By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
A local athletic facility now in building stages will get a $200,000 boost if Gainesville City Council members approve a resolution during today’s regular meeting.
The resolution follows a first reading by council members on March 5, proposing that the Gainesville Economic Development Corporation (GEDC) offers $200,000 toward the expense of Gainesville Indepdendent School District’s new baseball park.
This facility, now underway and priced at just more than $810,000, will be named “Locke Field” in tribute to the city-owned field currently located near Interstate 35 and scheduled for demolition during the coming year.
GEDC board members had recently approved the use of $200,000 of corporation funds toward the field.
City approval — set to be decided today — will allow the GEDC to officially pass along that sum and “adopt” the new field as an economic development project, providing the school district with roughly 25 percent of the field’s cost.
During the March 5 meeting, councilmember Vince Rippy disputed the payment. He questioned the propriety of using city funds to help fund a school, which is a separate taxing entity.
“With their tax base, why can they not afford their own athletic facility?” Rippy said. “Why are the city and GEDC participating in meeting their budget?”
Councilmember Ray Nichols argued that the funding would be wise as a civic investment.
“I think one of the biggest indicators of growth in a community is the school district, and I think the city and GEDC have to be a partner in that progress,” Nichols said on March 5. “I think it helps the overall impact since we have new people coming into our community and looking at our facilities.”
The GEDC’s $200,000 has reportedly been on standby for three years, earmarked for a park project or development related to an athletic field. In discussing the payment Monday, GEDC Executive Director Kent Sharp said it is not only legally permissible but supports the local “quality of life.”
“There a lot of things that improve the quality of life,” Sharp said, citing other city-managed properties such as parks and swimming pools. “And one thing I’m really on the same page with our leadership in Gainesville about is that we employ a very balanced approach to economic development. You could take a lopsided approach where you focus solely on job creation and totally ignore the quality of life.
“But I don’t think this (payment) is unprecedented.”
Sharp referenced two recent examples of GEDC efforts on behalf of “quality of life” endeavors.
In 2008, the GEDC arranged a contribution of $250,000 toward the new North Central Texas College Career and Technology Center for equipment purchases.
The second example is DMAX Cinema, which opened in Gainesville during summer 2011, after a long development and with the help of a $400,000 GEDC financial incentive.
“It’s not a huge job creator but it’s something that, for years, the community had wanted and had wanted our officials to entertain,” he said about the theater. “So, to me, helping a school board out to build an athletic facility? It’s the entities working together to accomplish a huge goal of being efficient and effective with taxpayer money.”
Today’s meeting agenda also includes these items:
• Consideration of all matters related to the issuance and sale of City of Gainesville combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation, Series 2013, including the adoption of an ordinance authorizing the issuance of such certificates; plus approval of an official statement, a paying agent/registrar agreement and an engagement letter of bond counsel.
• A presentation on a city demolition program by officials John Noblitt and Ron Sellman.
• Consideration of and action on resolutions authorizing the Greater Texoma Utility Authority (GTUA) to execute contracts for expansion and improvement to both the Gainesville Water Treatment Plant and the Northwest Water Distribution System on behalf of the City of Gainesville.
• Consideration of and action on the first reading of an ordinance of the city council of the City of Gainesville receiving the certification of the city secretary relating to the regular general election and the special election called for May 11, 2013; finding that the candidates who have filed for a place on the ballot are unopposed; declaring the results of the election; finding and determining the meeting at which this ordinance is passed to be open to the public as required by law; and suspending the charter requirement of three separate readings and making an open meeting finding.
• Consideration of and action on a resolution of the city council authorizing City Manager Barry Sullivan to execute release of lien against a property to be sold at a sheriff’s sale.
• Discussion about a possible smoking ordinance.
• Discussion on a possible ordinance that amends the building code section for moving buildings.