On this episode of the Post Podcast Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams shares an analysis of the Hays city commission and USD 489 Board of Education election forum.

 

Transcript

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Well, you know, the topics, what was interesting to me is that the school or the city commission, candidates talked a lot about school bond, and educational facilities, you know, usually that would not be on their radar. And I think that shows the the importance of what is going on and the need in our community that we have to improve our educational facilities. You know, we've talked lots of times, and I always like to make sure that we understand completely that we do a great job of teaching kids here, we have great teachers, and we have great outcomes. And but they're doing.

 

James Bell 

Blue Ribbon School.

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Absolutely. I mean, we have a lot to be thankful for and be proud of in our educational system. But unfortunately, they do it with one hand kind of tied behind their back when it comes to facility quality. And we have we have neglected this for about as long as we can. And it it became apparent, both in the forum for the city commission candidates as well as the USD 489 candidates that that schools have to be a high priority in our community, if we expect to have any hope for growth and to put our best foot forward and to do a good job of educating our kids.

 

James Bell 

Yeah, absolutely. I know, we've talked about this in the past, too, but it's also a factor for, you know, deciding to live here, whether it be in Hayes, or Ellis Ellis has a bond issue currently that they're discussing as well, kind of tackling the same problems.

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Yes, it's a quality of life issue. It's a recruitment issue for people who are considering relocating here, you know, whether it's a doctor or a nurse considering going to work for Hays Medical Center, or a company that's looking to relocate here, one of the main things a retail company will look at in a community is housing, and your education system, because they're going to move people here, they want to attract people to work for their businesses. And if those two things aren't in place, they're not going to choose to locate here. So we've got a, we've got a, we haven't done what we need to do in that area. And we really have to at this point in time, I liken it to, you know, if you've got a road that comes into your town, and it's the only way into your town, you've got to maintain that road, and there comes a point in time, if you have some growth, you've got to make it wider. And, you know, if you don't, people aren't going to come to your town and I view education facilities, you know, basically as critical infrastructure kind of like that road, we have to maintain them, we have to expand them when at certain times if we expect to grow and prosper and be an attractive community.

 

James Bell 

Yeah, and something we've talked about the past is, you know, while we talk about these facilities, and in there need to be either repaired, replaced, etc. One of the things that, that I think a lot of people have come to realize is it's not necessarily an issue of we weren't taking care of the facilities, they are just aging out.

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Well, there's a little of both. I mean, I think over time, you know, there was discussion with the 489 candidates about the capital outlay account, and there's a certain percentage, I think 6% or eight, six Mills or eight Mills per year is to go to capital outlay and that hasn't always been appropriated to capital outlay, you know, previous boards and administrations have chosen to use that in some other ways. When they had funding shortfalls. In other areas. They took some of that capital outlay money and reallocated it to other areas, sometimes I think, maybe salaries or some different things there. I don't think they're doing that now they've re committed that that funding to capital type projects. But the point being, we haven't passed a significant bond since 1978.

 

James Bell 

Which is highly unusual. Typically these cycle around 10 years if I remember correctly.

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Ten to 15 years typically, you if you go around to communities all across the state, you will see virtually all of them with more modernized facilities than we have in USD 489. And, you know, it's just been too long, there was a there was a bond passed in, I think the early 90s for some HVAC, at maybe the high school or someplace else. But beyond that we haven't passed a significant bond for significant improvements for 40 years. And we're we're long overdue, and we just have to make these investments on occasion. And, you know, the first bite of the apple is a tough one to take, because that's where we experience the cost. Once you have a bond in place, and you're paying for it over time, you can add to that bond later without changing the monthly financial outgo. It's, so we've got to take this first step. Yeah, that's the tough one. But the reality is, it really isn't a choice anymore, I know it's going to be a vote, I know people are going to have a choice. But I continue to say you're going to pay it one way or the other, you're going to pay it through the taxes that will need to be generated to pay those payments on a bond, or you're gonna pay it because of lost opportunity and growth and shrinking tax base where your taxes go up anyway, because you have not grown your tax base, and you've got fewer and fewer taxable assets to spread that over. So we just have to do this, it's not really an option anymore, in my opinion.

 

James Bell 

Okay. You know, I'm wondering, without asking you to speak for any of the candidates that were there, you know, on the city candidate side, does it did it feel like that generally, everybody's kind of in support of some sort of bond?

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Sure seemed like it to me, I think every I think every candidate came out and said that they believe that this is something that needs to happen. And some of them had it as a higher priority than others. But I think all of them collectively believe that a bond is critical to the future of our community.

 

James Bell 

Very good. And I did not exclude the school board candidates, but I believe I'd read at this point that they had all stated some support for bond as well,

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

I believe that's true, they did you know, the challenge is what type of bond, how big, what's it going to include, and that's where that's where you start running into the trouble. And I've told a lot of different people. You know, I've had people tell me, if this bond includes a new building, I'm not going to vote for it, because I want to remodel the old ones. Or if it includes the closing of a particular school, I'm not going to vote for it. And, and we need to get over that we need to understand that we we need to support, there's a group in place that's trying to develop the best possible way forward, we need to support their decision, you know, they're not going about this lightly, they're not going to, you know, they're not making crazy recommendations, they're looking at what's best for our community, they're taking their time, and they're, you know, putting their expertise into it. And we need to be supportive of that, even though it may not have either everything we had or maybe a little bit different than something that that we think it should have, we need to understand that it's for the benefit of the overall and that's why we need to support what this group comes up with.

 

James Bell 

Very good, you know, now moving a little bit away from the education piece of you know, housing, and some we talk about a lot. I wonder if you want to share some some thoughts there as well?

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Well, they obviously housing continues to be a critical factor. I talked to a realtor yesterday, and there's 31 homes in the market in Hays, and then very, very few in Ellis of Victoria, there's just no inventory to choose from. And that's our Achilles heel as well as the educational facilities. We're trying to get some things done on that, you know, we've got our RHID project east of the Technical College, there's four homes that have broken ground out there, they're still you can't see him coming up out of the ground yet. That's where where I want to get to the point where you can see actual progress, you know, sticks coming up out of the ground, they're doing foundation work, pouring slabs. But very quickly, you will see things coming up out of the ground. But I think what we need to understand is that this while we're taking proactive measures to deal with some of this, we're still way behind. And if you look at the housing need for a community like Hays, we haven't built enough homes for the last 10 years in a year to what we really need. And so we're, we're well behind what we need. And if we would like to have some growth, which we think there's opportunity for we're not we're gonna have to step it up not only make up that past shortfall, but get ahead of the game on how many we build each year. And we need both homes and we need apartments and market rate apartments and that type of thing. So we're constantly working on trying to promote that in the community. I think we've got some good things going on with the development east of the Technical College, the Heart of America development in the retiree community we're talking about and then we're also talking to some developers on some apartment complexes and that kind of thing. So I think we've got some things in the works. Unfortunately, they just take a while to come together.

 

James Bell 

You know, I'm curious, you know, even if someone were to be elected to the city commission, or the school board, I suppose you could say either one and, and really want to push that agenda of getting the more housing into Ellis County? How much power? Do they actually have to do that? Or is that better suited for an organization like yourself?

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Well, I think both, I think they have power to do that, in a couple of ways. One is they fund organizations like ours, which we go out, and we try and make these things happen. So that's critical. And then the other is that they they offer some incentives for developers to build these projects. You know, that's, that's the city, the also the, the county participates in those incentives and the school district, in the case of the RHID project, the Heart of America development, you know, the city approved that RHID, but then the county and the school board both had the option to veto it if they wanted to, because they're both affected by the taxes that they do not receive on that project for 25 years, or until the investor gets his infrastructure costs back is how that works. And so they're critically important, both in the funding of organizations like Grow Hays and the approval of incentives.

 

James Bell 

Okay. And again, you know, I don't want you to speak for any of the candidates. But did you hear anything? That was either surprised you, I suppose, to the the high end support side or to the I don't think this is a good idea to support those kind of programs from any of the candidates?

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Not really, I, you know, I think that there's Hays from a city commission standpoint, Hays has traditionally been quite conservative in the use of incentives. And I think this commission now recognizes that, while they don't want to just openly give away the farm, so to speak, they understand that that's the way the game is played. That's what you have to do to be competitive. And so I don't think any of them feel like, No, I don't want to do that, or that's a bad idea. Or we should only do this in dire circumstances, I think they're proactive in what they want to do, in terms of the use of incentives, they want to be responsible. But I believe that their mindset is where it needs to be in offering this to prospective developers and helping the community get some of these projects going, which it takes these incentives to do.

 

James Bell 

Okay, Doug well, got just a couple of minutes left, we want to shift gears and talk a little bit about something we talked about, I think, a couple weeks ago, you've got a new position that you've opened up down there, it's the director of retirement and recruitment, or maybe recruitment and retainment, there you go. But today is the last day for that those applications to come in.

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

That's correct, we are we are closing the receipt of applications. As of today, we've had overwhelming interest, which is terrific, awesome, we've got I think, 17 applications we've received. So that's terrific, we've got some great applicants, you know, the, the hard part now is going through, there deciding who is the best fit for the position, and then telling 16 people that we chose somebody else. That's the difficult part. But we've got some great applicants, hoping to get a few more before the end of the day. And looking forward to we're gonna take a couple weeks to go through the applications and then start interviewing some people and then hopefully make a decision in early November on that position and get somebody started. So we can start a more proactive effort in recruitment, as well as retainment of the businesses that we have.

 

James Bell 

Very cool. How long after someone gets into that role do you expect cuz I mean, there's always a training period with a new job no matter what the job is, but how long until we start to see, you know, I don't know if this is the right word, but results from the new position,

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

That results word.

 

James Bell 

Return on investment.

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Well, you know, probably six months to a year, economic development is challenging because it is a slow moving process. And but, you know, we're adding this position because we want more focus in that area. And we want results. And you know, I, when I went before the city Commission and the county commission and ask them for additional funding for 2022 for this position, you know, I said, we need to produce results. And sometime in 2022 or early 2023, we need to be able to come forth and say, This is what we have accomplished. And along the way we need to be able to tell him what we're doing. Now, this is who we've talked to, these are the efforts we've gotten placed into the programs that we're working on with existing businesses on succession planning and on helping them with any expansion plans they have, you know, we need to be a value to the city, county those who find us are private investors and offer a return on investments exactly as you say, and that's what we intend to do.

 

James Bell 

Excellent. Well, Doug, we've got to get over to news but good luck with the search. Any last thoughts real quick before we go?

 

Grow Hays executive director Doug Williams 

Well just Hays High Homecoming this weekend. As an old Hays High guy. I welcome everybody back and hope it's a safe and, and happy homecoming.

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