By A.C. Hall
Picking up an item from their last meeting, on Tuesday the council once again tackled what to name some of the new features at the renovated Central Park. All agreed that there was no rush on the matter, but one thing that was unanimous was the need to honor the recently passed Norris Chambers and his wife Ella.
Council member Danny Anderson expressed his wish that they’d done this before Norris passed away. Eventually, a motion was unanimously passed to name the new Central Park amphitheater in honor of Norris and Ella Chambers.
As for the remainder of ball fields and facilities waiting to be named, the council discussed several different options. Council member Mike Arnold stated he had no issue with how the ball fields usually got named after ex-mayors, but offered additional criteria that could be considered.
“We’ve got lots of people through the history of White Settlement that did not serve on the council necessarily that did serve the community in other ways,” Arnold said.
Council member Gene Hatcher voiced his desire to see a field named after ex-mayor James Herring, saying that to this day Herring still serves the public. A suggestion was made to get the Parks and Recreation board involved. Council directed that board to dig up info and history on those involved in the parks over the years and to suggest some possible names to the council.
Memorial Wall approved
The long discussed Memorial Wall at Veterans Park has finally been approved with a target completion date of May 20. The cost is $103,495, which is much lower than initial estimates now that there won’t be individual engraved names on the wall.
“I’m still kind of sticker shocked on this,” Anderson said. Anderson asked to know the original price and was told it was $178,000, but that several items had been eliminated to bring the cost down.
Another thing Anderson brought up was a citizen suggestion he received to put LED screens into the memorial wall. These could then display names of local veterans, as well as information on the wars. Anderson stated it could become a spot for field trips where local students could come and learn.
Project Manager Jack Bell voiced interest in the idea, but doubted it could be done in time for the May 20 completion of the wall. This led Anderson to voice his concerns over the short deadline in general, saying he’d like to see some penalties added into the construction contract in case the wall falls behind schedule.
A motion was made to approve the construction of the memorial wall with a May 20 target completion date and appropriate penalties built into the contract in case that date isn’t met. That motion passed unanimously.
Natural gas pipeline approved despite concerns
The council voted 4 to 1 to approve a right of way use agreement between the city and Texas Midstream Gas for the purpose of installing an underground natural gas pipeline from 1527 S. Cherry Lane to 216 S. Grants Lane. The fee paid to the city for this agreement would be $135,000. The pipeline will be buried around 30 feet below the ground, but Anderson questioned safety issues as there are residential areas around where this pipeline will be placed.
Bell assured Anderson that the plans had already been examined by the Railroad Commission as well as the Fire Marshal, but Anderson still had concerns.
“I’ve got a real problem putting it right there through those neighborhoods like that,” Anderson said.
Eventually a motion was made to approve the right of way agreement, and Anderson was the sole vote against as it passed.
Residential Certificate of Occupancy discussed again
This subject has been heavily discussed in recent months, and once again Building Official Kyle Reeves presented more information to the council on this matter. This program requires a $75 city inspection any time the occupant of a home is changing. Several council members have voiced their belief that current inspection ordinances are sufficient and that this program isn’t needed, but Reeves spoke of the benefits of keeping it as he addressed the council about low property values in the city.
“I believe that the lower property values can be stabilized with the residential certificate of occupancy program,” Reeves said.
He said neighboring cities that also have programs similar to this have indicated it has helped with property values as well as helping the community in general. Reeves also stated that some cities that he spoke to that don’t currently have the program said that having one could help them.
Reeves gave members of the council a large amount of paperwork about the program, similar programs in nearby cities, as well as historical data on property values. As this was a presentation, no action was taken on the item by council.
Later in the meeting, Janette Spurlock addressed the council with a public comment on this program. Spurlock stated that she owns rental property in several cities, and White Settlement is the only one that has the residential certificate of occupancy program. She indicated that it is the responsibility of the property owner to take care of their properties, and that if they don’t upkeep them properly and keep them safe for renters, then they’ll soon be out of the rental business. Spurlock said she would like to see the city stay out of her business.
EDC project to assist new hotel approved
Completing the process for this project, the council unanimously passed a motion to accept the second reading of the project that will see the WS EDC give $275,000 of financial assistance to help the construction of a Best Western Elite Inn at 7620 West Freeway. The project was already approved by the EDC and went through a public hearing.
Citizen Darlene Underwood spoke about this matter, urging the council not to approve it. She said there is no return on investment to the citizens, as they are exchanging sales tax money for the eventual hotel/motel tax money that will be brought in by the Best Western Elite. Underwood said that this type of money is expended on city events like Settlers’ Day and the free holiday events, and doesn’t actually bring in revenue to the city.
Underwood said the type of things citizens want should be considered, saying a grocery store or restaurant are much more desired than another hotel. She also mentioned the lagging sales tax in the city, citing a rocky economic climate as another reason the $275,000 should not be given away.
Despite the concerns voiced by Underwood, several council members spoke highly of the need for the hotel. Hatcher mentioned tournaments that will be held at the new Central Park, saying those people will need a place to stay. The new Region 11 education facility that is moving into the old Sam’s building was also mentioned, as they will have many people coming in from out of town looking for a place to stay.
A motion to approve the second reading of the project and thus make it official passed unanimously. The money will not be given to the hotel until it is fully constructed.