By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
The second of five public meetings by the Focus on the Future Committee took place at the Rock Island Depot Tuesday, and additional ideas were added to the list of what local citizens would like to see completed with the renewal of the 1-cent sales tax which will be on the November ballot.
Some of the ideas included additional drainage improvements, street and sidewalk enhancements and seeing crosswalks and curbs painted.
The group, which was larger than the group that met two weeks ago, was asked by show of hands which projects that were already on the list were most important.
Discussion also revolved around economic development and how the city and private business can utilize the funds to enhance existing business, specifically curb appeal.
Liberal resident Tony Whisenant, who voted against the 1-cent sales tax in 1993 and 2000 even though it passed overwhelmingly, thought it was best for the city to focus on streets, drainage and public safety and stay out of the private sector.
“We need to create a fair environment for businesses, but don’t blow any money on trying to bring companies to town,” he said. “The city should help local businesses. They could look for grants and help local businesses know what is available to them. It should be more of an informational role.”
Despite Whisenant’s objections, when the question was asked if the city should pursue “big box” stores, a majority of hands were raised in support of that goal.
Local motel owner Jay Bhakta believed that the city should focus on economic development.
“That should be No. 1,” he said. “We should focus on projects that will benefit all businesses. Shopping and activities provide economic development. That helps everybody. That is most important.”
Bhakta also believed that other enhancements help.
“We need a community recreation center and other programs that will beautify the city,” Bhakta said. “The city can look at offering new businesses something to come in. Some cities in Texas offer a three-year property tax grant. It’s not fair to existing business, but if they are coming in and putting money in our community, we should help with that.”
Focus on the Future Committee presenter Jack Taylor said the 1-cent sales tax is estimated to raise about $35 million over the next 10 years, and that once all the ideas from the community were collected, they would be prioritized and passed on to the city for cost estimates.
The next meeting will take place at 6 p.m. June 1 at the Rock Island Depot.