2 council vote backing those who did not want the path crossing their front yards on Dallas Street.  I don’t blame them entirely.  A “good idea, but not in my yard” attitude is actually understandable, and the city council listened to these neighbors in a fair hearing held August 18th.  Upon council’s vote, the money proposed for the project was taken out of the city’s fy-2018 budget.  Honestly, I was quite frustrated after the council vote on this issue, but I will just have to get over it.  I was looking forward to doing something for the infrastructure in an older VA residential neighborhood, but the project did not appeal to the neighbors living on Dallas Street.  Dallas appears to be the most straightaway and practical route, but that possibility seems much less likely now.

Once the city gets another plan together, we can get funding back in the budget and extend the path north of Blassingame to the new elementary school and to Palladium.  The great problem will be connecting the path to anything south of Blassingame Street.  I fear that it may never happen.  The shared-path project may continue, but I’m not sure whether it will ever extend into the southern part of the old, central part of the city. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Van Alstyne, building and sales are robust in the new neighborhood additions in Georgetown.  Our downtown work continues, and businesses continue to renovate our older buildings – it is wonderful to see.  Additionally, roughly 300 new single-family homes will likely be built in the Greywood Heights area around Palladium and the new elementary school which was dedicated Thursday, August 10th.  The new school will be named after Bob and Lola Sanford.  This is most fitting because the Sanford’s have contributed greatly to our city for decades now.  They are both dearly loved. 

Buzz about other new businesses and housing continues, but proposals are not firm enough to describe at this time.  Please continue to attend public meetings.  Your voices do make a difference. I need to remind everyone not to flush rags, paper towels or disposable wipes down toilets.  We will soon have a grinder at our waste water treatment plant, and that will help with the above listed items if they get that far, but much of that stuff will clog sewers before it gets to the grinder.  For more information on this visit the City’s website at www.cityofvanalstyne.us and review the information provided along with this newsletter.

 I wish you all well.

Mayor Larry Cooper

Mayor’s Newsletter – July 2017

June 25, 2017

Fellow citizens,

            Welcome to North Texas summer, everyone.  Let’s hope it doesn’t get crazy-hot too often for too long. 

            Our new city council has met already — we will be just fine.  My personal thanks to those who have recently served:  Timmerle Kelly, Billy Plake and Russell Moore.  Let’s hope they all stay involved in Van Alstyne’s future (I’m sure that they will). 

            I want to write informatively about our new Palladium senior living center.  Much has already been written, but I recently attended an informative briefing by authoritative members of Palladium’s senior staff, and I would like to pass some of what I took from that meeting on to you.  This was a public meeting, and it was well attended.  Palladium hopes to begin leasing some of their quadruplex units sometime in October.  The larger, apartment buildings will not be finished by then. 

Hopefully it is well known that the age limit is strictly 62 and older.  Residents may have overnight or weekend guests, but younger family members will not be allowed to move in.  Palladium is to be a pleasant, spacious place for active, adult seniors to live, even with as many as two pets. 

            A few of the financial aspects are worth discussing:  somehow the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs works together with the IRS in subsidizing 100 of the 132 housing units available at Palladium here in Van Alstyne.  These are to be “Affordable Housing” units versus “Low Income” units.  The 32 market rate units may rent from $775 to $975 monthly (at the current rate) while the same units might rent for as little as $650 to $750 monthly, depending on the results of a means test that the IRS dictates. 

            The big news to me, as I understood it, was that the above-mentioned means test is all about your monthly income, not your assets.  What this says to me is, for instance, if you own a home on a lot, you might sell or keep that property in your estate and it is not included in the means (monthly income) test.  If, however, you choose to rent the house (or otherwise draw monthly income from it), then that adds to your monthly income and it will have a detrimental effect on your means test.  For more information, call Palladium at 903-956-0140.  I understand that they have many callers, and they have not yet begun to establish their waiting list for apartments, but they are good for information.  I hope not to mislead anyone. 

            In other news, the City has annexed 16-plus acres just northeast of Palladium for a new planned development.  There may be around 200 new homes going up there before long.  Construction is going well in our other three large developments. 

            I hope to see you all at the 4th of July fireworks show behind the high school. 

Best regards,

Mayor Larry Cooper 

Mayor’s Newsletter – June 2017

May 24, 2017

Fellow citizens,

Much of this newsletter is reprinted from the notes I wrote for the Van Alstyne Leader May 26 edition.  The topic below is an important one, and since this newsletter gets more distribution I decided to put the information out again.

The new council has a quandary with which we will need your help.  This city council will be divided regarding what to do about how and where we will eventually improve our city government & services facilities.  It is important that we begin a dialog now with our citizens on elements of this decision.  Let me say that, though there has been some turnover, this will be a great new city council, though divided already on some issues.  There is nothing wrong with that; the debates will be healthy. 

This decision will be extremely important for our city.  There are pros and cons to be considered, all depending on where we want to build our city hall, police station, EMS station and library.  There are basically two schools of thought among council members: 

1.       Build on property already owned and occupied by city facilities (i.e., current police, EMS/fire and public works facilities; or

2.       Buy new property and prepare to develop our city government facilities there, leaving the previously city occupied lands open for sale and development by future retail/commercial development. 

 The first option may appeal to some.  The biggest pros are that the city already owns the property, and some believe that having city government facilities included in our old downtown could enhance the old, downtown ambiance.  A problem with this option will be that the facilities built will be pretty much landlocked and unable to grow when more office space, or more parking space is needed.  Another problem would be some inefficient shuffling of the existing facilities as they are rebuilt.  A third problem is that the space availability for new retail business or entertainment facilities (and the parking space needed for those) will be restricted, forcing new storefronts to locate away from city center. 

For what it’s worth, I prefer the second option.  Building new, turn-key facilities for essential services like police, fire/ems and administration would be much less disruptive for them.  Space could also be included for some ball fields.  Space for new retail and commercial businesses, and the necessary parking space, near our downtown would benefit our city.  Option 2 might also open an opportunity for a downtown, city owned recreational venue like an amphitheater, band box or water feature. 

Much more needs to be explored; a site for a new government campus, for instance.  Obviously, I am biased in favor of the second option, but there are council members in favor of the first.  Please contact your favorite alderman, or each of us, and let us know what you think. 

I am also announcing another Annual Friends of Scouting Car Show to be held Saturday morning, June 17th.  Twenty-eight classes of motorcycles and cars will be judged, and there will be a cook-out and rummage sale, all for the benefit our scouts.  I hope to see you all there.  Elvis will be there. 

Yours truly,

Mayor Larry Cooper