Gainesville Daily Register

December 24, 2012

2012 included optimistic words from Gainesville mayor

Staff Report

Cooke County — Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a 3-part series.



News highlights for 2012 include:

October

• Cooke County historians paid note to Gainesville’s Great Hanging, whose 150th anniversary was in 2012. Observances included a Butterfield Stage presentation of “October Morning,” a play reading where local actors re-enacted key elements of the October 1862 incident through narration. Another key tribute was Oct. 13, at Gainesville Civic Center. Organized by descendants of the hanged Nathaniel Clark, the event was called “Remembering Our Past, Embracing Our Future” and featured speakers, a catered luncheon and a Color Guard ceremony.

• Mayor Jim Goldsworthy used an October Rotary Club luncheon to address topics he said are often warped by local gossip and misconception.

He said economy, crime management, scholastic status and civic restoration are areas where Gainesville is currently showing excellence — and yet this remains muted.

Goldsworthy urged the audience and the media to spread the good news.

“Our biggest challenge in the community that I see is that we don’t believe in ourselves,” he said.

“If you ask anybody on the street, they’ll tell you there’s no jobs here, you can’t make any money here, and that there’s a litany of bad things going on. But if we portray that mindset, then, in fact, that’s what happens.”

Evidence of progress

Goldsworthy compared the city’s current economic standing to what was observed in 2005, a mediocre year for Gainesville. During that year, he said, the city was close to broke, with “36 seconds” of operating reserve funds and a 70-cent tax rate, plus a lower bond rating.

“It was pretty dismal,” he said. “We were a mid-range, B-rated city. It cost us a lot more money to issue debt.”

Goldsworthy said the contrasts since 2005 have been strong. The city now shows an “A-1” bond rating and a 64.7-cent tax rate. The mayor also cited a city staff reduction of 13 percent — made possible through the “attrition” of tightening civic operations — and a full 90 days of operating reserves, the optimal maximum.

Sales tax revenue has been markedly higher during the past two years, Goldsworthy added, with energy businesses such as Orteq, Select and Complete now operating in city limits and creating sales tax revenue increases of up to 67 percent between years. The new companies also help account for the city’s relatively low unemployment rate of 4 percent.

“We’ve been blessed with a good energy sector but we’ve got great diversification of our industries as well,” he said. “And this increased sales tax did not happen by accident.”

Goldsworthy explained that a recent shared revenue agreement with the incoming Schlumberger oilfield services company may produce up to $1 million in annual profit for the city — stemming from the $450,000,000 in equipment that the company is expected to keep at its Gainesville facility.

“Those things don’t last forever, so we’re not making any employee decisions or lawmaking decisions based on that money,” he said. “But what it allows us to do is give $1.7 million for a new city pool. We’re paying cash for that, and find another city in North Texas that’s paying almost $2 million for a capital improvement. It’s not there.”

Closing the net on crime

Goldworthy said roughly 3 percent of Gainesville’s population are people who need to live elsewhere.

“They want to spray-paint graffiti on our walls, they want to sell drugs, they want to break the law and we want them to go away,” he said.

The mayor admitted the city may never afford to be able to hire one police officer for each street, though Gainesville Police Department did recently add two code enforcement officers.

But technology sometimes provides the best substitute. Goldsworthy said City Manager Barry Sullivan persuaded officials to purchase six wireless camera systems that provide 24-hour video feedback into the cars of policemen located blocks or miles away.

Several streets, he said, are currently being monitored at all hours even when police aren’t in sight.

“If that works — and it’s not that expensive — I want to have every street on camera,” he said. “And the bad guys are gonna go away. We’re not going to stop drugs and we’re not going to stop crime. We’re not going to reform everybody, but we want them to move. And if they move to Ardmore? Then, sorry, Ardmore: buy some cameras.”

A second crime enforcement option involves demolishing old local properties that are favored by Gainesville’s drug subculture and are in violation of city codes.

“Things on the government side of what we do with the city never happen fast enough for me,” Goldsworthy said. “When I see a house that’s dilapidated, I want to tear it down. But there’s channels we’ve got to go through and, before, they took way too long.”

The process is now accelerated. The mayor said many property owners can’t afford to repair their dilapidated houses or tear them down. But because of a healthier budget, the city can afford to demolish the houses and then relinquish the lot to the owner.

Goldsworthy said 10 tear-downs were scheduled to occur before the end of 2012, and that the city probably includes 200 houses in need of demolition.

“The more sales tax revenue we bring in, the more we’ll be able to clean the town up,” he said.

November

• Cooke County United Way agents launched balloons and fed a Gainesville Civic Center crowd in November in tribute to their 2013 fundraising campaign total of $413,000, a clear surge past the target amount of $398,000.

•Officials from the Cooke County clerk’s office released a finalized list of canvassed Election Day 2012 votes in November.

The local votes, which underwent the canvassing process beginning Nov. 19, included a total of 14,420 ballots cast from among the county’s 23,408 registered voters in 31 precincts.

The numbers that follow include early voting and election day results for locally relevant races:

Party affiliations

The canvass revealed that among Cooke County’s straight party votes, 7,468 were among Republican Party members; 1,231 were among Democratic Party members; 64 were among Libertarian Party members; and 16 were among Green Party members.

State races

District 30 state senator candidate Craig Estes received 11,513 Cooke County votes and opponent Richard Forsythe Jr. received 1,275 votes.

Unopposed District 68 state representative candidate Drew Springer received 12,104 Cooke County votes.

District 15 State Board of Education candidate Marty Rowley received 11,101 Cooke County votes and Steven D. Schafersman received 2,451 votes.

Local races

Several local candidates ran unopposed on Nov. 6.

235th District Judge Janelle Haverkamp received 11,960 Cooke County votes.

235th District Attorney Janice Warder received 11,887 Cooke County votes.

County Attorney Ed Zielinski received 11,940 Cooke County votes.

County Sheriff Terry Gilbert received 12,132 Cooke County votes.

County Tax Assessor/Collector Billie Jean Knight received 12,307 Cooke County votes.

County Treasurer Patty Brennan received 11,893 Cooke County votes.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Gary Hollowell received 2,798 Cooke County votes.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Al Smith received 2,578 Cooke County votes.

Pct. 1 Constable Chris Watson received 7,969 Cooke County votes.

Pct. 4 Constable Russ Harper received 4,040 Cooke County votes.

December

• During a December regular meeting, Gainesville City Council members approved construction bids related to the upcoming creation of a new aquatic center at Leonard Park.

Council approved an award of three bids to to Atlantis Aquatic Group. The city had received five bids for construction of the aquatic center. Representatives of Eikon Consultants and staff recommended Atlantis Aquatic Group ($2,296,318) as both having the lowest bid and being the highest-qualified bidder for the project.  

The new aquatic center will be interactive — and is designed to feature an 18-foot water slide, a 10-foot drop slide, a diving board and a rock climbing wall.

City Manager Barry Sullivan said the bid for the entire project is $831,000 over the desired budget amount of $1,660,000, but he recommended moving forward with the project. Sullivan added that money is available in the city’s capital reserve fund to complete the job.

He also advised the project would not get less expensive as time progresses; payment for the aquatic center will be made from the “Pool Fund” of $1,660,000, which was created in the fiscal year 2011–12 budget for the pool, and from the capital reserve fund of $831,279. The new pool is set to be completed in May 2013.  Sullivan credited and commended city crews for the demolition work on the old pool, saving money for the city.