Devine Council votes to seek economic development, hazard mitigation grants

The City of Devine is pursuing two grant opportunities after the City Council unanimously approved suggestions presented by Judy Langford of Langford Community Management Services during the Special meeting held last Tuesday, September 7.
Economic Development Agency grant
Council unveiled a plan to construct a road through City-owned acreage behind Triple C to connect the property to the IH-35 access road and open it up for development during a November 2019 meeting (see “City to apply for grants to construct new road, open IH-35 frontage property for development” in the Nov. 27, 2019 edition of The Devine News).
The purchase of an additional 28.66 acres of property next to QuikTrip also allows for the planned thoroughfare to connect the access road to Hwy. 173 ( see “City’s IH-35 development plan adapts to QT, looks to future” in the Nov. 25, 2020 ed. of the News).
Council also voted to apply for federal grants in order to help with the costs of constructing the road and other utilities, such as water and sewer lines and a wastewater lift station. Langford CMS was hired to help the City apply for and administer grants, while KSA Engineers was brought on to handle engineering on the project.
Langford explained that a new Economic Development Agency (EDA) program called the American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance Program, or the ARPA EAA, offers a new grant opportunity that requires only 20 percent in matching funds from the City.
“[EDA] has a new program out that came out with recovery funds that is an 80/20 [match],” Langford said. “It’s open right now. They hope to start funding projects in October, and they think that their money will run out in March.”
Unlike the EDA’s usual grants, the ARPA EAA doesn’t require the creation of a specific number of jobs.
“You have to show that it’s helping your recovery, the city’s recovery from COVID and general economic malaise during the time of COVID,” Langford said. “We have to show that this project will potentially help you recover.”
Langford said that letters from local business owners about how the planned infrastructure would help their businesses are vital to securing the grant.
“This has a little bit more wiggle room, if you will, than the regular program,” Langford said, “so I would like to try and move forward as quickly as possible with this application, and I’m just here tonight to ask permission to do so.”
Mayor Cory Thompson asked if letters from economic development group Go Medina County, Devine’s Chamber of Commerce or Congressman Tony Gonzalez would be helpful, and Langford said they aren’t as helpful as letters from locals.
“I can call your elected officials and get those letters,” Langford said. “They will write those all day long, and they will write them for every one of the people that are competing with you in this area.”
Thompson said that having a template would help in gathering letters from business owners.

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“When you’re a restaurant, explain how this is beneficial to you,” Thompson said. “Is it more jobs coming, is it more people coming off the highway, or is it actually an expansion of business moving from somewhere else moving into the new [development].”
Langford said that LCMS would help provide ways that letters can be tailored for different kinds of businesses.
“[EDA] was given the money for this region,” Langford said. “They have to expend it all. Why not expend it in Devine?”
Langford also said that she and City Administrator John Vidaurri recently met with representatives from KSA Engineering about the project.
“We had a really productive conversation and shared the maps and the survey that’s been done with the land, and KSA is very onboard on moving as fast as we can move to get at least the cost estimates,” Langford said, explaining that cost estimates and a Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) are examples of things that have to be included with the City’s grant application. “If y’all can just focus on letters and businesses in the city or businesses that want to come to the city, that will be absolutely the most helpful thing. We can handle the rest of it.”
A motion by District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall and District 2 Councilwoman Angela Pichardo to allow Langford to move forward with the ARPA EAA application passed unanimously with support from District 3 Councilman David Espinosa and District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler.
District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega was absent.
Hazard Mitigation grant
Langford explained that every time a disaster occurs and a presidential disaster declaration is granted, 15 percent of the provided funds are set aside to be used for disaster mitigation.
President Joe Biden recently made a disaster declaration based on climate change, which Langford said would soon allow the City to apply for a 75/25 disaster mitigation grant. Like the EDA grant, it requires a PER and a Benefit/Cost Analysis (BCA).
“That has to show that whatever money you’re asking for, that over the next couple of disasters it would basically pay for itself in whatever you’re doing,” Langford said.
Langford said that the City could look back at disasters that took place years ago, and that any action tonight was for required pre-procurement.
“The City always has grants going on, but the City’s never used this one,” Langford said. “And this seems like one that would make sense for the City.”
A Randall-Pichardo motion to move forward with the grant passed 4-0.
Other business
Council entered Executive Session regarding Randall’s request to discuss the salaries of City Secretary Dora Rodriguez and City Accountant Denise Duffy.
After returning to Open Session, an Espinosa-Lawler motion to move forward with those salaries as listed in the budget for the upcoming 2021-2022 fiscal year passed 3-1 over Randall’s objection.
Additionally, Council voted unanimously to set Public Hearings on the proposed FY 2021-2022 tax rate and budget.
Those Public Hearings, as well as another Special meeting, were scheduled for press night on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer