Editor's Note: It was brought to our attention the original headline to this article "Rusk welcomes Harry’s Building, disappoints residential land owner" was misleading. The Rusk city council welcomed Harry's Building Materials during its meeting and in a separate agenda item disappointed the Goff family regarding the city’s lease of an easement to the Texas and Eastern Railroad.The two items were not related.
Updated at 3:10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20.
The Rusk city council, in regular session Thursday, Nov. 12, voted to approve the designation of a reinvestment zone and a tax abatement agreement between the city and Harry’s Building Materials.
The contract establishes a program of sales tax rebates for a maximum period of four years and was approved in an effort to stimulate local economic growth and reduce unemployment and underemployment within the city.
Harry’s Building Materials is set to reinvest in Rusk by building an 8,000-10,000 square-foot retail location, situated at 361 W. 6th Street. The business previously operating in the city was flooded in May 2019 following heavy rains.
Clint Goff, on behalf of his mother Margaret, addressed the council regarding the city’s lease of an easement to the Texas and Eastern Railroad.
“When this was brought before council, was anything brought up about the property owners?” Goff asked. “Because this goes right through the middle of this property. So my mother has 11 acres of land she cannot access now. They’ve completed the track with rail cars on it all the way through her property.”
Margaret Goff has owned the approximately 18 acres of land for about 20 years, although it has been in the family for close to 100 years, according to Clint Goff.
“She is completely landlocked right now. She cannot get to the back part of her property. We’re just at a lost of what to do and that’s why we’re here today,” Goff said. “Something needs to be done so she’s not landlocked. They need to have an easement and a crossing put in.”
Mayor Angela Raiborn stated she had spoken to Greg Udolph, Texas and Eastern Railroad General Manager, and he explained they had to get permitted through TXDOT and it wasn’t feasible for the railroad to do [a crossing].”
After some discussion in open session, the council went into executive session to confer with legal council.
While council was in executive session, Margaret and Clint Goff each affirmed that no notice was given her either at the time the city was considering the lease or when the lease was formally approved.
The knowledge of the lease first came to Margaret Goff’s attention when she became aware of the clearing of land for the railroad to lay down track.
While both Margaret and Clint Goff acknowledge there was once a train that ran through that same easement, they also state there hasn’t been any track for close to 50 years. During construction of the line, Mrs. Goff stated she was given assurances by Udolph that a crossing would be installed and she would have access to her land. No such crossing was ever constructed.
After reconvening from executive session, no action was taken regarding the issue.
Clint Goff remains hopeful the city council will be able to reconcile the situation. He intends to obtain a copy of the lease to investigate the language and determine if anything in the contract can assist his mother in her current circumstances.
“We both feel strongly that this falls on the fault of the city,” Goff said, but added, “I’m hopeful the council will be able to work something out with the railroad.”
In other business, council members approved the 2020 certified tax roll levy, an agreement with Anita Woodlee Roach for financial services and the disbursement of CARES funds by city manager Amanda Hill.
The total allotment received by Rusk through the CARES Act was $315,975. Three specific allocations will be made with the remainder of funds being used for public safety payroll. The first allocation is $25,000 for COVID-19 testing. Another $25,000 will be used to convert the city’s public restrooms to touchless, including faucets, dispensers and hooks on doors. An amount of $6,500 has been earmarked for computers to facilitate telework.