By A.C. Hall
The final EDC meeting of 2012 kicked off with Economic Director Jim Ryan giving a report filled with encouraging news. Ryan spoke about renovations that will happen to the old Big Lots building off of Cherry Lane as it is being turned into a trampoline park.
“They’re gonna spend probably in excess of a million dollars on renovations,” Ryan told the EDC.
The building will have trampolines all throughout it, and beyond simply using them for jumping, the company will host basketball and dodgeball leagues.
It’s expected that the trampoline park will serve between 8,000 and 10,000 customers per month, and will have a staff of around 50, most of whom will be part time. Ryan said he has spoken to the owners about possibly hiring White Settlement Independent School District students.
A Seattle’s Best Coffee location will also be coming into the Cherry Lane area. This standalone building will be near where the Sam’s gas station once stood. The company is owned by Starbuck’s and will serve coffee and pastries.
Ryan also reported that another hotel will be coming to the city. It’s currently unknown which franchise it will be, but the location is next to the La Quinta Inn. For one possible reason as to why so many businesses are coming into the city, Ryan pointed to a big deal that was just recently finalized.
“I believe all of this has to do a little bit with the Region XI State School deal that’s going into Sam’s,” Ryan said. “It’s now a done deal.”
While the likely possibility of the Region 11 building coming into the old Sam’s building has been reported by The Grizzly for several months, this was the first official word from White Settlement City officials that was given that the deal has been finalized.
The training facility has over 50,000 education professionals come through it yearly and could be an important new addition to the City of White Settlement. Ryan said that as many of these people come to the facility for training, there’s usually two questions on their mind.
“They want to know where they’re going to stay and where they’re going to eat,” Ryan said.
Mayor Jerry Burns suggested providing the Region XI facility with some literature that will give people an idea of where they can stay and eat within the city.
The WSISD administration has been working with the Region XI facility to bring it into the City, and Ryan spoke highly of the work new WSISD Superintendent Frank Molinar has done in that regard.
“Frank worked extremely hard to get them here,” Ryan said. “In fact, the ISD is putting up some money to help them in the renovations and such.”
It was stated that having the facility so close will be a cost saver in the long run for WSISD as they’ll no longer have to send their people out of town for training.
Early estimates have the facility opening up in the first part of 2014.
The nearly $20 million dollar Weir SPM national headquarters building has received a certificate of occupancy, signaling its general completeness. Ryan said there were a few small things they still were finishing up, but that the building was already getting rave reviews. Building Official Kyle Reeves visited the building, and Ryan shared some of Reeves’ comments.
“He said it is the most fantastic building he has ever seen in his life,” Ryan relayed.
Ryan touted the green properties of the building, saying it was said to be one of the greenest buildings in the State.
Weir SPM has also started getting permits to construct a guard shack and fencing. The $670,000 project was said by Ryan to be a part of Weir closing off their campus.
The Sunview Additions will be growing even more in the near future, as Ryan reported that it looks like the builder will be bringing in even more homes to that part of the city.
“We’re gonna have another thirty to forty homes going into Sunview, which is a nice thing,” Ryan said.
The long vacant paved area on the corner of Saddle and Clifford has a new owner, as a church has bought the property. This particular piece of property was supposed to be a commercial area, but that was never followed through on by the builder that originally owned it.
The challenges facing a church coming into that area were discussed.
“We did explain to them that that property was a planned development and it was not zoned for them and they would have to go through certain difficulties,” Ryan said. He ran through the city boards the church will need to go before in order to get the property set up for usage by a church, saying it will eventually probably wind up before the City Council.
“The long story is, if they really want to stick it out they’ll probably get permits to build there eventually,” Ryan said. “It’s going to be a long hard pull.”
The $160,000 paid out by EDC several years ago to the original developer was mentioned as he said it would be preferred to see that land have a commercial use and bring in sales tax.
“We’re certainly not anti-church, we love churches in this town. There’s a lot of churches in this town,” Ryan said. “But that’s one piece of property we’d like to see go for commercial investment.”
Financial report raises concerns
City Manager Linda Ryan presented the EDC financial report to the board members, telling them that after the rest of the Central Park money was taken out they would start the year with a balance of $1.8 million.
“The budget is not what we want to see, but it’s what we’ve got,” Mrs. Ryan said. “Our sales tax are down the last two months.”
One reason given for the lower sales tax revenues by Mrs. Ryan was hinted at when she said “it’s due to our main tax payer.” No one directly identified which tax payer Mrs. Ryan was referencing, but she went on to say that she’s had discussions with this “main tax payer” and that they believe their sales will start going back up sometime next summer.
In order to keep pace with the slowdown in sales tax coming into the EDC, Mrs. Ryan said she’s frozen some capital expenditures as well as frozen some open positions.
“We’re all gonna pull back,” Mrs. Ryan said. “We definitely don’t want to overspend as our sales tax don’t improve.” The Central Park renovations were discussed briefly. The project should come in just under the $3 million contract. Mrs. Ryan stated that while the work is taking a little longer than they originally expected, the project is in good shape.
She did touch upon her concerns over the sales tax numbers once more before closing out the report.
“Sales tax, I’m concerned but I’m doing what I can on this end,” Mrs. Ryan said. “We’ll make it work.”
Parks Department report
Parks and Recreation Director Rich Tharp presented his monthly report to the EDC. Tharp highlighted many recent events that have gone on in his department such as a ballet recital hosted at the new facilities at Chapel Creek Fellowship church, a softball tournament, a Boyscouts ceremony, and the return of Cowtown Soccer which will signal the return of adult soccer to Veterans Park.
Tharp also thanked Chesapeake Energy for the trees they donated to Central Park. He said they were good sized trees and encouraged the EDC to drive by the nearly finished park and take a look at them.
Despite not being completed yet, Tharp announced that Central Park is already set to host a major tournament in 2013.
“Pony’s looking at bringing in the Pony World Series Slow Pitch tournament to Central Park in July,” Tharp said.
Tharp went on to say that Pony will also bring the fast pitch world series to the City in 2014.
There’s expected to be between forty and fifty teams take part in the tournament.
“This is drawing from all over the south and southwest United States,” Tharp said. “This will be our first big booking at Central Park.”
Depending on the size of the tournament, some games may have to be played at Veteran’s Park.
“It’d be nice to be known to be the city that hosts the World Series,” Mayor Burns said.
Mr. Ryan mentioned that this would mean a lot of people coming to stay in the area, and that it would make Central Park a destination point. The importance of promoting hotels and restaurants to tournament goers was discussed, with one board member suggesting also promoting the local museums to the people coming in for the tournaments.
When asked if the park will be ready by that time, it was stated that Central Park should be opening sometime in mid January. Mr. Ryan fielded the question from an EDC member about the reasons behind the delays. He spoke about several small problems, while also mentioning a long holdup over some electricity issues.
“I’m not going to blame anything on anybody,” Mr. Ryan said. “We have yet to have any problems with the Heartland people. They have been very active and proactive in completing the job.”
The original completion date for the park was in November, but now a January 15 date is being targeted for the opening of the park.
Veterans Park concession contract approved
The EDC unanimously approved a concession contract with ABC Foods and Catering. Staff recommended this company after going through a sealed bid process for the concession contract.
ABC Foods and Catering will be required to maintain a certain set of foods on their menu. These mostly include ballpark standbys such as hot dogs, nachos, chips, candy, and drinks. In addition, their bid indicated they will also offer chicken sandwiches, double cheeseburgers, chicken tenders and breakfast burritos, among other items.
“They have plans to bring in quite a few different types of different food items,” Tharp said. “They’re real interested in Mexican food items, and then barbeque is another thing that they’re talking about.” Several board members stated that they were pleased with the prices that will be charged at the concession stand. As part of the agreement, thirty percent of the gross sales made at the concession stand will come back to the city.