Bastrop locals discussed their opinion on the incoming USDA housing development at the City Council meeting held on Thursday, March 15.
The USDA housing development to be built near Naff Street is meant to provide housing to local agricultural workers.
Local Tiffany Bayless, with the support of various residents who live near the area where the development is to be built, gave a statement noting her disapproval of the location. She stated the fact that the locals living nearby were given no notice the developments would be built in their area and were not polled for their opinions.
“We were only aware of this after survey stakes had been driven into the ground and we began to question what was taking place,” she said.
Bayless discussed that she felt there were already too many section 8 housing developments in that area and in the city overall which could discourage businesses from opening in Bastrop.
She stated that she and the nearby residents are also worried that it could lower their property value and cause further damage to Naff Street with all the new traffic. She explained that the residents work hard to provide for their families, and they think this company wants to come in and take all they have worked for away.
Bayless also noted that low-income housing could bring crime to the city which she feels is already a problem here.
She voiced her opinion that all the housing is doing is putting money into the pockets of the builders and ended by saying that the community is tired of low income housing and wants a better Bastrop with businesses and revenue.
Mayor Cotton thanked her for her comments and stated though former Mayor Clarence Hawkins who is involved could not be there, he wanted it relayed that the houses are for those who employed.
“These houses are for people who are working in the agricultural industry and they are employed,” Mayor Cotton said.
Councilman Larry Prater asked if the residents had been polled and Mayor Cotton said the council meeting about the housing development was publicized.
“We publicized the meeting and agendas,” he said. “We did everything to let the public know.”
Mayor Cotton noted that the council nullified the agreement for the previous location of the developments near Carter Park because he didn't want all the traffic from the developments near the kids who played there.
Bayless asked about her kids who live in the new area for the development and if they were unimportant.
One local asked if there were background checks for those who would live in the developments.
Mayor Cotton said that the Council didn't know everything about the developments and suggested a public meeting.
“Let's have a public meeting,” he suggested. “I want you to talk to them because we don't have all the answers.”
Councilman Prater stated that he felt not polling the residents was unfair.
It was noted, however, that the agreement most likely cannot be backed out of.
“We gave them permission and could suffer a very serious legal liability if we try to renege on what we've given them,” he stated. “I don't think we can stop it.”
Accountant Cindy Haynes next discussed the city audit highlights.
She reported that the total assets were $25,000,000 compared to almost $28,000,000 last year.
There were $31,000,000 in liabilities and the net position, or net worth, decreased.
Haynes pointed out that the 2018 revenues were $13,100,000 compared to $18,600,000. Expenses were $16,000,000 in 2018 compared to $20,000,000 in 2017.
She stated that the general revenue has been stable throughout the years.
She told the council that the revenue and expenditures of the general fund had stayed about the same, though the expenditures had decreased somewhat. They were both $10 million.
Haynes clarified that taxes made up 74% of the revenue and 14% is inner-governmental.
She said that there was an actual expense of 10.8 million with 26% being general fund expenditures, 28% being fire, and 19% being police. She remarked that everyone stayed fairly within their budget and ended by saying that she believes the city does well with their finances.
“Overall the city of Bastrop does an excellent job taking care of their money,” she said.
It was noted that Bastrop is now off the non-compliance list and that while on it they maintained constant contact with the state auditor and others involved with the audit.
The Council voted on a new member of the Civil Service Board and also discussed the Cleveland Street Bridge.
Councilman Robert Shaw announced that demolition and repairs would begin shortly and take 30 to 40 days.
Mayor Cotton discussed the Martin Luther King Bridge reporting that bidding would hopefully begin on the first of May and construction on the seventh of July.
City of Bastrop Clerk Sandra Goleman noted that a number of residents received all-calls on Wednesday, March 13, through the CodeRED alert system. She explained that this was to test the system, show how it works, and encourage people to sign up for it.
Residents can sign up at cityofbastrop.com.