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Tax abatement causes concern for county leaders
by Jason Collins
Oct 19, 2012 | 1089 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEE COUNTY- A tax abatement for Ranch Hand caused a stir among county leaders, because they say they were not notified of the request prior to the city’s recent approval.

During last week’s Bee County Commissioners Court meeting, County Judge David Silva said, “There is a certain protocol that is followed.

“If you look at the contract, it spells it out there for you.

“If you look at this, there is a step they needed to do, and it needed to be followed.”

Court members agreed to hold off on approving the abatement until possibly their next meeting after everything is sorted out.

The city has already approved the tax abatement for Ranch Hand, but county leaders say they were not notified of the request as they should have been according to the document.

“I don’t think it will have a bearing on the abatement or the amount,” Silva said.

“I felt like protocol was not followed. Things were not done in a sequence that needed to be followed.”

In fact, it wasn’t even the city that brought the county the abatement contracts.

“According to what I have read here and the other one I got, before the city even considered this, seven or eight days before we should have been told and brought into the process, and we were not,” Silva said.

“In fact, the first copies I got of this came from Ranch Hand and not the City of Beeville.”

None of those on the court were questioning the importance of Ranch Hand and its economic effect on the area.

Earlier this year, Ranch Hand hosted a job fair, hoping to attract applicants to the company.

Ranch Hand is best known for making truck grill guards, bumpers and brush guards.

At that time, the company was needing to expand its operation from 27 employees by hiring another 67.

Along with the hiring of the new employees, the company would also be building a new, 82,000-square-foot building.

Even without the expansion project, Ranch Hand uses 40,000 pounds of steel a day and 420 tons of raw materials each month. Much of the company’s equipment runs 24 hours a day.

Ranch Hand officials told the Bee Development Authority board previously that they would be investing $6 million on land acquisition, building construction and equipment installation. Half of that investment would go toward the installation of new equipment alone.

“There is no question that Ranch Hand is a booming business in Bee County and Beeville,” Silva said. “If you have been out there, they are expanding across the street.”

The company’s growth, though, wasn’t the issue. It was the procedure followed for this abatement.

Linda Bridge, county tax assessor/collector, said, “Actually, this is the first I had heard about.

“I was wondering if this was something the county was going to abate also.

“I have not seen any paperwork on this. I would appreciate if I could get a copy also.

“I would like to talk to the chief appraiser.”

Silva responded, “I think I would feel a whole lot more comfortable if you (TAC’s office) were on board.”

The abatement, Silva reminded his fellow court members, could be given by all taxing entities except the school districts.

“The schools do not qualify,” he said. “The only ones that will be impacted will be us, the water board and the college.

“Public schools cannot give an abatement.”

Bridge suggested that the contract be reviewed by the county attorney before any action was taken by the court.

“I would definitely have the county attorney review this and bring his opinion,” she said.

Silva responded, “I would feel more comfortable doing it that way, because it really came to us in a real unorthodox way.

“I don’t want to be the stick in the mud and say we aren’t going to do this.

“I just want to be well informed in the thought process, and it did not happen.”

Commissioner Ken Haggard said, “It seems to me — and I am not blaming Ranch Hand — I think the city is trying to shove this through.”

Silva added, “Somebody went to sleep somewhere here.

“I am not sure where.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.

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