Brownwood retailers could be on their way to having a very merry Christmas if trends continue, members of the board of the Brownwood Economic Development Corporation were told Tuesday during their December meeting.

“Sales tax revenue was up slightly in November, and up 5 1/2 percent in December,” James Campbell, BEDC executive director, said. “It’s not comprehensive, but from the merchants I’ve talked to, they feel very positive about their sales during the Christmas season.”

The EDC receives revenue from a half-cent of municipal sales taxes collections, and has budgeted a 4 percent increase for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Campbell said to date, the increase is tracking above 5 percent.

Meanwhile, Campbell offered reports on a variety of projects, noting that the traditional holiday slowdown did not arrive this year.

“It’s been an exception to the rule,” Campbell said.

While no updated employment statistics have been received this month from the state, Campbell noted that jobless rates for both Brown County and for Texas are at historic lows with figures running below national averages. That’s not been unusual lately for this county, but is unusual for the state, which in recent months has been just above the national average in unemployed.

“People who need a job have a job,” Campbell said. “There’s a lot of job openings advertised in the Brownwood paper, especially on Sunday.”

Campbell also reported that recent BEDC actions were ratified by the city council Dec. 11, including a proposal to sell land in the Brownwood Industrial Park to a company that wants to build a medical waste disposal facility.

Council members can cancel the contract of the 3.8-acre tract, located in the Brownwood Industrial Park, if American Medical Waste Management Inc., fails to obtain the required federal, state and local permits. The selling prices is $5,000 per acre for a total price of $19,195.

The company faces up to an 18-month process in obtaining a permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The company wants to build a 10,000-square-foot facility and hire about 15 employees.

Campbell said at a council hearing, members of the public spoke both for and against the sale, but council members decided to grant approval because of the hurdles the state has placed on the company getting the necessary permit. Two more public hearings will be held before the plant can operate, one as part of the permit application process and another — if a permit is granted — regarding plant operations.

In other business, Campbell said an associate vice president for the Brownwood center of Texas State Technical College has been identified, and an announcement would be forthcoming with the individual expected to arrive in Brownwood in January.

BEDC board members also received a report from the City of Brownwood’s Parks Master Plan Committee, and members expressed support of proposals although specifics are still being formulated. City Manager Bobby Rountree offered details in the absence of committee chair Greg Dodds.

Rountree said drawings have been developed, and the committee is expected to develop cost estimates after the first of the year.

Campbell said it appears the BEDC will be asked devote some of its resources to fund a portion of this project, which could go before city voters as soon as May 2008.

“Legislation has been changed that would allow us to consider community development projects, which would certainly include parks and recreation projects,” Campbell said. “Quality of life issue are certainly among the improvements that are important to major employers… We’re at a point in this community where we could use some new facilities.”