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In a 3-2 vote Wednesday, the Waxahachie Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone board recommended the expenditure of up to $100,000 to repair a hole that formed in the parking lot of Covenant Life Church.

The hole formed after parts of an old drainage system had deteriorated and collapsed.

Presenting the request to the board was Covenant Life Church lead pastor Jon Bell, who said the church’s parking lot is private but is used heavily for community events.

“Beginning September of 2018, we had a sinkhole in the parking and, since then, we have been on a mission to try and fix that,” he said. “That is why I am here today is to ask for funds to fix that parking space for several reasons.

“The biggest (reasons) is providing parking for Bethlehem Revisited and all of the parades that go through our parking lot,” he said.

City Manager Michael Scott said the church’s willingness to provide the city with the resource of parking for events that promote the downtown business district is invaluable. He noted the TIRZ has helped other private organizations with funding, including the Ellis County Museum and the Odd Fellows Lodge. He noted that Glenn’s Warehouse Carpets, which has a similar hole in its parking lot from the drainage system, could make a similar request.

“There is a drainage system that goes through their parking lot onto Singleton Plaza where it diverts off into the creek and heads to the east over by the pub,” Scott said. “The drainage system is on private property and there is no city easement there. By the letter of the law, it is a private ownership situation.

“I encouraged Jon to come before this board and get help with this because they are a not-for-profit church with limited means,” Scott said. “We have also set a precedent where we have helped other private entities.”

Scott said the repair will fix the existing hole in the parking lot and noted the city has a plan to address the issue of the old drainage system.

“We have already been engaging engineers to reroute the water,” Scott said. “In fact, before the council at the next meeting, there will be a contract to begin moving water out of that drainage tunnel and rerouting it in another fashion to get it downstream.

“Long term, this tunnel is not going to continue to carry water as it does,” he said. “This is going to be the first phase of this.”

Board member Coy Sevier said he was hesitant in using tax funds on something that was an inherent problem. He said it was not a good precedent to set with the TIRZ board and, if the city wanted to make the repair, it needed to come from the city directly.

According to the city’s website, the TIRZ board monitors and collects tax monies to fund redevelopment in the zone, which includes the downtown area.

Scott said the city does have limitations as far as its spending goes on private property; however, the TIRZ board has some flexibility in the area because it is about the redevelopment of downtown. He noted that, if Bethlehem Revisited is something that is good for downtown, the TIRZ could support it.

The board approved to recommend the request in a 3-2 vote, with board members Brad Yates and Sevier voting in opposition.

In other business, the board recommended approval of up to $6,200 in funding for two stars that will be placed on the Waxahachie Walk of Fame near the Pocket Park in downtown during the upcoming Crossroads of Texas Film Festival.

Both the parking lot repair and the two stars will go before the city council for final approval at its Jan. 21 meeting.

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