Mart city leaders have agreed to take $150,000 from the city’s “rainy day fund” to buy equipment that will help it maintain streets to be replaced in a major overhaul of the city’s infrastructure.

The city council approved the money for new equipment, including a road grader and skid steer, which Mayor Leonard “Len” Williams will seek out and purchase for the city.

The equipment will ensure that the city can maintain repairs that will be done with the help of a U.S. Department of Agriculture funding package the city earned in August 2015 Williams said. Construction is expected to start next summer on improvements to the city’s water infrastructure and on associated replacement and repair of roads.

The project has been in the works for several years as city leaders aimed to address problems that have persisted since at least the mid-1990s without raising taxes. There are about 19.5 miles of roads in Mart, and repair costs about $100 a linear foot, Williams said.

“We’re clicking right along,” he said.

Williams said he plans to spend the $150,000 as prudently as possible and will look at used machinery.

During upcoming budget discussions this summer, city leaders will consider creating a reserve fund specifically for the USDA loan project, Mayor Pro Tem Henry Witt III said.

“Right now, we’re working with an about a 40-year-old grader,” Witt said. “It’s going to be a significant upgrade.”

The city is in a better financial situation than it was four years ago, he said.

Letter on Gibson

At the council meeting Tuesday, elected officials received a letter from Witt, who was not at the meeting, outlining concerns regarding County Commissioner Lester Gibson, whose precinct includes Mart.

Witt said he wanted to assure the council that his recent actions were in Mart’s best interest.

Two weeks ago, Witt sent a four-page letter to county commissioners raising concerns about Gibson’s memory and, hence, ability to perform his duties. Witt cited several instances in which he alleges Gibson could not remember something, including the USDA infrastructure project. Gibson later denied having memory problems.

Witt said he will not run for Gibson’s Precinct 2 seat and would not accept an appointment to the seat, despite speculation otherwise. He emphasized the point in his letter to his fellow council members and in a phone conversation Tuesday.

Witt wrote to the council that he had expressed his concerns about Gibson several times in the past two years in private to the McLennan County Democratic Party, to county commissioners and to others involved with the commissioners court. When no action was taken after the private discussions, he sent the public letter, he said.

Witt said the city of Mart needs the county’s collaboration on work related to the USDA project in order to help it move forward.

He wrote that he has received feedback since sending the letter to commissioners from Democrats and Republicans willing to work with Mart to ensure that the city has the help it needs.

“Therefore, regardless of the negative attention, it looks like the complaint will help us accomplish our goals of providing a better quality of life for Mart, Texans,” he wrote.

Witt declined to say who has offered to provide assistance because plans have not been finalized and he doesn’t want to “jeopardize anything at this point.”

Williams said the council did not discuss Witt’s letter.

“I didn’t even look over that part of it,” Williams said when asked about his thoughts.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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