• December 20, 2014

Some residents not happy with deal between Lampasas and Calif. company

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Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014 5:53 pm

LAMPASAS — Fireworks erupted at a Lampasas City Council meeting Monday, days after the city announced it spent $375,000 to purchase property that will be used to run Lampasas Trucking and Redi-Mix, a privately owned company formerly based in California.

Lampasas resident Heath Eckermann asked the council why other local businesses are not getting a similar deal.

“I’m asking the City Council members to step down,” he said, accusing council members of various misdeeds.

Lampasas Trucking and Redi-Mix, which is owned by Mike and Cheryl Jones, was in Merced, Calif., and specialized in trucking and renting cranes.

“We are going to be good stewards,” said Mike Jones, adding that other companies that moved from California to Texas, providing more jobs to the Lone Star State, have received similar deals.

Part of a six-month deal formulated by the city and the Lampasas Economic Development Corporation, the process began when Gov. Rick Perry’s office approached several Central Texas municipalities about businesses relocating to the area.

Last October, Mike Jones expressed interest in relocating to Lampasas.

As a result, City Manager Finley DeGraffenried, Councilman Christian Toups, a representative from Perry’s office, as well as several residents, attended an economic development conference in December.

The owners wanted to relocate, reportedly, to get away from California regulations and taxes.

The 3.87-acre property was purchased as part of a larger economic development initiative, DeGraffenried said, which will pay for itself in two years.

The land is along U.S. Highway 281 and includes a small building. The land was formerly known as the “Old Nut Hustler” property.

As part of the agreement, Lampasas Trucking and Ready Mix will “lease to buy” the property from the city for $275,000, scheduled to be fully paid in 15 years.

The $100,000 shortfall will be split between the city and the LEDC, as long as the company has 10 full-time employees for at least five years.

While real estate talks and economic development prospects are allowable discussion subjects in executive session under Texas law, several residents expressed concerns about the transparency of the process.

“I think the taxpayers need to be more involved in how the leadership of our city and our county is spending their dollars, and everything should be held in public and not behind closed doors,” Sharon Fortner said, questioning why the city did not utilize an already developed business park near East Farm-to-Market 580.

DeGraffenried said that business park was not a good fit, but declined to give more specific reasons.

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