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Gregg County tables Dansby school demolition vote

By Glenn Evans
Dec. 17, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Gregg County commissioners tabled a proposal to help Kilgore demolish an abandoned school Monday on news the city might win a federal grant to clear the site for housing.

Monday's non-action was the latest in a series of steps, and some missteps, in Kilgore's plan to replace the shuttered Dansby School with housing proposed by an Austin developer seeking tax credit status to lure investors.

Kilgore's contribution to the tax credit application submitted by developer Herman & Kittle is the $193,000 cost of clearing the site. The old school, which was closed in 1969 when the school system was integrated, also needs asbestos abatement.

"Something has come to light," County Judge Bill Stoudt told commissioners. "There may be some federal assistance in rehabbing this property."

Stoudt spoke before a motion could be made on sending $23,700 to Kilgore for the county's 12.3 percent interest in the Dansby land and building.

The property was seized by the taxing entities after an owner, who bought it after it closed, failed to pay taxes. Attempts to sell it at public auction have produced no buyer, City Manager Scott Sellers has said.

Sellers said later Monday the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs had contacted his office last week with an intriguing offer. The state agency administers the Neighborhood Stabilization Program for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The HUD grant program was established for communities battered by foreclosure or abandonment.

"They said there's a grant and it looks like this proposal would qualify," Seller said. "Apparently, there are some funds remaining in that program, and they are looking at projects to close out the year."

Sellers said he would visit the Kilgore ISD school board Monday night to discuss the commitment trustees already made to contribute up to $50,000 to Dansby's demolition. He said he also had emailed Kilgore College where trustees had placed the item on tonight's meeting agenda.

Sellers can be expected to ask for the money again if the grant doesn't materialize, and Stoudt on Monday noted a moral commitment by the county.

That commitment began when Precinct 3 Commissioner Gary Boyd agreed to Kilgore's request for a road and bridge crew to raze the property. County Auditor Laurie Woloszyn put the brakes on that idea because those crews can perform only work described in state statutes. and demolition isn't in there.

District Attorney Carl Dorrough later determined the county could contribute a share of the demolition cost equal to its ownership percentage.

Sellers said the state agency contacted his office after reading news accounts of the legal hurdles being negotiated.

"This could be good," he said. "This was just totally out of the blue. They said they'd been following the newspaper articles about the Dansby School. And, 'We administer this program, and you might qualify.' "

Developer Herman & Kittle Properties is applying for tax credits to parlay into investment funds to build some 60 town homes on the five-acre site. Company representative Stacy Kaplowitz told the Kilgore City Council on Nov. 13 the company hopes to provide restricted-rent housing for working low- and moderate-income families.

The city, which is trustee for the other government owners, sold the site to the developer for $10. The nominal amount was allowable, City Attorney Robert Schleier said, after the lot reverted to the governments for back taxes and did not sell at public auction.

The estimated development cost is $8 million for the group of one- and two-story, low density town homes, Kaplowitz said.

In other action Monday, commissioners were unanimous in granting a six-year, $31,200 tax abatement to a plastics maker planning to move into a manufacturing site on Jordan Valley Road that's been idle since 2011.

Dallas Plastics will invest $5.8 million and create 65 new jobs during that six-year span, Longview Economic Development Executive Director Susan Gill told the court. The company will risk the incentive package if it doesn't fulfill the jobs and investment promise, she said, adding that progress reports to LEDCO are included in the incentive contract.

Commissioners also OK'd a five-year incentive package for Capacity of Texas, forgiving $15,900 in taxes to help the company invest $2.5 million and add 40 jobs within three years.



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