Stafford’s “State of the City” address held

By Karen Daniels 

This year’s town meeting speech began with Mayor Scarcella’s recap of 2013’s successes, most notably the City of Stafford’s fiscal responsibility that has made them an “undeniable leader.” At the end of this year the City will become debt free after paying off the remaining general obligation debt of $220K.

In 1995, back when Stafford still imposed a city property tax, the general obligation debt was at $15M. The Mayor credits the financial turnaround to two things: the elimination property taxes and living within their means. The general fund saw an increase of $775K from last year; total sales tax revenues were at $9.3M.

Other accomplishments include the no-smoking ordinance, the City’s economic developments, SMSD’s expansion completion, the 10 year anniversary of the Stafford Centre, Stafford’s cultural and racial diversity, and the Texas Instruments property redevelopment.

The Mayor said the City had “a solid working relationship with the projected purchaser of the Texas Instruments property.” Street Level Investments was listed on the agenda to speak about the project at the town hall meeting; however, cancelled their appearance the day before. According to City Attorney, Art Pertile, “They have not closed on the property.” It was said that Street Level plans to reschedule in the future.

As for the goals for 2014, Mayor Scarcella spoke of developing a robust economy, resisting attempts for a bloated bureaucracy, and assessing the emergency services costs and benefits. The fire department has an ISO 1 rating which can reduce commercial and residential insurance rates. The Mayor said, “A careful analysis based on verifiable information recently formulated suggests the insurance savings are minuscule while demanding a continued upward spiral of substantial outlays for staffing and equipment to meet this constantly elevated and expensive target.”

The last comprehensive development plan for Stafford was conducted in 1971. City Engineer, Charles Russell, initiated the new plan which was recommended by the P&Z Commission and approved by Council during the last quarter of 2013. Phase 1 is beginning now, and Phase 2 and 3 will take place throughout most of 2014. Dan Sefco with Freese and Nichols, the engineering firm hired to formulate the plan, spoke at the town meeting and announced that the first input meeting would be held on April 9 at the Stafford Centre. The CDP is expected to be completed by early 2015.

Stafford has also just signed a contract with Catalyst Commercial, a retail consulting and market research firm, to “provide assistance in attracting quality retail” to the area. Jason Claunch gave a presentation on their company and strategic plan that will take approximately three months. He stated that the current worker on average spends $200 per week on retail. Their report will include an “alignment for the public and private objective and will maintain within the market reality.”

An upcoming topic that will be part of the 2014 Council agenda calendar will be to address the City’s technology information needs. Council and the SEDC are currently conducting public hearings to approve the hiring of a consulting firm to help consider the broad set of options available that are “prudent, warranted, affordable, and have a reasonable life expectancy.” This could include cameras, license plate readers, facial recognition software; tools used to prevent and deter criminal activity. “The course Stafford takes will have a major bearing on its operational competence going forward.” The final vote to move forward will take place on Tuesday, January 28. Upon approval, $50K ($25 from SEDC and $25K from Stafford) will be allocated for consultant fees.

Council members and the Mayor thanked the citizens, staff, and emergency personnel for their part in the City’s accomplishments.

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