Fire station improvements and Hawaiian Falls ownership change approved

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by A.C. Hall

As the White Settlement City Council meeting got underway, council member Elzie Clements asked for everyone to keep council member Mike Arnold in their prayers.  Arnold is currently in the hospital dealing with some health issues.  
White Settlement Fire Chief Brian Thompson addressed the council, looking for $200,000 to do some improvements to the fire station.  He spoke about the way the usage of the station has changed since it was built in 1972.  Originally a place for the volunteers to gather, the station now has four firefighters on duty at all times.  With the constant presence of multiple fire fighters, Thompson said the station is in need of some upgrades.
“The existing fire station hasn’t seen upgrades for a long time,” Thompson said.  1DSC02967
The main item Thompson was seeking was a new bunkroom that would hold beds and lockers, as well as a new restroom with three shower stalls.  Currently there is just a single shower stall in the fire station’s existing restroom.  Plans for that existing restroom would be to turn it into a female restroom in case the department has any female firefighters on staff.
Thompson also spoke about the need to address mold in the station, as well as peeling paint on the exterior of the building.  Other items mentioned were a washer and dryer and a bunker gear extractor that would allow the department to clean and repair gear in house.  Currently that gear must be sent out once a year for cleaning and repair for a cost of around $7,000 annually.
Council member Steve Ott asked if $200,000 would cover all of that, saying he’d be in favor of making it more.  The council appeared unanimous in their support of this, discussing bumping the amount up to $250,000 or even $300,000.
“It’s long overdue that this building gets fixed,” council member Paul Moore said.
After some discussion, council unanimously approved $200,000 for improvements to the fire station.  They also made clear their desire to see many of the major issues with the building addressed, telling Thompson that more money could be made available to him if he finds he needs it.  City Manager Jim Ryan said that building improvements could come out of the existing tax note the city has.
Now that they’ve brought on a major new finance partner, Hawaiian Falls ownership is changing to that new partner.  Source Horizon is the name of the company, and they will now own Hawaiian Falls.  This company was already a part of Hawaiian Fall’s investors, but is now stepping into a larger role.
“Source Horizon will come in and said that they will make the payments and the people that have not been paid will be paid,” Ryan said.  “We’re better off than we were.”
Ryan stated that current Hawaiian Falls CEO Dave Busch will remain in that position in the company, but is no longer an owner of Hawaiian Falls.
“Basically, Hawaiian Falls overextended themselves by building two water parks,” Ryan said.
Expanding on this, Ryan said that last year Hawaiian Falls opened the park in White Settlement as well as one in Pflugerville and that they ran into issues at both locations that increased the amount they had to spend on the parks significantly.
“For a small company to go five million dollars over budget is not really acceptable,” Ryan said.  “They had to go out for new money.”
As part of their work to get the White Settlement park back on track, Hawaiian Falls CEO Dave Busch will be relocating to the area and will personally oversee the operation of the park during the upcoming season.
A motion was made to approve the consent to the assignment of the ownership interests in Hawaiian Falls.  That motion passed unanimously.
Council unanimously approved two budget amendments, the first dealing with the city’s main operating budget.  There is an increase in property taxes of $313,000, but a decrease in sales tax revenue in the amount of $303,000.  Also in the amendment is the decrease of $90,000 in revenue that was expected to come from gas drilling permits as well as a decrease of $100,000 from gas royalties.
The budget amendment also covered some unexpected expenditures.  An extra $104,000 for payroll related expenditures was needed to handle the unanticipated payouts made to three high level retiring employees as well as the reclassification of some other positions.
The total decrease in revenues in the amendment came to $190,000 while the total increase in expenditures came to $664,000.
The major change in the amendment was the forgiveness of the $1.4 million loan to the EDC for the Central Park renovations.  The amendment included a $560,000 repayment to the EDC for the installments they already paid on the loan, which accounted for a big portion of the increased expenditures.
There was also a budget amendment for the EDC budget.  This saw a lowering of expected sales tax income by $130,000 but factored in the gaining of the $560,000 from the general fund.
Finance Director Phil Bray commented on the budget amendments, saying that the general fund remains in good shape while allowing the EDC some flexibility to offer incentives to bring in new businesses.
On the agenda at the request of Anderson, this item could see a new charter review committee assembled.  Anderson stated that there have been many changes to State law since the last charter review in 2012 and that a new charter review was needed to keep the city in line with these new laws.
“We need to be in step with the State,” Anderson said.
A discussion was held on the timing of the charter review process, as any proposed charter amendments would need to be finished by the end of July to make it onto the November ballot.  Anderson felt confident that by limiting the number of people on the committee and giving them a clear mandate it could be done in time.  While most on the council appeared to agree with the need for a new charter review, some weren’t as certain about the ability to get one done by the end of July.  City Secretary Amy Arnold informed council that the 2012 charter review took six months to complete.  This led to discussion over starting the review process soon with the idea of having it ready in time for the 2016 voting.
According to Anderson, the charter review committee would be made up of a mix of citizens, city staff, and council members.  Council added discussion of this item to an upcoming June 2 workshop.
Mayor White said that his first mayor’s forum is going to be held this Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the White Settlement Library.  Everyone is invited to come and engage with the Mayor at this informal event.
Economic Development Director Kyle Reeves addressed the council regarding the upcoming Las Vegas retail convention he and members of the council will be attending.  Reeves said they will be taking a local real estate agent with them, and that it should help in their talks with prospective businesses.
Anderson spoke highly of the work that has gone into the presentation the city will have for prospective businesses at the convention.  He said there has already been interest generated by the work.
“It’s time to close some of these deals,” Anderson said.
Clements also spoke highly of the work that has gone into this presentation, saying that Ryan, Reeves, and Jeff James have highlighted the city in a major way.
“You’ll be proud of it,” Clements said of their presentation.
A proclamation was made that named May 17 Emergency Medical Services week.  A representative from MedStar was on hand to receive the proclamation and give an update on the work MedStar is doing for the community.  Mayor White also shared a personal story, saying that in recent years he’s had to utilize local fire and police departments to deal with some medical issues within his family and that they performed exceptionally each time.
Ott spoke briefly following this item, saying that anyone who knows a disabled person should make time to check on them regularly.  He shared a tragic story of a disabled person who went several days stuck alone needing help, saying that can be avoided if people check on family members, friends, or neighbors who may be disabled.
Following a closed door executive session, council unanimously approved the sell of real estate discussed in that session.  No further details were available about that action.