DESOTO – The City of DeSoto City Council spent over five hours on its council agenda Tuesday night with a diverse look at items from budgets to Nance Farm improvements to City Council procedures.
Five presentations opened the meeting, including a presentation to the Valedictorian of Wiley College – Antoinette LaShon Allen, three proclamations: one to the Small Business Administration, one honoring Constitution Week and one honoring National Hispanic Heritage Month, and a final presentation regarding the value engineering findings for the McCowan Aquatic and Recreation Center. The Parks and Recreation Department updated the Parks, Recreation, Open Space & Trails Master Plan in 2020 as part of this initial item moving forward.
The phases of the project include what has occurred to date; a feasibility study, program validation, schematic design completion and design development completion and the upcoming completion from now until January 2024 of a redesign and validation, the final construction and a grand opening, which is anticipated for December 2025.
The financial impact for the estimated construction cost is $43,000,000 in order to remain within the project budget.
Consent Agenda Items
Consent agenda items passed with one item being recognized for further discussion before the vote. Place 3 Nicole Raphiel asks for clarification on an item to repeal the DeSoto City Code of Ordinances “Curfew Hours for Juveniles.” It was noted this item was on the agenda to stay in compliance with HB 1819 recently passed and which became effective September 1, 2023, requiring cities with this type of ordinance to repeal it.
Additional agenda items that passed included the approval of the Regular City Council meeting from July 18, the confirmation of the appointment of Paul Dryer to the Park Board, of James Clay to the DeSoto Cultural Arts Foundation (HOA Representative), of Don Dewberry Tina Tuccelli to the Planning and Zoning Commission, an ordinance approving the Franchise Agreement with Atmos Energy Corporation, a Resolution approving the 2023 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program Funds Sharing and Fiscal Agency Agreement in the amount of $14,939, a Resolution approving a grant application on behalf of the DeSoto Police Department from the Office of the Governor, a Public Safety Office for the Truancy Prevention and Intervention Program Grant for the DeSoto Clergy and Community (DPCC) Juvenile Truancy and Wellness Program in the amount of $90,300 and authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute a purchase contract for two vehicles from Rush Truck Center in the amount of $82,565.46.
Public Hearings Recap
Four public hearings were heard beginning with a public hearing amending a planned development to align with the City of DeSoto’s adopted 2023 Nance Farm Master Plan. There were several public speakers and overall, this item failed unanimously by way of a motion to withdraw the application as presented. There was some concern over the idea of an amphitheater and the noise it would bring to the neighborhood.
After comments from all residents and city council members, DeSoto Mayor Rachel Proctor said the idea to reimagine the space is a good one. She said she believed there is some discrepancy on what the community is hearing and what the intent is overall. She also said the idea of an amphitheater and the idea of the residents nearby, could be a red flag and she “has to put herself in those residents’ shoes.”
Comments were also made that the city must do what is best for the community in terms of making the best use of that space. Proctor suggested an ad hoc committee with some of the individuals and community members to reimagine the space in terms of what the space can be used for overall, asking council to take a step back and make sure it is a win-win for everyone.
2024 Assessment Rate for the Stillwater Canyon Public Improvement District
The second and third public hearings were for ordinances adopting the 2024 Assessment Rate for the Stillwater Canyon Public Improvement District and the Candle Meadow Public Improvement District, both of which included the mention of the Five-Year Plan and FY 2023-2024 Budget, and to levy a Special Assessment. Both items received unanimous approval.
DeSoto FY 2023-2024 Budget Discussion
The final public hearing was to discuss the proposed budget for FY 2023-2024. It was noted the total tax rate required to fund the city’s budget for fiscal year 2023/2024 will be 68.5092 cents per $100 of valuation, with the Maintenance and Operating portion lowering to be proposed at 50.3485 cents per $100 valuation, and the Debt Service portion increasing to 18.1607 cents per $100 valuation.
The Public Utility Fund Budget for FY 2023-24 has proposed an 8% increase in the water base and volume rates from the current base rate of $9.76 to $10.64 and the current volume rate of $3.39 to $3.70. The Fund also has proposed a 10% increase in the sewer base rate from the current rate of $11.70 to $12.87 and a 10% increase in the sewer volume rate from the current rate of $11.70 to $12.87. The increase is proposed to cover the costs of contract water and wastewater treatment services, maintain current service levels, and continue capital improvements.
The Sanitation Fund Budget for FY 2023-2024 has proposed a 13% increase in the sanitation rate from the current rate of $26.52 to $29.97. The increase is proposed to maintain current service levels and cover the cost of the City’s new waste hauler contract with Republic Services.
Budget highlights included a look at the Nance Farm Master Plan, the Holiday in the Park festival, closed captioning and agenda translation improvements, the Aquatic and Recreation Center design, and the Hampton Road Economic Development.
Other standouts were the crime watch program improvements, business outreach for community cleanliness, creek maintenance and erosion improvements, widening of roads, and 12 new budget additions as diverse as a skating rink for holiday in the park to an employee appreciation luncheon, to a Veteran’s gala, and new agenda management software.
Sewer capital projects and improvements were discussed in the budget with an emphasis on the Westmoreland Pump Station Improvement, this was initially installed in 1986. DeSoto City Manager Brandon Wright said the pump station is critical as it is the “Main driver of our water system.”
There was $10 million in the budget for water and sewer capital projects and $23.5 million for park improvements.
There was only one comment from a local business owner regarding the budget. He brought up street lighting on I-35. He asked the city to remember the importance of presenting the city in a welcoming to those entering and pointed out many streetlights are out while other lights are on all day as well as poles being knocked down with 480 volts, which is dangerous. He asked that the budget include money in this area and suggested the city hire a contractor to maintain a proper presentation on a regular basis.
The regular agenda items included an Ordinance to amend Planned Development-111 (PD-111) to create a new Planned Development with base zoning district of SF-8 with deviations. In question is 17.25 acres of land in the Jonas Buskirk Survey at 501 W. Wintergreen Road and 601 W. Wintergreen Road.
The vote needed a super majority, which it did not receive. Place 2 Pierette Parker, Place 5 Dinah Marks and Raphiel voted against. It was pointed out this item can come back at any time in the future.
An item authorizing the approval of the Plan of Finance presented by Hilltop Securities passed with only Place 6 Crytal Chism voting no.
This item involved a debt issuance of $3.4 million in tax notes with a one-year obligation. Staff notes pointed out the proceeds will be used to fund capital expenditures to include equipment, vehicle replacement, and road maintenance and will sustain current service levels for the community as presented in the FY 2023-2024 Budget. The inclusion of the tax note one-year debt issuance in the tax year 2023 tax rate calculation will result in an I&S tax rate of 0.181607, an M&O tax rate of 0.503485, and a total City of DeSoto tax rate of $0.685092.
Council approved in a 6-1 vote with Parker voting no to authorizing the Economic Development Director to negotiate and execute an economic development incentive facade improvement grant with ALPA Insurance Agencies, LLP. This amount is not to exceed $16,000. At a special called meeting of the DeSoto Development Corporation (DDC) Board of Directors on August 24, 2023, the Board reviewed and authorized the Chief Executive Officer of the DDC to negotiate and enter a Façade Improvement Grant with the ALPA Auto Insurance Agencies, LLC.
Workforce Development Grant Will Establish An ESports Club Program at DeSoto ISD
Passing unanimously, the council authorized the Economic Development Director to negotiate and execute a workforce development grant with the DeSoto Independent School District to establish an ESports Club Program at DeSoto High School. This entails the creation and practice of soft skills including communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Staff notes indicated that “ESports can provide both entry level job opportunities as well as a gateway to colleges and universities with more than 700 universities now offering scholarships in this emerging field of study.”
The initial investment will support a three-year ramp up initiative with the DeSoto ISD to develop skillsets in an array of industries utilizing new ESport resources.
The final regular agenda item to pass was a resolution updating the City Council’s Rules & Procedures Manual regarding Council Member requests to place items on Work Session with a 5-2 vote for and Chism and Raphiel voting against.