Construction is underway on a new Napa Auto Parts store between Ingram and Kerrville, outside the city limits of both municipalities.

The store is estimated to open in October at 2837 Junction Highway where the old U-Haul building was, according to the owner of the Napa Auto Parts store in Kerrville. The new store will lead to a handful of new jobs and is being built by a local contractor.

Since as early as November 2018, Napa considered opening a 6,000-square-foot store in the city limits of Ingram at the corner of Oak View and Junction Highway. For that proposed new store, property owner Mark Hensley wanted to tear down one of three buildings he had built on the tract years ago. The project was expected to cost half a million dollars, and the store would have brought in up to $150,000 a month in revenue, Hensley told the Ingram City Council in November 2018. This would amount to $2,250 per month — $27,000 per year — in city sales tax revenue. 

But Hensley gave up after finding it impossible to comply with the city’s demands, and after what he characterized as inconsistent messages from officials throughout the years, he indicated.

Each building on Hensley’s tract is on its own septic system, which the city wants Hensley to decommission in favor of connecting to Kerrville’s wastewater treatment plant at his expense. But a Dec. 7, 2012 email from then-County Commissioner Bruce Oehler to 

Hensley states that Oehler met with then-Ingram City Manager Stan Neuse and concluded the city would cover the costs of materials and labor associated with connecting businesses on the north side of Texas 27 east of Ingram.

By late last year, Hensley faced $15,000 to $17,000 in materials and labor fees to connect the three buildings, plus inspections. These fees and others associated with connecting the properties and preparing for the Napa store would have totaled at least $40,000 Hensley said. 

Last year, Hensley asked the city to waive the $15,000 in system access and tap fees for all three buildings. These fees already were set by the time of Oehler’s email, which makes mention of them as being required. The city was willing to waive these fees only for the proposed Napa store in return for an easement splitting the three-building tract, but this easement would have resulted in Hensley being unable to sell the tract as one piece, he said.

City Council Member Shirley Trees opposed the waiver at a Dec. 4, 2018 council meeting on the basis that it might create a problematic precedent and be unfair to other businesses who already had paid the system access and tap fees. Ingram Mayor Brandon Rowan, at the same meeting, also opposed the waiver, saying the two other buildings on Hensley’s tract “have nothing to do with economic development.” The waiver was disapproved by a 3-1 vote at the meeting.

A Nov. 14, 2012 letter from then-Mayor James Salter suggests yet a different cost to connect to Kerrville’s wastewater system. The letter, sent to some Ingram business owners including Hensley, states that the expected costs to connect to the wastewater system before 2013 can be “a flat fee of $5,000 for access, with the business owner bearing the additional costs of installing the lateral lines to connect the business to the City’s system and decommissioning the septic system.” Or, the business owner could pay $10,000 for the city to “undertake the entire project, including septic decommissioning and construction and connection of the business’ lateral lines to the city’s system.” 

Hensley and other business owners have questioned why the city, in recent years, dug up and replaced a wastewater line paid for by an Ingram ISD bond over a decade ago. The bond, passed in 1997, paid for a new elementary school, a new gymnasium at the high school and two sewer lines from Ingram to Kerrville, said former Ingram ISD Superintendent Bruce Faust in 2015. He said one of the sewer lines was unused and was later given to the city to accommodate growth. As for why that second line was destroyed, the basic explanation given by the engineer on Ingram’s wastewater project in 2015 was that it wasn’t the right kind of line.

Hensley is among several defendants the city has sued in an attempt to force them to connect  their properties to Kerrville’s wastewater plant. A city ordinance requires Ingram property owners to decommission their septic systems and connect once a sewer line is available. 

In the wake of multiple lawsuits and misdemeanor cases — some of which involved acquittals, settlements and dismissals — the city has asked a local district judge to declare the disputed wastewater ordinance is within its legal authority to enforce.

Hearings in the lawsuit are set for July 16 and 30 in 216th District Court.

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