Amphitheater added back into Central Park Plans

By A.C. Hall

Meeting Thursday night at City Hall, the White Settlement Economic Development Corporation (EDC) learned that the amphitheater feature that had been pulled from the Central Park renovations due to financial concerns can now be added back in.  

“It was originally taken out by staff because we were coming too close to the three million dollar cap,” EDC Director Jim Ryan said.

The reason it is now being put back into the plan is because of a $77,000 credit that city staff negotiated with Heartland, the company doing the extensive renovations of the park.  This credit is for several items from the original plan that have been taken out or reduced, such as a parking lot that ended up being smaller than planned, as well as a few sidewalks that were removed.

“At the end of the day we didn’t really lose anything, but we gained $77,500,” Project Manager Jack Bell said.  “I think the aesthetics and the use of the park from what we changed, it’s not gonna change a bit.”

One EDC member asked if there would still be adequate parking at the new park now that one of the parking lots was going to be smaller.  Bell told her that the space that was lost was gained in other areas where they were able to add additional parking, and there will easily be room for around 750 to 800 cars to park.

Located near the Gene Hatcher Pavilion, the amphitheater style seating was still going to be a part of the park, but what the additional money allows is for the stage area itself to be built.  Referred to as a clamshell by City staff, this large stage area will be elevated four or five feet off the ground, and will contain a dressing room and a restroom for performers.

The total cost of the clamshell is $93,000, making its impact on the overall budget of the park around $16,000 thanks to the $77,000 credit the city is receiving.  Staff assured the EDC that this additional $16,000 would not cause the project to go over budget.

“This would give us a turn key operation where the park is, for all intents and purposes, finished,” Ryan said.

Mayor Jerry Burns mentioned bringing back a concerts in the park style event, while Ryan brought up this being a great new venue for the popular movies in the park program that runs during summers.

Once concern brought up over this new feature was the possibility of vandalism.

“We’ve had vandalism in the park before, is there some way that this is going to be lit up so that it’s not a crime target?” EDC member Pat Wirsing asked.

Bell responded, saying they could look into the possibility of adding security lights while also mentioning that there would already be some lighting nearby.

“We can try as we go along to put security systems in place,” Ryan said.

Mayor Burns added that security systems have become much cheaper in recent years.

One thing that Bell mentioned was how dark the old park area used to be, saying that the renovated park will be much more lit up than the old one was.

The EDC made a motion to accept the change order that would add the amphitheater back into the Central Park plans.  That motion passed unanimously.

A slideshow of construction pictures in Central Park was played, giving the EDC a look at the progress that has been made.  The original completion date for the work was in October, but the project is around one month behind schedule.

End of year financial report

City Manager Linda Ryan gave the EDC their financial report for the fiscal year ending in October 2012.  For the year, sales taxes were up fourteen percent over last year, although Mrs. Ryan did say that sales tax was down in August and September.  She went on to add that it appeared the numbers were reversing that trend in October.

“I’m hoping that they keep coming up,” Mrs. Ryan said.

Settler’s Day discussed

The recent Settler’s Day event held at Veteran’s Park was discussed, with many agreeing it was the most successful one that the City has done so far.

“It’s the busiest we’ve ever seen any Settler’s Day, and we haven’t had any complaints that I know of,” Mr. Ryan said.

The cost of these events was also something that was discussed.

“In White Settlement’s history we seem to love to spend money on the people that live here, and if it’s good for the community then it’s good for the city,” Mr. Ryan said.  “I think this was a deal that was very good for the community.”

Mayor Burns spoke about a city having something it’s known for, and that as Settler’s Day grows it may be what White Settlement is known for.

“The children in our community are participating,” Mayor Burns said.  “Which means we’re not throwing our money away.”

Mowing contract to go out for bid

The EDC unanimously approved a motion to allow city staff to go out for bid on the mowing contract for areas of Veterans Park, Central Park and Saddle Hills Park.

When asked if going out for bid was cheaper than the city doing the work, it was stated that it would cost around three times as much as the contract price to bring on the staff and equipment necessary to mow these areas.