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LEDCO OKs funds for armory purchase

By Mike Elswick melswick@news-journal.com
Nov. 28, 2012 at 11 p.m.

The board of directors of Longview Economic Development Corp. on Wednesday approved allocating $300,000 to the city for use toward the purchase of the former Texas National Guard Armory - with concerns.

Keith Honey, president of the board of directors, said the money is in addition to $600,000 in LEDCO funds already budgeted to go to the city for infrastructure and related projects not directly connected to the entity's primary mission of economic development.

The LEDCO board unanimously passed a motion by Joe Bob Joyce authorizing the allocation of the $300,000 with the stipulation a letter be sent to city officials expressing concern about future attempts the city might have to seek LEDCO funds.

"We want to be flexible and we realize this is public money," Honey said. "But we also want to express our concern about the level of continuing LEDCO support for these 4B projects with declining sales tax revenues."

While LEDCO was originally set up to support economic development under section 4A of the state code that established how sales tax revenues funding the entity could be spent, its scope was expanded in the 1990s to include other expenditures, such as water and sewer lines, streets, parks and more. Those projects are referred to as 4B under state code.

"We've been a good partner with the city on these 4B projects," Honey said. But board members also want to ensure LEDCO has adequate funds available if opportunities become available to attract new industry.

In 2000, Longview approved allocating a portion of the -cent share of local sales tax revenues dedicated to economic development to be used to fund other city needs.

The city has leased the 5-acre armory property at 307 American Legion Blvd. for use as a fire department training facility, but the state has indicated it would like to sell the property. The city has first right of refusal on the building, but would have to find another place for the fire department to conduct training and store equipment if the sale does not go through.

The City Council plans to consider the purchase during its Dec. 13, regular meeting.

In other business the LEDCO board heard a report from Dean Barber, president and CEO of BarberBusiness Advisors on the status of certifying Longview's business parks. He said the certification process by a third party not connected to LEDCO helps provide assurance to potential business and industry officials that the site is "shovel ready" for development with all infrastructure and zoning issues handled.

"Having certification gives credibility to your sites - it's a marketing tool that ensures everything has been fully documented," Barber said. His firm has been working with LEDCO since July and is nearly ready to certify LEDCO's business park sites, he said.



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