Lindale residents were updated on the financial stability, goals and accomplishments of the key city institutions at its annual state of the city address Thursday evening.
The address included the city, chamber of commerce, economic development corporation and Lindale ISD.
Mayor Robert Nelson said the key accomplishments for 2013 included improvements downtown, adding entryway signs and completing a federal home grant to build three homes. He said the city qualified to be able to build six homes but only three were approved.
“This is great for the city,” he said. “It puts the residents in the new home, their home values goes up in all cases so the city gets a tax break when this happens.”
Nelson said the city received a $2.7 million grant to update sewer lines and touted a AAA credit rating and low employee turnover as assets to the city. Expenditures are below revenues and sales tax revenues reached a record high. The city also touts the lowest tax rate in its history, Nelson said.
Nelson said current projects include building a $1.7 million water tower with bond funds over the next year and a half to two years, adding more gateway signs and continuing work on Blackberry Square, which is a new park planned downtown in out-of-use cannery facilities.
He said the work on Pickers Pavilion, a farmer’s market and event spot created out of the old Allen Cannery, is nearly complete and drawing interest from people wanting to rent the facility.
He said plans for the first convention center in the city, Harvest Convention Center, also are underway.
“This building might not look like much now, but the city has plans and eventually all the dinners and luncheons we are having eventually we are going to bring them back here,” he said.
In the fire department, a new rescue unit and tanker truck was added to its arsenal. Overall, the department responded to 1,375 calls, 185 fires, 252 collisions and 12 rescues.
In the police department, officers underwent added Taser and other training. It responded to 10,200 calls, 385 accidents, made 3,474 traffic stops and made more than 250 arrests.
Superintendent Stan Surratt said the district is “outperforming every other school in East Texas academically” with the highest state rating on the state’s standardized test at each campus. He said the district also outperformed the state average in math, reading, science, social studies and writing categories.
Surratt said the district is in financial good standing with high ratings on the comptroller’s and Texas Education Agency standards.
A tax ratification election was approved by Lindale voters, adding a 2-cent increase on the maintenance and operations side of its budget. Surratt said the district plans on using the additional $275,000 annual income toward technology initiatives.
The district has a scheduled plan with more than 1,200 tablets to be dispersed in Spring 2014 and an additional 800 each year thereafter. By 2017, the district anticipates having a tablet in the hands of every student from sixth grade through 12.
The district also spent $800,000 on improvements to its AG facility and upgraded several driveways and parking lots, Surratt said.
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Shelbie Glover, executive director of the Lindale Chamber of Commerce and director of tourism, advocated for residents to shop locally and gave highlights on upcoming events in the city that are anticipated to increase sales tax revenues.
She said the chamber is celebrating its 30th year, and focused on advocating to shop in Lindale first.
“When you go online, you’re not helping your local business community,” she said. “So many times organizations are asking for sponsorships … (but) when it comes time to buy things you go elsewhere. If you do that for too long, there will be no one to come to ask for those sponsorship dollars.”
Ms. Glover said for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 stays local. At a chain or franchise, $43 stays in the local economy and when it’s bought online, no money stays local.
“If everybody keeps going online to do their shipping, before too long there aren’t going to be mom and pops around,” Ms. Glover said.
She told attendees to mark their calendars for the annual Lindale Championship Rodeo, which will be held from May 15 through May 17, and Countryfest will come around on Oct. 11.
The chamber is also using its efforts to promote events to help raise money for the family of Joe Yeakley, a Lindale firefighter who was severely burned in a house fire.
“It’s a whole community that’s hurting right now,” she said. “They need lots of prayers.”
John Clary, economic development corporation president, said the star of 2013 was the downtown area.
The Lindale Candy company opened back up under new ownership downtown, the Lindale Community Theater took up a spot, and the Pink Pistol and a new art studio helped fill the downtown business sector, he said. The city turning the old canning facilities into Blackberry Square have also helped draw people downtown.
Clary touted the success in bringing FedEx to its business park and the possibility of new businesses coming to the area. He is not permitted to disclose the potential new businesses yet, but said he was confident the city would welcome new businesses to the center in the next few years.
The corporation is also busy promoting the city to new businesses. He said the primary way they do that is through its website, which has won multiple awards.
“I get calls from other economic development corporations or site location specialists that are very complimentary of our website,” Clary said.
He said a small city near San Antonio called him this week to ask if they could copy the layout of its website.
“It makes me really proud,” he said.
The EDC is also appearing at trade shows to market the city, he said.
The city saw the highest number of building permits in the history of the city, and upcoming projects include additional homes, a retail facility that will likely be on U.S. Highway 69, a new restaurant in the old Juanita’s location and added tenants in its industrial park, he said.