Ellis County commissioners took no action on a request to approve a tax abatement between the county and Triumph Aerostructures LLC during their meeting Monday night. Instead, the decision will be considered at a special called meeting Thursday.
Mayor Alan Hugley told the commissioners, “This opportunity came to the city five weeks ago. Since then we had to move very quickly to make this happen.” He described the opportunity as one that could have passed “very quickly” as other competitors had vied for the location of the new Vought facility.
Hugley introduced two representatives of the corporation, including Newt Newton, facilities director. Newton described the product to be manufactured at the site along with the makeup of the initial staff and the projected staffing growth.
The product will be a wing assembly for a new developing aircraft built by Bombardier. The aircraft will be the 7000 and 8000 series, which will serve the private and corporate aviation sectors. Production estimates are six in the first year, graduating up to 27 once the aircraft receives its final certification.
The facility will open with about 140 engineers on staff, along with technical staff of which some will be on staff with the remainder to be hired and trained. When the plane reaches full production, there will be 265 employees on site.
Newton said he see growth in the area of support businesses to supply the manufacturing plant as well as business out growth as a result of the population growth.
Commissioner Heath Sims commented on the growth potential and financial impact, saying, “I see this as a great industry. As a county, there are issues we need to adjust.”
No action was taken as the commissioners and county staff wanted to study the abatement request and ensure it meets the guidelines or requires changes to the county requirements before finalizing their decision.
Commissioners heard a report from Kathy Erickson on the county’s redistricting plan and the status of the city of Ennis ward lines.
“We have been advised to proceed with the submission of our redistricting plan to the Justice Department,” she said.
Some of the city’s ward lines cross the newly drawn precinct lines, she said, noting, “Should the city later move their ward lines, then we will have to come back and make revision to our precinct lines in the affected area only.”
County Judge Carol Bush noted that the city of Ennis has until Oct. 31 to make any changes that would match the new precinct lines.
Commissioners took a record vote on a proposed tax rate for the county. After much discussion between the commissioners and County Auditor Mike Navarro, they unanimously approved a maximum rate of $0.413599 per $100 valuation. Bush said this is the maximum rate the commissioners can approve for the 2011-2012 budget.
Giving an overview of the budget, Navarro said there are several areas where there will have to be cuts to staffing and services the county provides.
“We as a commissioners court need to be responsible to the community, but I don’t want us to become far behind in development,” Bush said, telling the commissioners there is a need to maintain and improve the infrastructure to draw future development into the county.
Roads and road maintenance cost became an exchange between the commissioners, who also discussed how redistricting will have an impact as the number of road miles needing maintenance will change between the precincts.
Sims said this year has been harder.
“I’ve seen the results of population growth to the county,” Sims said, describing the increase in commercial truck traffic on county roads the will need to be addressed at some point in time.
“The sheriff’s department and roads are the main priority of the county,” he said, concluding his remarks by saying the budget “needs to shrink.”
Sims suggested a $1.2 million reduction, saying, “Right now, we are passing on poor problems of today for our grandchildren to deal with.”
The commissioners will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, on the proposed budget. Public hearings will be held to discuss the proposed tax Sept. 12 and 21.
The commissioners approved scheduled for the 2011-2012 county payroll, holiday schedule and commissioners court meetings.