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Candidate says Victoria on right track to prosper

By BY TOM HALEPASKA
April 12, 2013 at 5:02 p.m.
Updated April 11, 2013 at 11:12 p.m.

Tom Halepaska

You may know I am up for re-election to the Victoria City Council, and I hope you will support me in this endeavor. This election for our city's future is too important not to do otherwise.

Many people in Victoria know me as a local small-businessman that has been in business for 41 years. We provide jobs for people and tax support for our community. I am proud that our business provides a quality product for a fair price. Giving my time and providing a voice in city matters is something I am proud of as well.

Working together with other council members has been rewarding, and it is gratifying to see the results of that labor. Rebuilding Laurent Street and Sam Houston Drive was a much needed and long awaited improvement that is now finished. The newly opened splash pad on Airline Road is sure to be a hit as well. But we must keep up this pace to address a long list of needed repairs and improvements.

We are still behind on many other projects. We need to increase the rate of repair of residential streets. Paving and widening Mallette Drive from Loop 463 to just past the new elementary school will make it much safer for the increased load that this old country road now carries. Completing Ball Airport Road from U.S. Highway 77 to 87 will provide some relief to the heavy traffic of North Navarro Street. Seeing through to completion the TCEQ-mandated wastewater plant and finishing the rehabilitation of old downtown are just a few examples of projects under consideration or underway.

Much of this work must be done with a budget that does not allow deficit spending, unlike the federal government. We have to constantly balance these projects against taxpayer demands for lower taxes. A $20 million reserve fund for emergencies gives us a great bond rating that was recently upgraded to AA by an independent bond rating firm. Without the reserve fund, the bond cost would increase dramatically, similar to a higher interest rate for a home mortgage. We've done this while keeping the debt ratio almost what it was 10 years ago and lowering the tax rate from 70 cents per $100 valuation to 60.56 cents per $100. In the meantime, we solved a problem about career ladder pay concerns for our first responders, who should always be fairly compensated for the valiant work that they do based upon their abilities and experience.

We all know that water issues are very important and becoming critical all across Texas. Many areas and municipalities are already experiencing severe problems. Working together, this council has purchased 7,300 acre feet* of additional river rights. In addition, we still have our groundwater wells for even more backup. In the near future, we will need additional off-channel storage to make use of those rights for times when the river flow is below normal and access to it is curtailed.

Drought contingency planning requires a plan to address future water availability by looking out 50 years while using the worst drought of all recorded time as a standard for that plan. We exceed that goal, making Victoria the envy of our neighbors all across Texas, particularly those to the immediate north and south who have severe deficiencies. As our city grows, we are very well positioned to handle the ensuing increased demands for water for the next half century and beyond.

The issues we face as a city going forward are huge. I am volunteering to sign up for a three-year term to help solve those problems. I believe that a well thought out, balanced approach without theatrics, ego or drama will yield the best solutions to all the challenges that our future holds. But to do this, I need your support. The most important form of support you can provide is your vote. Please, take the time to vote so that your voice can be heard.

* An acre foot is used as a measurement for large volume water. It is the amount of water needed to cover an acre of land 1 foot deep or about 325,851 gallons. The city currently uses about 9,000 a/f per year, while we own about 27,300 a/f of river rights plus groundwater wells that produce about 7,000 a/f per year plus our available reservoirs of about 1,000 a/f.

Tom Halepaska is a longtime Victoria businessman and a candidate for Victoria City Council Super District 6 in the May 11 city elections.

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