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Kilgore OKs pact to widen Texas 42

By Glenn Evans
April 24, 2012 at 11 p.m.

KILGORE - City Council members on Tuesday entered into an agreement that will kick-start a state project to widen the southern portion of the highway linking Kilgore with White Oak.

Gregg County and the Texas Department of Transportation have teamed up on widening and implementing other safety upgrades on Texas 42 from White Oak to Interstate 20.

The council's 3-1 vote Tuesday teams Kilgore, its economic development agency and the county on similar highway improvements from I-20 south to Texas 31.

The agreement, which goes before Gregg County commissioners Thursday, requires the city, county and Kilgore Economic Development Corp. to each contribute $1.3 million to the job's first phase.

If passed by the county and TxDOT, bids on the work could be taken late this year or in early 2013. The agreement states TxDOT has money to complete the job.

"These kinds of partnerships between local entities and the state are just going to be permanent," said County Commissioner Gary Boyd, whose Precinct 3 includes much of Kilgore.

State budget cuts in transportation have been prompting similar partnerships since the early 2000s. Such an agreement, in which local money is injected into a state project, got the now-built U.S, 259 bypass through Kilgore rolling after decades on the state's planning board.

Tuesday's decision came after discussion raised by Councilman Harvey McClendon over a clause allowing the economic development corporation to repay the city its $1.3 million share as late as March 2014.

"We've got some projects coming up where we need the funds also," McClendon said, citing Phase III of downtown Main Street improvements and plans for a citywide sports complex. "I don't want us to wait until 2014 or 2015 to do Main Street Phase III downtown or the public park."

The agreement says Kilgore Economic Development Corp., which is a partner because it is funded through sales taxes, will repay the city by March 2013, if it has the money. It says the full amount will be reimbursed by March 2014 if the corporation has to borrow the funds.

The council was unanimous on a smaller, similar agreement with the same parties to widen a stretch of the bypass for a left-turn lane into Synergy business park.

That project requires $150,000 from each of the three partners.

Also, the council added wording to its alcohol ordinance to allow alcohol to be served within 300 feet of a church if hopes for a nightlife district downtown come to fruition.

Main Street Director Clara Chaffin said she had no prospects for a downtown bar to be established, but a new church was taking over a storefront at 206 E. Main St., where the entertainment district is envisioned.

She also produced a letter from Cornerstone Church saying it did not object to the zoning change.

The change affects only the so-called downtown Main Street overlay area.



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