San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

July 10th, 2008
Buda EDC talks contract with Ketteman, passes Main Street resolution

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

BUDA – The Buda Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is discussing a one-year contract extension with Executive Director Warren Ketteman, who has taken the heat around town for a flat economy.

The contract will call for specific deliverables, beyond the demands of Ketteman’s present three-year agreement that expires on Sept. 30. The parameters under discussion presently call for no increase in Ketteman’s salary or benefits, except for a 3.6 percent cost of living adjustment.

The EDC also passed a resolution in favor of Buda joining the Texas Main Street program, though the EDC put no money behind the resolution. The Buda City Council declined to apply for the Main Street program a week ago, citing budget constraints. Downtown business owners hoped the EDC would at least commit to partial funding for a Main Street program.

Members of Buda’s EDC were presented a draft of Ketteman’s contract proposal at Tuesday night’s meeting, with an item on the agenda for discussion and possible action. However, EDC board chairman Sam Cooper recommended that the item be tabled so the EDC board could review the contract details.

Ketteman arrived in Buda in 2003, with a city team led by former Mayor John Trube in the first stages of negotiating with Cabela’s for a store and with the state for infrastructure improvements to make it happen. When Cabela’s opened in 2005, the city realized an immediate doubling of its sales tax haul to $1.5 million. A year later, after Wal-Mart opened near Cabela’s, the city’s sales taxes increased to $2.3 million.

However, the city has seen little or no significant economic addition beyond hotel and restaurant projects that have tagged onto Cabela’s. A two-year-old proposal for a $35 million retail project on the east side of Interstate-35, across from Cabela’s, has not materialized, though the city’s planning and zoning commission (P&Z) has approved two preliminary plans totaling nearly 100 acres of commercial development on the east side of I-35 in the last month.

For the last year, the city has been caught in a vice between Kyle on the south and the sprawling Southpark Meadows shopping development to the north. With only about five miles of Interstate frontage and a population of just more than 5,000 (about one-sixth the size of Kyle), Buda is falling behind its larger rival, where a 150,000-square-foot H-E-B Plus! barely more than a year old kicked off two million square feet of retail in the works at Kyle Parkway and I-35.

Meanwhile, the Buda City Council heard in a budget workshop last week that sales taxes are on a pace to fall $500,000 this year.

Compounding Buda’s economic struggle is the plight of downtown, where business owners fear their extinction amid blighted properties and light foot traffic on Main Street. A handful of business owners went to the EDC Tuesday hoping for a kick start to the Main Street program, perhaps in the form of partial funding.

However, EDC members were uncomfortable making a financial commitment to the Main Street initiative without knowing more about how it works. Additionally, Cooper said, the EDC couldn’t earmark funds in time for the July 31 Main Street application deadline because the EDC is first required to post its programs for 60 days of public comment.

Realizing it’s unlikely Buda can line up an application before the July 31 deadline, several EDC members argued that the council could also do with further clarity about how Main Street works. The resolution says the EDC supports Buda’s attempts to apply “now or in the future.”

Cooper recommended passing the resolution in the spirit of economic development, since that’s the EDC’s task. However, he didn’t want to recommend too much.

“We need to look at the numbers associated with the program,” Cooper said. “I’m not comfortable going to the council and saying, ‘We support it,’ without knowing what we’re supporting.”

EDC board member Abigail Klammert said the Main Street movement within Buda suffers from ambiguity about the program’s processes and benefits. Everyone knows the city estimates the first-year cost for Main Street at $62,500. It’s much harder for decision makers to grasp the payback, Klammert said.

“That value needs to be communicated to the city council in concrete terms,” Klammert said.

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