In my last column and at last week’s City Commission meeting there was considerable discussion about the need and possibility of bringing a skilled Nursing Home to Mason. This is an issue that raises a good deal of interest and hope in our local community and I hope that in the future there is a possibility of bringing this “vision” into a reality. However, there are a couple of concerns that I wanted to be sure were communicated to our residents, and the fact is that they address other projects and “visions” that are being discussed within the community as well. For one thing, the City as a whole has a limited degree of flexibility when it comes to supporting various projects, particularly in the area of financial support. State law sets out the areas that any municipality can become involved in, and Mason is already doing most of those things. It is a part of most every City to deal with such things as running a landfill and providing garbage collection, providing public water supply and dealing with the waste water treatment, providing streets, parks and animal control to benefit the residents. We do all of these things, but we are usually stretched pretty thin trying to meet all of the public expectations with the limited staff and tight budget we work with.
I am continuing to look into the possibilities of rearranging our local sales tax, but so far I have not found a good way to meet the legal requirements and still provide extra dollars for the initial planning, and I am certain that the little bit of sales tax that the City collects would never be able to build or maintain a reasonable facility. It was suggested that one reason some surrounding counties had been able to bring new medical facilities to their towns was the implementation of a hospital district or other medical specified tax; however, that involves a new property tax and a good example would be Junction that leveraged their hospital taxes to build a new facility but their property tax for the hospital district alone is more than THREE times the City of Mason tax rate per hundred dollar valuation of real property, and I sincerely question whether our citizens would be willing to embrace that kind or amount of a new taxing entity! The other option is to find individual investors who are willing to “buy into” this venture, and without a strong business plan and well considered pro forma reports it is impossible to imagine anyone considering the possibility of investing the millions of dollars that will be needed.
As I have told several individuals, and tried very clearly to state to the residents that came to the City Commission meeting, I am very supportive of this and many of the other projects in town, but it will take a significant commitment of time and energy to move them from “vision” to reality. Whether the project is a new skilled nursing home, or the purchase of the Seaquist House for historical preservation and the benefit of the community; whether it is the establishment of a permanent home for the Community Kitchen, or the improvement of our local parks with new baseball and soccer fields, every project first requires a solid and well thought out “business plan” that can serve as an outline of activities and spending. Each of these projects, and many more like them, have been discussed and would have a beneficial impact on our town, but until the time and effort is taken to build a plan to actually describe the “who, what, where, when and how” in a logical and practical manner it is very doubtful that we will see the completion of a new project. In some cases it does not require a huge amount of planning and thinking, but the bigger the project the more critical and complex the planning has to be. There have been some remarkable successes in the past several years: the Food Bank is progressing and serving more of our neighbors, Habitat for Humanity continues to build a new home each year, the Youth Baseball Association and Youth Soccer have both greatly expanded their programs and facilities, the Community Foundation’s Thrift Store has grown and continues to provide grants to other groups. But each of these groups, and the many more that help to make our community the greatest hometown in the Hill Country, started with a concrete business plan and have spent countless volunteer hours and significant amounts of sweat equity to reach the success they have had today. It takes time, and it takes committed volunteer effort to bring any of these projects from “vision” to daily reality, and I am just very thankful that there are people in this community who have dedicated themselves to work to improve our town in their own special way. I feel sure that some of these other newer “visions” will also improve our community, and I hope that you might consider how and where you might be able to help to make them a reality. It will not happen in a hurry, good things seldom do, but with a serious plan, the patience to work out the details and with a committed group of volunteers, nearly anything is possible. And with your vision and your help we can continue to make Mason the very best hometown in Texas.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent