The centerpiece of Tuesday’s regular Gainesville City Council meeting was a public hearing where speakers opposed or supported demolition of the city’s Locke Field to allow a new housing complex.
Council took no action regarding the proposed build, which would be conducted through Richard Brown Properties and house 144 families. Further action is planned for a future city council meeting.
But during the hearing, several opponents said their resistance is not to new apartments in Gainesville but to the loss of Locke Field, a local athletic site of historic worth.
Resident Bill Williams drew audience applause. He said the new apartment complex is a worthy idea, but to place it near North Interstate 35 would be a visual drawback for city visitors.
“I’m totally for the apartments but I’m just not totally for apartments seen as you’re coming into our community,” he said. “I’m tired of concrete. ... I’m hoping that this land is not the only thing that would make this apartment complex successful.”
Williams also said the elimination of Locke Field would crumble a legacy.
“Not many communities were ever in a big state league, never had a book written about a stadium they have in their community,” he said.
Mayor Jim Goldsworthy explained Tuesday that the use of Locke Field land for an apartment build is an effective choice, if only on practical terms. He said the city already owns the field’s property — unlike other areas in Gainesville suggested as possible apartment sites — and that the field itself generates no significant annual income. Officially, Locke Field revenue is $1 per year.
The mayor added that a new housing complex might be appealing to local high-income employees who are currently forced to rent apartments in other cities. He cited Weber Aircraft engineers as an example.
“What do we house, three of them here?” Goldsworthy said. “We’re trying to capture the folks who are commuting here to work and then commuting home. We’ve got one of the best unemployment rates in the state, but we’re not gathering folks here to live.”
Other meeting highlights:
• Frank Buck Zoo employee Rebecca Parker received “Employee of the Month” for September 2012. Parker was commended for “stepping up” and covering a vacant position at the zoo by directing the summer camp, hosting birthday parties and overseeing volunteer projects. City Manager Barry Sullivan explained her leadership allowed zoo staff to move forward with planned and established summer programs rather than having to cancel them.
• Council adopted the fiscal year 2012-13 budget for the city of Gainesville. Sullivan said the $31.2 million budget is a balanced budget formulated to contain no increase in the tax rate. Sullivan reported he was just informed the city’s water and sewer fund bond rating has been upgraded two positions to an “A-” by the Standard and Poors firm. Goldsworthy commended Sullivan and city staff for their work maintaining a balanced budget that required no increase in the tax rate.
• Council adopted and set the ad valorem tax levy for the city of Gainesville at $0.647000 per $100 valuation for maintenance and support of the city’s general fund ($0.458500) and the interest and sinking fund ($0.188500). The city has adopted the same tax levy for several years.
• Council approved the five-year capital improvements plan (CIP) for fiscal years 2013 through 2017. The CIP projects capital expenditures and serves as a planning document for budgeting and planning during future years. The document does not bind the city council to any commitment of funds for any project or any budget period.
• Council approved a five-year budget model for fiscal years 2013-2017 for the city of gainesville as presented by Sullivan. The model is a planning tool to help council and staff to anticipate impact of current decision on future budgets.
• Council approved annual tourism and promotion contracts for each of the agencies that will appropriate hotel/motel occupancy tax revenues in the fiscal 2012-13 budget. The agencies approved to receive hotel/motel revenues are Butterfield Stage Players, Cooke County Arts Council, Cooke County Heritage Society/Morton Museum, Cooke County Heritage Society/Santa Fe Depot and Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
• Council approved the action of the board of directors of the Stanford Charitable Corporation in adopting the fiscal year 2012-13 budget in the amount of $85,635 for operation of the Stanford House. The budget receives partial funding from the city’s adopted budget in the amount of $10,000.
• Council approved the annual schedule of fees for city services for fiscal year 2012-13. The adopted rates are effective Oct. 1. Sullivan reported on major changes in the schedule: a new $2 per transaction fee for online payments through the city website (when this service becomes available later in the year); a stormwater fees increase of 5 percent; a 3.5 percent Civic Center increase to cover credit card fees; a barricade fee for placing barricades at non-city sponsored events; an industrial waste charge of $0.05 per 1,000 gallons for private hauler waste deposited at the water treatment plant; and a 4 percent solid waste increase for all charges. The transfer station is extending its hours until 5 p.m. in order to increase access to the facility. Councilman Keith Clegg questioned the proposed new charge at the transfer station of $30 per 15-minute increment of time that a person remains at the transfer station to offload after closing time. Sullivan explained the fee was created to offset the overtime cost for employees who serve customers who arrive just at closing time and then need additional time for unloading. Sullivan recommended removing this fee from the schedule. Clegg moved to approve the fee schedule, but specifically stipulated an elimination of the new $30 charge. The adopted fee schedule will be posted on the city website.
• Council approved the Gainesville Economic Development Corporation (GEDC) decision for an expenditure of $27,119 for materials that will expand Weber Aircraft parking facilities at the Gainesville Municipal Airport. The city will build a 57,000-square foot gravel parking lot on airport property.
• Council approved the decision of the Gainesville Economic Development Corporation for the expenditure of $94,500 to Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway for purchase of right-of-way for Highway 82/Interstate 35 frontage improvements. This area can be used to help develop the corner of the interstate and the highway.
• Council approved the decision of the GEDC to increase the economic development incentive for manufacturing company GAF for an amount up to $600,000.