Webster’s defines "catalyst" as something that "increases the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed in the process." What the council will be wagering at its Tuesday meeting is that Catalyst Development can and will help significantly increase the rate of commercial development in Kyle, thereby providing much-needed property tax relief to residential property owners in the city.
Interestingly, at least to me, the item involving Catalyst the council will be voting on appears on the consent agenda, a section that is usually reserved for two or more non-controversial items that should not garner much discussion and even less debate. Not that this item — which is nothing more than a 12-month agreement to pay Catalyst the comparatively miserly amount of $24,500 to help promote economic development in Kyle — is all that controversial. I just found it the most fascinating, the most interesting item on the agenda and the one that could have the most significant impact on the future of the city.
Of course, there’s always the surprises. Who knew, going into the last council meeting of 2017, the most controversial item was going to be the normally routine process of approving board and commission appointments. And, "whaddya know," there’s a couple of those on this agenda as well — two appointments to the Parks and Recreation Board and three to the Library Board. The council also needs to come up with a replacement for former council member David Wilson to represent position 3 on the Alliance Regional Water Authority board.
And, by the time this, the first council meeting of 2018, adjourns, the city should have its first-ever designated attorney for the Ethics Commission and possibly even a new city attorney. Those items will be discussed in executive session, however, and decisions may or may not be made public after the council returns to a public session.
And there’s that dang zoning issue involving 5½ acres on Windy Hill Road on which the owner wants to build an apartment complex and a small shopping area. That request drew some NIMBY opposition the first couple times it came before the council and it appeared to be opposed by a significant number of council members until the city attorney in that last council meeting of 2017 took the entire council into executive session after which the council meekly and without debate approved the item on first reading 6-1. It apparently has to do with a contract the city and the owner signed as a condition of the property being annexed that forces the council to approve the zoning request. So there’s that and the only thing that might happen is the NIMBYs might want to continue beating their heads against the wall by speaking out against the request during citizen comments period. But that fight appears all but over.
Someone on the council might even raise the question about a motorist apparently driving 116 miles an hour on Kohlers Crossing in late November between the railroad track and I-35. But I’ll get back to that a little later in this story.
Frankly, I’m more concerned about that item number 5 on the consent agenda to "authorize (the) execution of a 12-month professional services agreement with Catalyst Commercial, Inc., Dallas, Texas, for total consulting fees in the amount of $24,500 plus reimbursable expenses at 115 percent of actual costs to provide services related to developing retail business growth and recruitment strategies in the City of Kyle" for the upcoming calendar year.
According to the terms of the agreement, Catalyst is to:
- "Prepare (a) brief creative marketing summary of Top 10 development sites for national and chain retail stores and shall maintain an inventory including available leasable area, dimensions on vacant lease space, parking ratios, available traffic data and accessibility, demographic summary, and schedule of major existing co-tenants, or other pertinent information relative to each property;"
- Coordinate with the Economic Development Commission to conduct an assessment of the top five undeveloped properties that are planned or proposed for future retail; and
- Refine the current recruitment prospect list to the top 20 prospects and develop a merchandising strategy that identifies and prioritizes the likely sites for each prospect."
The one missing ingredient to the above, at least to my way of thinking, was any sort of a deadline. The agreement never says when Catalyst must complete the above mentioned tasks.
"There is no hard deadline for (these ) items, but we have discussed making these available as quickly as possible," City Manager Scott Sellers said Friday. "I would expect these reports to be finalized no later than the end of the first quarter."
That’s fine, but will they be made public? Will the rest of us know who’s on the Catalyst Hit List? And, what’s more, the agreement also states Catalyst has got to coordinate monthly conference calls to update the city of results and statistics of Catalyst’s efforts in Kyle and to provide brief monthly written reports to the city detailing the status of Catalyst’s delivery of what it is being hired to deliver to the city. Will the content of those calls/written reports ever become public?
"The contents of the reports will be largely protected due to the confidential nature of recruiting/negotiating with the prospects," Sellers said. "However, we are happy to make public any portions of these reports that are not confidential."
I was also somewhat disturbed by the language in the agreement that called for "reimbursable expenses at 115 percent of actual costs." When I had my own crisis communications consulting company, I never inflated out-of-pocket costs. I would, in fact, include out-of-pocket receipts with all invoices. I didn’t consider it kosher to make a profit on out-of-pocket expenses. But the city manager satisfied my fears on that item as well.
"The 115 percent reimbursable is only for activities beyond the scope of the contract," Sellers said. "We don't currently anticipate additional activities, but there may be a prospect visit or report for which we will need assistance."
Another item of possible interest on Tuesday’s agenda is one that would increase the speed limit by five miles an hour on that part of Kohlers Crossing between the railroad tracks and I-35 that’s currently designated as a 40-mile-an-hour zone. The change will mean that entire stretch of Kohlers, from 2770 to I-35, will be designated as a 45-mile-an-hour road.
Which brings me back to that maniacal motorist — the one apparently clocked at 116 miles an hour on that stretch. Or perhaps not. Who knows? According to the results of a Traffic Speed Survey on this section of Kohlers conducted between 8 a.m. Nov. 27 and 2 p.m. Nov. 30, the average speed of the motor vehicles during that period was close to 48.9 miles an hour, close to 10 mph above the posted limit. In fact, out of the 9,616 vehicles surveyed during this period, 8,429 of them — a whopping 87.6 percent — exceeded the speed limit. I confess. I regularly take that road to get to and from I-35 and I just as regularly exceed the limit. But what really jumped out at me — screamed in my face, to tell you the truth — was this notation in the survey: "Maximum Speed (mph) 116." Does this mean the survey reported someone was actually driving 116 miles an hour sometime between 8 a.m. Nov. 27 and 2 p.m. Nov. 30 on Kohlers Crossing?. And, if so, what became of the speedster? Did he or she even bother to stop, as required, at the intersection of Kohlers Crossing and Kyle Crossing?
"The device used to capture the speeds and direction of travel does not record video of the violator or of the violation," City Engineer Leon Barba said Friday. "The device simply acts as a statistical recording device; therefore, no identification of the violator would be possible. As such, no driver could be identified and no legal action will take place.
"Being that the speeds indicated at 116 MPH are both shown at the onset of the data tracking activity and that the speeds are significant outliers, these two numbers reflect anomalies that will not be used in the computation of the overall data for the purposes of determining a safe speed for the roadway," Barba added.
You can access the entire agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting here.