Bertram council doles out EDC funds; new alderman leery of city spending habits

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Nathan Hendrix/Burnet Bulletin
Bertram Mayor Adam Warden reads the oath of office to newly-elected Bertram Alderman John Baladez at the monthly council meeting on Tuesday, May 14.




By Nathan Hendrix

Staff Writer

The Bertram city council approved granting local businesses a total of $5,700 of Economic Development Funds at the monthly council meeting on Tuesday, May 14.

The Economic Development Corporation requested expending a portion of sales on tax to local businesses The Texas Pecan Cake Shop and Burlap n Lace Salon n Boutique. The funds can be issued to acquire land, purchase equipment, pay construction costs or fund planning and professional services, according to local government codes.

The Bertram EDC makes their decisions with the understanding the the goal of the corporation is “to promote business and tourism in the city of Bertram through taxes,” according to an EDC representative.

The council approved giving $2,700 to The Texas Pecan Cake Shop for the purchase of new baking pans.

The owners of the cake shop asked for $5,400 but were granted half of the requested amount. Owner Bridget McCoy said the new pans will allow the company to outsource some of its baking duties to increase retail sales.

“It opens up all kinds of things,” she said. “If we can have more retail goods, we can continue to generate business that's all Bertram-based.”

Owner Will McCoy said the external retail revenue is necessary for the survival of the shop at present, and will allow the shop to grow inside Bertram in the future.

“We wouldn't be able to exist off local purchases,” he said. “With the outside revenue, we'll be able to build a bigger bakery here. This is where we live; we have land here; but we have to have a bigger bakery.”

Bertram city attorney Michael Guevara said the legal connection may be tenuous, but the council would be given deference to decide if the usage would fit legal requirements.

“I guess this could fall under equipment, but what the definition says is to create new primary jobs. This would not have any type of primary jobs,” Guevara said. “The finding [the council] will have to make is that this [money] is to promote new and expanded business development.”

Alderman Jane Scheidler argued for approving the measure.

“It's a place where people stop their cars and come into Bertram,” she said. “The owners say good things about Bertram and recommend other businesses.”

Will McCoy said the shop could feasibly find other ways to pay for the pans, but the city's help would show dedication.

“We would find a way but that leads to decision-making for other factors,” he said. “We're looking for Bertram to step up and show us they want us to stay here.”

“We feel like we're an anchor business in this city,” Bridget McCoy said.

Alderman John Baladez said he would vote to approve the money, but he is concerned about giving money for questionable reasons in the future.

“I know some projects that have been worked on in the past by the EDC,” he said. “Based on the past, I'm willing to give it to you, but at some point we have to figure out these nickels and dimes we're giving out as a city; we may have to hold on to some of this money and go for a bigger hit down the road.”

The measure was approved 4-to-1 with Alderman Pat Turner voting against it.

The council also approved $3,000 to Burlap n Lace Salon n Boutique to be used for paving the salon's driveway and parking lot.

The driveway at the salon fails to meet city standards currently due to the crushed granite driveway; city code requires businesses to have chip seal or asphalt driveways.

Shop representatives said they purchased the lot with the crushed granite driveway and should be grandfathered in to the new code.

“I understand where you're coming from,” Bertram mayor Adam Warden said. “Since you are opening up a new business, you have to bring it up to code.”

Bringing the driveway and parking lot up to code would allow the business owners to hire more employees, which meets local government code standards.

The council approved the measure 4-to-1 with Scheidler voting against it.

In other actions:

• The council approved giving $4,000 from the Hotel Occupancy Tax to the Oatmeal Festival for the purchase of a billboard for advertising.

• The council agreed to draft an agreement with the Oatmeal Festival to allow festival officials to store festival materials in the old EMS building provided that the festival provides adequate liability insurance.

The council debated that the agreement may set a dangerous precedent for donating public property for private use, but Warden said when other festivals and organizations reach their 42nd year in Bertram, a conversation could happen.

• The June council meeting was rescheduled to June 18, and the July meeting was rescheduled for July 16 in order to accommodate work-related obligations for city officials.

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