Know your candidates: Springtown City Council

The Springtown Epigraph posed the following questions to candidates for a seat on the Springtown City Council

1. In 200 words or less, describe yourself, why you’re seeking this position, what you hope to bring to the council, and any experience that would benefit you if elected as a council member.

2. The level of debt, according to the budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018, is $13.9 million. The city also has several pressing infrastructure needs that will possibly necessitate the issuance of additional debt. After the election, the council will begin its budget process for the 2018-19 fiscal year. What plan of action would you take to ensure the city is able to make the necessary upgrades and repairs to its infrastructure both in the short- and long-term future without overburdening tax payers?

3. The city is in the midst of a five-year step-up restructuring of its water and sewer fees based on a 2016 rate study. Many citizens have complained that the utility rates in the city are already unaffordable. Will you vote to continue the increases as prescribed to keep up with the rapidly increasing cost of water and sewer service or would you encourage the council to investigate other ways of funding its utility services such as selling the water works to Walnut Creek S.U.D. as has been discussed in the past?

4. Parker County is set for a population and development boom over the next decade. Unincorporated areas of the county, Weatherford, and eastern cities are already experiencing this. As a member of the council, what do you believe the city should do to facilitate and plan for the coming growth? What actions could the city take to attract development to Springtown?

Here are the answers we received.

Place1
Annette Burk
1. I am running for reelection for Place 1 on our city council, and I would like to share with you my vision. As a lifelong resident of Springtown, and a retired school teacher, my heartfelt desired to be a good steward of the taxpayers’ dollars, maintain a balanced budget, and consistently try to rectify the city’s problems. Springtown is the city where I live and worship, and I sincerely hope my efforts will be pleasing to the citizens of Springtown and more importantly, to my Lord. In the past several years, there have been many projects which enhanced our lives in Springtown: Better access from Hwy. 51 to Hwy. 199 and vice versa; an attractive, functional park; improvement of water quality; flood control by widening Walnut Creek; and new and more efficient waste water system. Some improvements are ongoing such as repairing and replacing water lines and continuing street improvements. Other ongoing projects are a solid push for economic development, not only to push for new business, but for our current businesses to be successful. We are striving to bring in additional housing and commercial development so that we can maintain a solid tax base. A partnership with the county for the completion of Williams-Ward is on the forefront.
2. It is true that Springtown is facing problems with an aging infrastructure. I believe the best approach is to prioritize projects based on immediate need. As a city we will need to explore all available options to finance some of the needed projects. Partnership with developers building new infrastructure will become crucial. These partnerships may help offset the cost of upgrades. As a municipality there are also a variety of financing options available. Once we determine the need, we can explore the best way to facilitate the plan that has the least amount of impact to the tax sale or water sale. A prime example of cost savings is the SWIFT funding the city reserved to pay for the drilling of additional wells. This funding is low interest rate loan available to cities through the state water development board.
3. The case study does call for significant increases over the next several years. Water sales are a part of an enterprise fund for the city. This fund is expenditure-based, meaning we pay for the cost of water production and distribution. This cost makes up the majority of a citizen’s water bill. We have to collect enough funds to cover this cost. I am open to exploring new ways to reduce this cost and continue to provide quality water to our citizens and businesses. Before I can decide how to vote on any increase, I will need to see all of the proposed costs for water and wastewater. I intend to vote in a manner that allows us to provide this needed service and the least amount of sale impact.
4. Growth for Springtown is going to happen. We must be prepared for the growth. Ordinances that govern quality growth will need to be in place as well as enforced. Recently, I helped to pass a new economic incentive program for the city of Springtown. This new policy will help govern the incentives we offer to developers and will keep the council in check so we don’t “give away the farm” so to speak. I will work to continue to put in place the policies we need to enhance quality growth. What attracts people to Springtown is the small community feel. I want to preserve that quality of life. So, as we prepare for growth, I want to make sure our preparedness does not stifle the community spirit. I think this is best done by receiving businesses that complement our community. We need to be proactive in recruiting these types of development. We can attract development by offering quality of life amenities and structuring any tax incentives to best serve our citizens.

Brad Baltzell
Brad Baltzell
1. I have lived in Springtown for 35 years and I am a single parent raising my 16 year old daughter Alyssa. We attend Hilltop Family Church. I am blessed with a servants heart and always looking for a way to help others. I drive the trolley at church every other Sunday and the Awanna van on Wednesday nights for the past 7 years. When my daughter was in elementary school I helped implement a program called “Watch D.O.G.S.” (Dads of Great Students) to get dads more involved with their children’s schooling. I was involved with my daughter’s girl scout troop for 7 years and now currently a Band Dad. I am a member of the former Tabernacle Committee and the SISD. “TRE PAC”.[Tax Ratification Election Political Action Committee] Also I am involved with “Project Faith Works” rehabbing homes. Currently I serve on Neighbor to Neighbors and the Chamber Of Commerce Board of Directors. As you can see I want to serve my fellow man. I believe in taking ownership in what you believe in and that is improving the quality of life in Springtown for it’s citizens.
2. Our debt is a major concern with me. We currently owe over 14 million dollars. Our infrastructure is in need of serious repairs. Currently we are repaying on that debt with 50 percent of of our property tax revenue. That rate should be around 20-25 percent. There simply isn’t any money left to make the repairs and improvements that are needed without going into further debt. And that is not fair to the 3,000-plus citizens that live inside the city limits when our streets and infrastructure is used by thousands that live all around Springtown. We need more revenue to accomplish this. The addition of new homes will help some but not nearly enough to put a dent in it. The only way is to bring new business to our city. I know some don’t want our town to grow but would you rather pay higher taxes to help pay this debt and we still won’t get all the improvements that are needed without borrowing more money.
3. Unfortunately our water and sewer rates seem high for a small town such as ours. The rates will continue to go up. There is no simple answer here. Debates are ongoing about if we should sell our water works to Walnut Creek. Who’s to say they won’t go up on our rates if we sell to them. This is something that needs further study and I will not vote on this issue until I am sure that it is in the best interest of our citizens financially. In the mean time something does need to be done to help with current water rates. I intend to exhaust every possibility to keep rates as low as possible.
4. Economic Development is crucial to our city. We simply don’t have time to waste on this matter. This is not a short term process. It takes a lot of time and effort to attract businesses. Our last Economic Development Agency was just fired because of the amount of money that was paid out to them with little results in new businesses. The thing is it takes years to attract businesses and we are just now starting to see the results or their efforts. Land has been sold for new businesses that are building here soon. It takes money to make money and if we don’t stay aggressive on trying to attract new business then they simply will build somewhere else. We need this to be a priority with someone dedicated to doing this full time. Our current City Manager David Miller is more than qualified and has the experience to do it but I think we need someone with the contacts, the time to go to trade shows, and that’s all they do for a living.

Michele Kelley

Place 2
Michele Kelley
1. I am currently serving the citizens of Springtown in Place Two. I was appointed to fill the vacancy in July 2017. Being a voice for our citizens is something I take very seriously. I have a very strong desire to continue serving and to continue listening to what the citizens want. Springtown is where I chose to raise my daughters so, I’m passionate about making Springtown the best it can be for everyone. I am committed to continue addressing the wants and needs of every citizen and making decisions that are best for the city as a whole. I’m not afraid to make hard decisions, and I will speak out when necessary. I am very skilled at research and I do my “homework” before voting on every issue brought to council. I believe it is my duty to be well informed of the pros and cons before rendering a vote that affects the citizens. Seven years in accounting with a large aerospace and defense company sets me apart. I was responsible for large money budgets and payments of contracts with the Department of Defense, Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security. Honesty and integrity are embedded strongly in my character.
2. Considering the age of the infrastructure for the City of Springtown, it’s inevitable improvements must be made. Aging infrastructure can fail at any time and we must respond to those repairs. Unfortunately, these types of repairs are costly. Given the size/placement of the pipes, costs oftentimes can be thousands of dollars. Council must explore the most viable and cost-effective ways to make needed repairs/replacements. I was one of the council members who recently voted in favor of establishing a Capital Improvement Fund designed to set aside a portions of monies annually for infrastructure improvements. These monies will help us build a “pay as you go” system to fund small, immediate repair needs. Larger repairs/upgrades will need to be paid for through debt issuance. Council’s job is to ensure that the debt is necessary and unavoidable, and the method used for issuance has the lowest interest rate possible and the least amount of impact on our tax and water rates. We must be frugal and smart on our approach to this need.
3. As a citizen, homeowner and taxpayer, I am against any increase in our water and sewer rates. In my role as council member, I am not in favor of increasing water rates for our citizens or businesses either. However, we have to be able to pay for the production and distribution of the water as well as the treatment of wastewater. I am highly concerned that the rate study calls for such a significant increase in rates. As a council member, I am open to exploring ways to keep the rates affordable and still maintain the needed quality production. I am also open, and have given my approval (along with three other Council members) to our City Manager, to begin exploring all viable options including partnering with other entities. Bottom line is that we have to do what is best for all of our citizens.
4. As a city, we need to embrace controlled growth. Growth doesn’t mean we have to lose the small town feel that many citizens love, myself included. The growth is what will help us all to afford the improvements discussed in the previous questions. My job as a council member, would be to ensure that the growth is of high quality and that the growth provides a quality of life our citizens deserve. We should be in the forefront of recruiting developers that meet our standards for that quality. We need to establish the guidelines that help guide our growth, such as Planned Developments and we need to establish parameters such as the recently passed Economic Development Policy that I supported. I also believe we need to set up an Economic Development Committee to help guide the growth. Council must consider the citizens input when considering future development. Partnerships with developers through 380 Agreements, Tax Increment Financing (TIFS or TIRZS) and other agreements could assist us with needed infrastructure improvements for the present and the future.

Charity Ramsey
Charity Ramsey
1. I am the daughter of East Texas dairy farmers. I grew up in the First United Methodist Church in a town with a population of around 1,000. Everything that I am today can be traced back to these simple facts. The values that our parents gave us are rooted in family, fellowship, hard work, and integrity in a way that only people from places like Springtown would understand. I didn’t know it then, but growing up I was being ‘trained’ in principles such as listen more than you speak, say what you mean and mean what you say, be considerate of others and put their needs before your own. To learn about the world we live in, ask the next question, and help where you can. My dad passed away 18 years ago, but I can still hear him saying, “Always leave a place better than you found it.” At the time he was referring to the picnic site or the barn, but I see now that he was talking about so much more. Since then I’ve gone on to build a successful career in finance and a family, but these are the things that I carry with me.
2. Both personally and professionally, I have earned a record and reputation for being a problem solver. I am also committed to taking a team approach; I believe it is imperative that the city administrator, the council, the mayor, and strategic partners work together to build solutions. I see several possibilities, such as leveraging the callable date on existing debt to pay it down early, thereby saving the city in interest owed. Overhauling building and planning and zoning fee structures to work in favor of Springtown’s prosperity instead of against it. Putting pay increases for city employees back on the table so that, among other reasons, Springtown can rise to the competitive level for law enforcement recruits and talent retention, reducing costly turnover. The problems mentioned above are daunting, but not insurmountable. But they can only be overcome by confronting them honestly and with open eyes.
3. When the alternative is to increase rates, my answer will always be to investigate all options. Our family pays those rates to! I think it is clear to all that something must be done. Springtown has experienced and will continue to experience population growth. This is a statement of fact. That means more rooftops and more kids in our schools (Springtown ISD being the biggest consumer of water and sewer services). These new residents as well as lifelong citizens expect and deserve quality water and sewer at affordable rates. It is important to remember that many of our citizens are retired or are young families and would be hit particularly hard by rate increases. Such an important matter must be considered carefully. It is the responsibility of city government to plan for today and for the future, and to put the interests and well-being of Springtown and its people above all else.
4. First and foremost, I believe the city should do just that – facilitate and plan for growth. I understand exactly what people mean when they say that it is important to us that Springtown remain a small town. We love the locally-owned, small town soul of a place that is anchored in values that we share. Most of us either moved here or stayed here or even returned here because of this. I am here to suggest that the two sides of the coin – home town and growth – can not only exist together but thrive together. I believe that what is needed is thoughtful dialogue intended to enhance understanding. If the city can do that, if it can open up conversations and relationships and work toward solutions rather than obstructing them, then there will be a path forward. I want to share what is special about Springtown, to help to remove roadblocks and build visibility in order to attract the kinds of development that are in line with its values and the needs of citizens.

Dennie Harms
Place 3
Dennie Harms
1. I have lived and served our community for over 50 years. I have a bachelors degree in economics from Colorado State University and a business owner for over two decades. I am aware of the needs of our city and the effect that bad decisions have on our citizens.
2. The $13.9 million debt is technically correct. Until someone reveals the name of an individual or individuals who is willing to write a 4 million dollar check to the city to pay our interest, it’s $18 million. Since I have been elected we have addressed our future infrastructure needs within our strategic plan.
3. I pay water and sewer bills myself. Our water and sewer problems didn’t start yesterday. They should have been addressed a decade ago. A cost-benefit analysts should always occur before any long range plans are considered on funding our utilities. It is an elected official’s responsibility to make the hard decisions to keep our city solvent. No candidate including myself is a water expert. Professional advice should always be considered before any undertaking of this magnitude is completed.
4. Since I have been elected, the city has created two business parks, updated our master and thoroughfare plan, and implemented zoning changes to insure positive, controlled growth. This started two years ago with the help of Mundo & Associates, a professional economic development firm.

Oleta Parker
Oleta Parker
1. I am seeking to serve on the Springtown City Council because I feel I could make a significant contribution due to my varied professional experience, integrity and desire to serve. My background as a business owner and Executive Director of two different non-profits -501(c)6 and 501(c)3 as well as Assistant to the VP of Grants Administration at a philanthropic organization gave me hands-on experience with budgets. Critical thinking and “thinking out of the box” are part of my world. I have learned to work in very stressful situations and remain level-headed when my heart wanted to take control, still believing heart issues matter in every situation. Unity is my greatest concern for any community. It would be great to have more people taking care of others instead of their own concerns in this world. Decisions need to be made without ego or pride involved. My heart for Springtown and Parker County make success of my community my main concern and I am willing to work hard and give my time to that effort.
2. Texas cities in general have large levels of debt. Springtown is not unique in this. Texas on the whole is growing and we all need to find ways to keep up with that growth. Having lived in a city like Canton, Texas, I have seen the tax burden lowered for citizens by being open to opportunities that are right in front of us to allow more sales tax to flow into the community from outside visitors; and yes, even tourism. I believe City management is progressing in gathering information in regard to the need of upgrades and repairs to infrastructure. In my opinion, it is the duty of the council to listen to the experience and knowledge of the people it has placed in those positions and to add information collectively as it is gained. We can keep pounding past decisions regarding budget or we can get together and start talking, learning, and investigating ways other cities make things happen. The old cliché “don’t reinvent the wheel” still works!
3. In regard to the five-year step-up restructuring plan for water and sewer fees, it is my belief that more information will be provided as we move along to determine what my vote would be at the appropriate time. Based on what I have learned so far, I believe the answer may be less complicated than it sounds. There is no doubt in my mind that solutions are required for the quality and affordability of our water but it remains to be seen what information will be provided as the City researches our options. Again, it takes research, discussions and cooperation of everyone involved to make an educated decision. Taking our time to make a good decision is of the greatest importance.
4. There is no doubt that the boom for population growth has already started. Springtown needs more retail businesses. There is evidence we are attracting new businesses now as we have new growth on the square. It bothers me to spend my money outside of Springtown because I can’t find what I want/need here in town. I would rather have my sales tax going back into the city where I live. Bringing more visitors into our town for regular weekends once to twice a month for events would help the city attract more businesses. Understand that I said “temporary”. We need to make Springtown more vibrant with activity. Most of us love going to Grapevine for all its activities or Sundance Square. Canton, Texas, was once a little town of limited activity and the city saw potential with “First Monday-Trades Day”. Imagine staying in your hometown and enjoy festivities here? How much money are our citizens spending outside of Springtown? Imagine how that would help pay incentives to get larger businesses to move into our town.

Bill White
Place 5
Bill White
1. I am Bill White and first and foremost I am a born again Christian and am active in the First Baptist Church Springtown. I have owned and operated three successful small businesses in another Texas city where I served for 14 years on Wake Village City Council. I retired from Southwestern Bell Telephone Company after 27 years where I served on many committees and held both management and craft positions.
2. The city did not get $13 million in debt overnight, and it will not be corrected overnight; however, economic growth both in commercial and residential properties in a controlled way will be a start. All the growth outside our city is going to require that we have grocery stores, restaurants, and entertainment. Sales tax from these businesses will help to reduce the debt over the coming decade. I just talked to a builder who has purchased acreage within the city and he plans to build approximately 120 homes. That could in approximately $150,000 yearly.
3. We cannot tax ourselves out of debt, nor can we continue to raise water and sewer rates to retire the debt. It cannot be done! I would prefer to hear the ideas of the entire council, as well as the city administrator and his staff before I would consider raising rates or even consider selling our water works to Walnut Creek.
4. As I have mentioned earlier, economic development is the key to growth. We do not just need growth, but we need “controlled growth!”