Tyler's mayor says goal is not to raise taxes while replacing ag - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Tyler's mayor says goal is not to raise taxes while replacing aging infrastructure

Tyler Mayor Martin Heines delivers a State of the City address. (Source: KLTV) Tyler Mayor Martin Heines delivers a State of the City address. (Source: KLTV)
The City of Tyler airs a video promoting its new app during a Wednesday event in Tyler. (Source: KLTV) The City of Tyler airs a video promoting its new app during a Wednesday event in Tyler. (Source: KLTV)

After being sworn into a second term as leader of the region’s largest city, Tyler Mayor Martin Heines delivered his State of the City speech Wednesday that focused on the city’s aging infrastructure that needs to be addressed.

Heines said the multi-million dollar projects will not necessarily increase taxes. 

"We do have to go through this process to find out what is the priority and how we need to spend this money," Heines said. "If we do repairs to the streets, that is a cash item, I will not support general obligation debt for a city that has worked so hard to be the model in good government and not have debt."

In the speech at the Harvey Convention Center, Heines, spoke on the age of the water, sewer and street system in the City of Tyler.

“The significant rainfall over the last year has been challenging to our community,” Heines said. "God has spoken, and he has our attention."

According to figures from the city, more than half of the water distribution pipes in the city are more than forty years old. The mayor said staff has begun to evaluate the condition of the city’s infrastructure and prioritize them in areas that need to be addressed into either short or long term upgrades.

The mayor also mentioned the city’s ongoing plan to fix the elevated levels of haloacetic acids, a disinfectant byproduct, that were detected by state testing after heavy rainfall in the Spring of 2015.

The city hired a third party to come in and evaluate the Tyler Water Utilities system.

“We have already acted on many of the recommendations we received,” Heines said.

Heines also focused on city streets, which have also been affected by the heavy rainfall over the past year. The city hired a firm to drive city streets, surveying the condition of the roadways and giving them a grade. The firm gave the roadways, excluding state roads like Loop 323, Broadway Ave and Troup Hwy., an 81 out of 100.

“One thing we know for sure, it is imperative that we invest in the continued maintenance of our roadways and keep this investment going or it will cost us more in the future,” Heines said.

He also said he wanted city staff to investigate drainage issues the city experienced during the heavy rain events over the past year. During recent storms, they were notified of twelve problem areas where water did not drain properly and resulted in street flooding.

Those spots included mostly residential areas but also included areas such as Broadway Ave. between Erwin and Elm in downtown and an area of Old Bullard Road near shopping centers north of Rice Road.

In an editorial meeting before his speech, Mayor Heines said he plans to ask the Half Cent Sales Tax Board and City Council to raise the priority of the drainage issues since they are not given a high priority in the standard Half Cent Sales Tax Project Formula.

Mayor’s projects

Heines also outlined two projects he is focusing on as projects in his time in office, the Innovators Pipeline and the launch of the Mayor’s Mentorship Achievement Program.

The Mayor’s Innovation Pipeline is being developed on the north side of downtown Tyler as a place to develop entrepreneurs and keep young innovators in the community. The city has partnered with The Discovery Science Place, Tyler Junior College, UT-Tyler, Texas College and many other organizations to develop the center that will provide resources for thinkers to come together and promote small business development.

“Over the last year, a steering committee has been hard at work developing this program,” Heines said. “Recruitment for a program director is well underway.”

The project is being funded mostly by sponsorships and will be housed in an area across from the historic Cotton Belt Depot, where Tyler Transit operates today.

The mayor’s second project focuses on education and making sure students are prepared for postsecondary education. The Mayor’s Mentorship Achievement Program (MAP) matches leaders in the business community with senior students to ensure they are prepared for the next step in their education.

Currently, less than sixty percent of Smith County students go to college, the program hopes to have seventy percent of Smith County high school graduates enroll in postsecondary education within six months of graduation by 2025.

“The education of all Tyler’s children is our moral and ethical responsibility,” he said. “This is a very meaningful step that could bear great rewards.”

Heines also touted the city’s low tax rate of 22 cents per $100 valuation, saying it is the lowest in the state among cities with more than 16,000 residents.

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