Emerald Representatives give a presentation to Shepherd Council about ICE Facility

The City of Shepherd City Council met on Monday, December 14 at the Shepherd Community Center. The meeting was opened by Mayor Pro-Tem Sherry Roberts in normal fashion. The meeting steered quickly towards the anticipated presentation of the proposed ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Facility for the Shepherd area. Presenter Hull Youngblood went into the power point presentation of the 250,000 square foot proposed facility. The deadline for the application with ICE was Friday, December 11. Mr. Youngblood personally delivered the binders of the proposal application and specification to Washington, D.C.

Youngblood explained that there are three applicants for the project. There is a one in three chance that Emerald will get the proposed project award. Youngblood emphasized the fact that there will be “no cost to the City of Shepherd”. The statement was pledged numerous times in the presentation. According to Mayor Pro-Tem Sherry Roberts “they are not asking the city for any money”. Youngblood indicated that Shepherd job applicants, approximately 295, will have priority in being employed first. The ICE staff of 110 federal employees that will be placed will be experienced professionals in that field. Payroll projects are in the $12,900,000 range. The pictorial presentation included the facility, recreational area, the highly fenced boundaries of the facility, roads, parking and the overall efficiency and function of the facility.

One of the stipulations pointed out was that “if” Emerald gets the award of the project, that at that point Emerald would exercise the purchase of the land from the current land owners. Also in the contract is that the City of Shepherd would annex the land that is not already a part of the city. The frontage of the 100 acres is part of the city, the remainder or majority is not. The proposal includes that the City of Shepherd would annex the property, therefore being responsible for city services to the facility.

Water and sewerage will be a major expense at a cost of around $2,000,000. When asked by the San Jacinto News-Times, Youngblood indicated that the monies would be funded by Emerald to the City of Shepherd for the installation of the services to the facility. Youngblood said, “the monies would be paid upfront to the city, not over time”. Again, when asked by the San Jacinto News-Times. Youngblood shared that the city would then have revenue over the years from the services rendered to the facility.

The Shepherd City Council pointed out the positive effects that the project will have on the community economically. Emerald is not asking for a tax abatement on the 250,000 square foot facility , they are creating jobs, there will be housing needs created and the overall economic rise that should be beneficial to the community.

The Commissioners Court on the other hand is not in favor of the facility in San Jacinto County, as reported in last weeks paper. A resolution opposing the support of the facility was passed by the the court. The decision based on a majority vote at Commissioners Court with concerns of the track record of Emerald Corporation in other areas of the state where facilities are now occupied in low numbers, therefore reducing jobs and leaving folks out of work and unable to pay rents or mortgages.

In conclusion the decision on the project award will most likely not come until about March or so, although a progress report of the multi phased application process will come as early as January. The San Jacinto News -Times will continue to follow the progress.

Other agenda items included the declining to extend a water line on Richard Road as fences obscure the inability for the water lines to extend at this time, as requested by Gary McGinnis. The ESD (Emergency Services District) Board of San Jacinto County obtained financing capabilities for the purchase of a new fire truck for the Shepherd Volunteer Fire Department. The process is in the works to make a deal on the purchase and then the equipping of the truck for service. The helipad at the Community Center will be refurbished and put into operation with the relocation lighting to comply with needed upgrades.

City Attorney Larry Foerester presented his interpretation of the new law going into effect for “Open Carry”, in the community, state, city, and public facilities. The recommendation to the council is that signage must be placed in regards to the facilities in order for laws to be enforced. The city must define as to whether employees can “carry” during work hours. Foerester recommended that the council think about the options, talk to the employees and and how to handle the implementation of the new law in city and public facilities, and just what is most comfortable and suitable for the community.