Atkinson voices disapproval on retail business tax incentives

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Orange Grove Journal

In a surprise announcement to both the Jim Wells County Commissioner's Court and those in attendance at Friday's meeting, JWC Tax Assessor-Collector Lucila Reynolds said she would not seek re-election for a fourth term in 2008.

She told the court that it was time for someone else to run for the position. Her term will end on Dec. 31, 2008.

Also during the public comment portion of the meeting, Real Estate Investor Newell Atkinson voiced his opinion against offering tax incentives to retail businesses such as La Quinta.

La Quinta was on Friday's agenda in an item requesting incentives for their project in Jim Wells County.

"I'm totally opposed to this type of welfare situation," Atkinson said.

He entered the meeting with local businessman Pat Patel, who is currently working on a project at the local Days Inn.

"It's not fair to give a subsidy to someone going into retail. Patel is fixing Days Inn and they didn't get a welfare check. I'm totally opposed to it," Atkinson said.

At issue was the county taking steps to offer $25,000 worth of tax incentives to La Quinta, which is an issue the City of Alice recently tabled at the last city council meeting.

Atkinson has a connection to the La Quinta project, since he was the one who sold the property to the company.

Atkinson made it clear that no one was more interested in bringing in new businesses to the county than he is, and said if it were an issue of an industrial businesses trying to decide to locate to Alice or elsewhere, he would support such an incentive.

Alice City Manager Albert Uresti was present at the meeting, and said the city did want the business here. Commissioners said that the historical trend was not to issue tax incentives to hotels.

Both Commissioners Ventura Garcia and Zenaida Sanchez said they were both looking for the city to take the lead on this issue, and voted to table the item until a later date.

The court also approved the resolution to apply for a 2007 Texas Community Development Block Grant under the Colonia Planning Fund for a study of County Roads 112 through 115.

The area under consideration is in Sanchez's precinct, and she said before any future applications could be made and funded, a study would have to take place to see what improvements were needed in that part of the county.

Sanchez said residents living off County Roads 112 to115 have no sewer connections and currently use septic tanks. The information in the study will focus on street conditions, drainage and existing water and sewer systems. GrantWorks, which is handling the application process, will then be able to use that information when the county goes out for TCD grants to improve sewer conditions for those residents.