New details on water park emerge; bonds may be used

A preliminary drawing of the park was shown to council members.
A preliminary drawing of the park was shown to council members.

By A.C. Hall

Negotiations are still ongoing between the City of White Settlement and Hawaiian Falls Waterpark for the purpose of bringing a water park and year round adventure park to the area next to Veterans Park. At Tuesday’s council meeting more details were made available about the possible inner workings of the deal should it materialize.  

With council members Danny Anderson and Mike Arnold absent, council voted 3 – 0 to approve a letter of intent between the City and Hawaiian Falls.

“That kicks it off folks; we’re started,” Mayor Jerry Burns said.

The letter lays out both sides’ intentions to negotiate a deal and puts forth a date of Aug. 15 for when the negotiations should be complete and an anticipated opening of the park by May 24, 2014.

Economic Development Corporation Director Jim Ryan spoke about the relationship Hawaiian Falls develops with cities where they’re located, saying they are spoken of very highly by the host cities.

“Cities just rave about them,” Ryan said.

With negotiations continuing, funding and revenue details were not discussed during the open session.  Ryan did answer some questions on these topics following the meeting, providing a picture of how White Settlement will go about securing the park should the negotiations wrap up favorably.

The construction of the park will be done through a City issued bond in the neighborhood of $12 million.  Ryan said the reason the city takes out the bond is because the park is on city-owned land, meaning Hawaiian Falls isn’t able to put up the land itself as collateral for the bond.  However, once this money is used for construction, Hawaiian Falls will have a forty year exclusive lease on the water park, and their lease payment to the City will mirror the City’s bond debt service payment.

Ryan referred to this as “found money” since the bond payments will be handled by Hawaiian Falls and not the city.  This appears to be a way of funding that has been used by Hawaiian Falls before, as in a recent Star Telegram article, bond payment arrangements between host cities and Hawaiian Falls were mentioned as a way some nearby water park locations were also funded.

Other items of note in the possible agreement include an arrangement that would send 100 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue from the water park into a special account.  This money would be combined with a similar contribution from Hawaiian Falls, and then used solely for improvements and upkeep of the Hawaiian Falls Waterpark and Adventure Park.

Citizens of White Settlement or those who work in the city will receive 25 percent off  ticket and season pass rates at Hawaiian Falls when showing proof of residence or place of employment within the city.

Another part of the agreement states that the first five hotels that are constructed in White Settlement following the opening of Hawaiian Falls will have their hotel occupancy tax money go towards paying off the $12 million bond.  Again, Ryan referred to this as “found money,” saying that without Hawaiian Falls he’s not even sure if there would be five more hotels coming to the city.  Ryan also stressed that the city will benefit from all the growth that could come to the area should Hawaiian Falls build here.

Negotiations are continuing in an effort to close the deal that will make White Settlement the home of a Hawaiian Falls Waterpark and Adventure Park.  Keep your eyes on The Grizzly Detail for all the latest developments on this story.

Chamber of Commerce location discussed

Sam Symonds from Cooperative Industries addressed the council about the White Settlement Area Chamber of Commerce and the location of their office.  Symonds is the Vice President of the Chamber and he spoke about what the City’s support of the chamber means to him and other chamber members.  He also said that the chamber doesn’t want to be a burden on the city, as the City budgets $40,000 a year towards the chamber.

“That’s one of the things that has actually weighed heavily on a lot of the chamber members’ minds as well, not to be a burden to the city,” Symonds said.  “The idea is to ultimately become self sustaining, and again still be the standard to fly the flag of White Settlement.”

Symonds spoke about the current office location along White Settlement Road.  The office is in a building that just went through bankruptcy, and the chamber is operating on a month to month basis when it comes to their lease.  Symonds spoke of the desire to move the office and visitors’ center to a more visible place, and gave the council the chamber’s suggested location.

The spot pointed out by Symonds is near the cannon and flag pole at Veterans Park.  Symonds stated the desire to see a facility around 4500 or 5000 square feet constructed there that would house an office, visitor’s center, catering kitchen, and a large meeting area.  Symonds said the meeting area could be used to host the chamber meetings, the chamber banquet, city meetings, and possibly other gatherings.  The estimated seating for the meeting area is 250 people.

The exposure of the location was highlighted by Symonds, who also mentioned the boost the chamber would get once Hawaiian Falls opened.  He detailed the possibility of water park visitors stopping by the chamber location to learn more about where they can shop and eat while in White Settlement.

The Chamber of Commerce has set aside $30,000 to put towards this construction project.  The total estimated dollar amount for the construction of the facility wasn’t mentioned, but Mayor Burns said this was a good time to bring up possible new projects.

“We’re fixing to go into budget, and I’m pretty sure this will be one of the items we’ll sit down and discuss,” Burns said.

$3.4 million tax note moves forward

  Finance Director Phil Bray addressed the council about the possibility of issuing a tax note in the amount of $3.4 million.  Bray explained that this new debt would replace debt that is coming off the books and will not increase the tax rate at all.  This bond could be used for things like street improvements, renovating existing facilities, improvements to the water and sewer systems, and the acquisition of street maintenance or fire equipment.

“Anything that you can spend out of current funds is great, but for things that have a longer useful life than one year it really makes a lot of sense to issue some kind of debt,” Bray said.  “Especially, in our particular situation when you have debt that has been paid off.”

Bray said there were items of about $1.2 million that had been pinpointed in the budget this tax note could fund, leaving around $2 million for infrastructure items.

Council voted unanimously to move this process forward.  Before the tax note is issued it will come back before council at a future date.

Other business

Council voted unanimously to place Verda (Vicki) Norman and William Morris onto the Library Board and to place Christopher Stacy onto the Board of Adjustments and Appeals.

Sergeant Denison of the White Settlement Police Department spoke about the investigation into the re-opening of Super Wash Car Wash on Cherry Lane.  This item originated from a recent council meeting where the legality of this business re-opening was called into question.  The central item in the investigation is when the car wash ceased operations and for how long they remained ceased, since their non-conforming use exception expires if the business is closed for a certain period of time.

Sergeant Denison gave the council an update of his findings, which included two legal cases that were similar.  In both cases, a decision was present from the local Board of Adjustments and Appeals.  This led Sergeant Denison to make the suggestion that the council turn over the investigation to the BAA and allow them to make a determination on the matter.

Building Official Kyle Reeves informed the council that the city was nominated by the Greater Fort Worth Builders Association for a Community Spotlight Award.  Reeves said this was because of the residential certificate of occupancy program the city started last year.

The Council will hold budget work sessions starting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16.  The sessions are planned to run from Tuesday to Friday, but all the days may not be used.

See BMS page 8