FERRIS – Members of the Ferris City Council and city staff heard a proposal for a program from Economic Development and Main Street Director Charles Dart for funding future improvements to the city’s historic district.

“There are no current needs, but this will generate the funds for future improvements,” Dart said.

His proposal was for the city to create a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ).

“A TIRZ is an economic development tool created, monitored and regulated by the city and exist to finance public improvements and enhance infrastructure within a defined area,” City Manager Dennis Burn said.

Burn went on to explain to the council this was not an action item for this meeting, but an information item and a chance for council members to gather information and ask questions. Through an illustration, Dart detailed how the TIRZ works.

“The zone and its real property base values are established, real property assessed values increase, increase in real property value (incremental) is used to pay for new infrastructure in the designated zone and when the zone expires, taxing jurisdictions retain total tax revenue.” Dart said.

If the council approves the formation of the TIRZ, there are several steps that must be taken ending with an administrative agreement with the city.

Mayor Bill Pardue had several questions for Dart regarding the board's size, meeting schedule and the cost associated with TIRZ.

“I’m not opposed to it at all. I think it is a pretty good deal. I just want to get the pencil sharpened and take a closer look at the cost,” Pardue said.

The next step to start the process is for the city to issue a 60-day written notice of intent to form a TIRZ. Also both formal and informal presentations to affected taxing agencies must be made.

Another project brought to the council by Dart was the creation of a park in the present alley way between the south side of West Sixth Street, between Church Street and Main Street.

The concept of the park was the original idea of Ferris High School senior Jasmine Ibarra. Ibarra was present at the meeting and was introduced to council members by Dart.

“This is a concept that I feel is very intriguing,” Dart said. “The concept of the park was Jazmine’s idea.”

Dart explained that the park could possibly be used as a lunch location, hosting parties and showcasing community artist. He showed the council some proposed looks for the park which included murals on neighboring building walls, shrubbery, benches, tables and walking paths. The creation of the park would require the city to close the current alley way.

Pardue brought forth some concerns about the concept of the park, those concerns included utilities and the present condition of the area.

“I don’t want to see plants dug up to replace an underground line,” Pardue said

There was also concern about the safety and the affect that closing the alley would have on the police and fire departments.

Fire Chief Tim Birdwell said he was not in opposition to the park, and offered a solution about where his vehicles could park.

“We will not put a truck in any area that is smaller than the height of the nearest building,” Birdwell said.

Police Chief Sam Love expressed several concerns with the park and its location in a narrow area.

“I do not want to create a place that would be unsafe,” Love said. “Anytime you create an area like that, you create an attraction for criminal activity.”

Pardue told Dart that he didn’t want to discourage the project, because of what someone might do.

“I think it’s a very worthwhile project for the city,” Pardue said.

If council gives approval of the park, Dart said it would be funded by the 4B Economic Development Corporation. The corporation’s contribution is $60,000.

Following Darts presentation, Council Woman Carole Wright thanked Ibarra for her insight and the work she put into the presentation for the park.

The other discussion item before the council was an equipment update on the purchase of a new fire truck and the condition of existing equipment.

By the end of the month, the city will take delivery of a new truck that will be named Engine 101. The truck is being purchased by Emergency Service District number 5.

“This is the first new engine the department has had since 1994,” Birdwell said.

The department will take delivery by the end of January. The ESD will be selling present Engine 101 to Bristol. Engine 102 is presently in Mansfield for repairs.

“There are several issues that need to be addressed,” Birdwell said. “This is our second out unit.”

There were no items that required council action other that the approval of past meeting minutes and the approval of expenditures.