THOMASBORO — Thomasboro Mayor Tyler Evans broke a tied vote during a May 4 special meeting on a motion to approve an agreement for annexation of the site of a proposed Dollar General store.
“This is our opportunity to make something happen here,” Evans said. “We can get the utilities across (U.S.) 45. This opens the door for expansion.”
Trustees Ronda Scott, Jeff Robertson and John Curry voted against the motion; trustees Dustin Rhodes, Robert Pinske and Tony Grilo voted in favor of it. The meeting was conducted by Zoom conference call.
The land that was annexed is about 2.7 acres of farm ground on the northeast corner of Flatville Road and U.S. 45. Judith Thompson and Marian Irle Babb, current property owners, requested the annexation and a zoning change from agricultural to B-2 general commercial.
It came down to two choices for the board: annex the property and collect tax revenues or watch the store go up anyway and the county collect the tax revenues.
“Overland Group had originally proposed they bore in their own water line to tie into our system, and put their own septic system in back,” Grilo said.
Overland Group buys and develops the site, which is then leased to Dollar General.
The rub for the dissenting trustees and some residents was the cost of extending water and sewer mains under U.S. 45. Overland Group has agreed to split the $170,000 cost.
“Who made this arrangement with the developer that we would pay 50 percent?” Scott asked.
Grilo said he did, after discussion during a board meeting.
“We all said, yeah, that would be good, and we went for it from there,” Grilo said.
Robertson said he didn’t oppose the store, but he couldn’t see where the money would come from.
“The town ain’t got the money. Our water and sewer bills are already high enough,” Robertson said. “A lot of people are complaining.”
Rhodes pointed out that Thomasboro’s share of the utility extension, $85,000, is a one-time cost. The village could borrow the money from the general fund and repay half from the water fund and half from the sewer fund without raising rates. There was discussion about deferring payment until an existing loan was paid off, but it was uncertain if that is allowed by law.
“What I got from people is they understand this property is going to be developed one way or another. I think some misinformation got spread,” Rhodes said. “The scared factor I think is just there being misinformation spread.”
He said the village had repaid a $30,000 loan in less than two years so it should be able to repay the $85,000 in a reasonable amount of time.
“I think everybody can agree this $85,000 is not going to turn into a rate increase. If there’s a rate increase, it’s because of another issue, not loaning ourselves $85,000,” Rhodes said.
Thomasboro resident Gertie Richardson said the annexation should be tabled.
“I never heard anybody for it but three board members and a mayor. Once (people) found out it cost $85,000, they’re very much against it. I don’t understand why the city has to pay for Dollar General’s problems with water and sewer. I think it’s been kept a secret from the town,” Richardson said.
Village Clerk Jasmyne Boyce said the board began discussing the proposed development in June 2019.
Richardson’s husband, Jim, a former trustee, said past developers did not receive village help.
“Dollar General is a multibillion-dollar outfit. They’re gonna slicker us,” he said. “You want us taxpayers to pay. I think it’s asinine.”
Resident Les Johnson said, “I don’t think half the town is aware of what’s on the table here.”
He suggested that payment for utility extension be capped. Evans said that could be done.
“I don’t think it should be voted on tonight,” resident Mel Ghrist said.
Speaking for the developer, Paul Brown asked the board to waive the preliminary plat since no new streets will be put in, to save time.
“This has been brought up in meetings. It’s not the public’s first look at this,” Brown said. “Time is money, and I think I encouraged you in March, we need to keep this moving to keep it alive.”
Brown is land surveying manager for Farnsworth Group, the engineering firm for Overland Group.
Scott made a motion to table the matter. The motion failed on a 4-3 vote with Evans breaking the tie. Scott, Robertson and Curry voted for the motion, and Rhodes, Grilo and Pinske voted against it.
The 4-3 vote on the annexation agreement followed. A third motion, for annexation of the “territory pursuant to the petition” passed on another 4-3 vote. A fourth motion, to approve the zoning change, passed 5-1. Scott cast the lone dissenting vote.
The regular monthly board meeting followed. The board approved the minutes of the April 6 meeting and payment of the bills.
A question was raised about restarting the village newsletter. Grilo and Scott agreed to discuss it. Robertson volunteered his assistance.