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Dayton, the good, the bad, and the ugly

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    Dayton City Manager Steve Floyd reads an eye-opening statement on issues facing the city, as members of council listen.

It was quite an eye-opening experience at last week's Dayton City Council meeting as City Manager Steve Floyd laid out the good, the bad, and the ugly facing the community.

Floyd opened the meeting with a lengthy report that looked at the hard times at hand and some solutions to those problems while pointing to several positives along the way.

"Coming into a less than good situation has been very tough. I saw this job as being fun, working with developers, expanding infrastructure, and promoting growth as I did while in Mont Belvieu. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. As city council, you have had to make some unpopular decisions, and those decisions will continue until we right the ship. One thing is for certain, the City of Dayton cannot survive by continuing to do what we have been doing,” said Floyd.

Those issues include major infrastructure issues related to streets, water, sewer, and drainage, with an aging and long-neglected system. According to Floyd, none of those can currently sustain without upgrades and repairs.

"We have to be creative moving forward," exclaimed Floyd.

One of the most significant issues he sees is the city's two water wells, which need major improvements. He fears that if one were to go down, there would be major issues providing necessary water to homes and even more so fighting fires inside the city.

Another major issue is the city's aging street system, one Floyd believes is in terrible shape.

"Our streets are sub-standard, and we flood, even with a small rain. This should not be happening; we are on the top of a 50' hill coming in from the river bottom. I'm not an engineer, but I do know that water goes downhill," said Floyd.

Finances currently top the list of problems, far exceeding the previously reported $5 million shortfall that Floyd’s team had discovered after coming to Dayton this past January.

"Our total debt is currently at $61 million," Floyd announced to a shocked audience.

Floyd believes that debt has left Dayton with little to show for it.

He points to the remaining debt on the Dayton Community Center, which is now 12 years old, the police and fire stations, and most significantly, DayNet, the city's fiber system that is still not completed, as the highlights.

Not only is the DayNet project incomplete, but every employee under the project has been let go, and customers have shown little interest, with only 111 people signing up.

"This project simply cannot be successful as designed. The service needs to be taken into the county where there is a need. We only have 111 residents hooked up to DayNet; we need 1400 hooked up just to pay the debt service note. These 1400 wouldn't include any staff, equipment supplies, or technicians for installations. We went door to door with door hangers trying to solicit business. Everyone seems happy with the service they have and has no desire to switch over to DayNet. It will be my recommendation to sell DayNet for whatever we can get for it," he said.

Floyd said that money would be used towards debt; however, it will likely come at a $10-12 million loss for the city. The project cost $17 million when approved under the last city manager's administration.

Floyd then turned his attention to some solutions, which he and his team appeared hard at work trying to identify in a situation they inherited. 

One of those solutions is the possibility of dissolving the Dayton Community Development Corporation. 

According to Floyd, DCDC brings in between $800,000 to $1 million each year, depending on sales tax collections. 

Suppose DCDC is dissolved, and the funds are moved to increase the city’s sales tax intake to 1.5% from the current 1%. In that case, it will allow Dayton to utilize existing funds to assist them in improving streets and other infrastructure-related projects."It's not going to cost the residents any more than they are currently paying in taxes," said Floyd in a previous interview.

That proposal was met later in the meeting with some resistance and was tabled.

One reason Floyd feels the DCDC move would benefit the city is that economic development is on its way and that the original purpose of that entity was obsolete with the completion of the Grand Parkway in Dayton.

“I do feel that DCDC was an asset to the City of Dayton! More so prior to the Grand Parkway opening. However, we are in a great location and have opportunities that many cities would be envious of,” he said.

That economic development Floyd believes can be welcomed with tax incentives and other areas to attract the type of business that would best benefit the city, bringing in what he considers are actual living wage jobs.

Following that, Floyd points to the developments making their way to the community, with improved amenities and more revenue.

According to his numbers, there are currently 22 residential subdivisions either under construction or in the development process, coming in at over 6,000 new rooftops bringing in new money to the city through property taxes and sales tax revenue.

Finally, he points to the team assembled at city hall and the work they are doing to find answers, from Finance Director Calyn Wesson and her work on the budget issues to Chief Derek Woods and his work at the police department, among others. 

“You have a top five in state police chief, finance director, and utility billing manager that are here to help me, and I appreciate each one of them,” said Floyd.

Floyd hopes that by being transparent and forthcoming with council and the community, everyone will find a way to work together. 

He concluded he had accepted the task before him and that while Dayton’s issues were caused by past mismanagement, he truly feels that this council and administration can move in the right direction by working together.

“I ask that we work together for the betterment of Dayton. We cannot continue to do the same things and expect different results. I want a Dayton we’re proud to call home,” concluded Floyd.