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Hallsville growth sparks interest in city face-lift

By Sherry Koonce
July 5, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Beautifully lit downtown streets, new playground equipment beckoning children to city parks and updated storefronts are just a few of the ideas generated by Hallsville city officials as they look toward future beautification plans.

In the past decade, the small community's population has grown from 2,200 to 3,577 residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing.

In preparation for future growth, the city is in the process of forming a beautification committee that would determine ways to enhance Hallsville's appearance.

"It's time to give Hallsville a fresh look," Mayor Jerri Medrano, said. "We have a lot of neat old buildings that need a face-lift, and we want to give people driving into the city a really good impression."

Council members at their July 17 meeting are expected to nominate six to eight Hallsville residents to serve on a committee charged with crafting a plan to beautify the city.

Once the plan is in place and approved by the council, city officials hope to find grant money to pay for the projects and will also enlist the help of residents.

"We plan on having plenty of fundraisers, getting the businesses involved and get citizens' ideas on what they envision Hallsville to be," Medrano said. "It's time to start thinking about a bigger Hallsville."

For years, it was easy to drive right through the bedroom community between Longview and Marshall on U.S. 80 without much more than a glance.

That was before the city's school district put it on the map, according to officials.

Each of the past five years, Hallsville ISD has seen an average increase of about 150 students, said Carol Greer, spokeswoman for the district.

With the added students come additional staff, teachers and family members, many of whom moved inside the city limits.

Though the city is growing, its small size - 4.7 square miles - should make beautification efforts easier to accomplish, Medrano said.

"What we need to do is preserve the old to retain the city's small town charm, but add some new to spruce things up," she said.

Newly-elected City Alderman Tim Hatten is on board with beautification efforts - especially in the city's downtown area.

"We have great schools, great people in this community. I would like he downtown area to be attractive," Hatten said.

He's in favor of possibly putting city ordinances in place that would suggest how downtown buildings should look.

The ordinances would have to have some teeth, he said, if they are to be effective.

"We have new buildings that have gone up in the last years," Hatten said. "They really do enhance the city. What we don't want is rundown buildings, or dilapidated buildings."

In some cases, it would not take more than a willing attitude and some paint to spruce up the city's downtown, he said.

In other cases, the city has needs that go beyond beautification efforts, such as installing new playground equipment, looking at infrastructure for a growing population or taking down an aging water tower.

Since the city started using the new water tower at the high school this past year, the old one - built in 1938 and in the middle of downtown - has set idle.

The water tower was decommissioned and the water drained out about six months ago.

Now, city officials are trying to decide what to do with the relic.

Taking the tower down comes with a hefty price tag of about $40,000 charged by companies that specialize in water tower demolition, Medrano said.

She said the city has been contacted by a potential buyer who wants the property the tower is located on - but not the tower.

That buyer might be willing to pay for the tower's removal, if the city were to sell the property at a nominal price, she said.

Many residents have voiced a desire to upgrade the city's Christmas decorations and take advantage of the city's midway location between Longview and Marshall.

Both cities attract tourists during the Christmas season, so why not put Hallsville on the Christmas trail, Medrano suggested.

City entrances on U.S. 80 also need to be upgraded, she said.

"We are growing, and with growth you can either suck the resources right out of a town, or put some more into it and grow with the population. What we need is some different eyes looking at the city," she said.

"That's what we want the committee to do - to look at the city and give us a plan," Medrano said.

Once the council names the committee members, likely at the next board meeting, the members will select a name for their committee.

Medrano said she believes the group will get to work immediately once formed.



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