The Harrison County Commissioners Court approved on Wednesday the creation of a reinvestment zone around Eastman Chemical Company for a proposed expansion project.

“This is a reinvestment zone that is required for any tax abatements, any requested maintenance… they will have to occur inside a reinvestment zone; so that’s the reason for creating this,” explained Harrison County Judge Chad Sims.

A public hearing was held Wednesday to consider the creation of a reinvestment zone, covering nearly 6,000 acres, situated in western Harrison County, generally located at 2920 Callahan Road in Longview.

Individuals interested in the proposed creation of the reinvestment zone were invited to attend the public hearing to speak for or against the creation.

“This will create a reinvestment zone where they do plan some expansions and have asked us to consider a tax abatement of property taxes there. To consider that, we first have to have a reinvestment zone established and that was the purpose of our hearing,” said Sims.

According to the Tax Code, the proposed area of expansion must be established as a reinvestment zone before a county can even enter a tax abatement agreement.

“This is not the tax abatement; this is simply creating the reinvestment zone,” Sims said of Wednesday’s action.

The public hearing drew only one public comment, which was from Marshall Economic Development Corporation’s executive director, Donna Maisel, who spoke in favor of the zone.

“As part of the team for Harrison County, in support of economic development and growth of our community, this is just one of the many tools available to our county and our community to encourage the retention, expansion and further growth of companies and industries in our county; and MEDCO has worked very closely on the project,” said Maisel.

Maisel said MEDCO has used this tool before and consider it a very sacred thing to ask for a reinvestment zone.

“As a result of that, in the last 10 years, we’ve only asked for two and only one was followed through with, and so we understand the importance of this and the value to the county,” said Maisel. “Our organization highly recommends that this zone be created for future growth and for investment in our county and stability, for the long-term, for our county.”

The reinvestment zone will expire after 10 years.

In other business, the court approved a contract with East Texas Baptist University’s nursing school and Harrison County, to permit the nursing students to observe the medical staff at the county jail.

Sims said he thinks it’s a great opportunity for the students, especially since the jail is within walking distance of the nursing school, located downtown.

“We always have medical needs in our jail,” the county judge said. “We think it’s a good opportunity.”

In other business, the court approved the appointment of Dr. Ricky Paul to serve as the local health authority, effective Jan. 22, 2020 and terminating Jan. 22, 2021.

“Dr. Paul, in the past has been our local health authority and he will continue in that role,” said Sims.

Additionally, the court approved the county’s annual interlocal agreement with the Marshall-Harrison County Health District.

“We have an agreement with (this) entity, which is shared between Marshall and Harrison County to operate the health district, which purpose is to provide vaccinations for indigent children,” Sims noted. “They do an excellent job out there. That’s what Dr. Paul oversees. We have a registered nurse there. She’s our executive director there every day.”