City Council OKs $100,000 for skate park facility
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Nov. 2, 2005 -- For a room full of skateboarders, Tuesday night's city council meeting might well have been a civics class where they learned that interest and support of a project would help that project become a reality.

Before a standing-room-only crowd, city council members approved the expenditure of $100,000 for construction of a skate park on the site of the old tennis courts in Buford Park.

More than six months ago, skateboarders and their parents came before the council asking for a skate park. In that meeting the council instructed city staff to amend the city's parks plan to include a skate park and find a way to fund it.

"At that point, staff went out looking for grants," City Manager Marc Maxwell told the council. "There were quite a few programs out there, but it became quickly apparent we could not really compete for any of them."

A grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department appeared to be the best option, but it would require the skate park be combined with other projects, that land be acquired and that there be matching funds.

"We realized, once we did those things, we would have driven up the cost of the project," he said. "So, the project just floundered."

With extra money coming from water and sewer, city staff was able to identify as much as $100,000 that could be used for a skate park.

�Having that much money available, the city manger said the city would be able to seek grant money to help fund the plan.

Council member Joe Crouch offered a motion to move forward with the park and added some extras.

"I make a motion that we authorize city staff to proceed with a skate park up to a cost of $100,000, plus investigate the feasibility of extending Gladys Alexander Drive up to the parking lot in the central part of Coleman Park and any other park projects that may help this [skate park] become a reality," Crouch said.

The street extension, Crouch said, would be a safety issue that would allow access to Coleman Park from two directions rather than the single entrance from West Industrial Drive.

The city manager told the skate boarders they would be given the opportunity to meet with the city's parks board and to have a part in designing the facility.

Following the unanimous council vote, the skaters thanked the council and filed quietly out of council chambers.

As the council began consideration of authorizing demolition of four substandard houses in the city, one concerned resident took members by surprise.

James McBrayer, who lives at 714 Jefferson, told the council he had no problem with the four houses set for demolition other than a house across the street from his residence was in much worse condition than any of the houses listed on the agenda.

"The roof is caved in, there's buzzards nesting there and coons going in the house," he said while presenting pictures to the council. "I have out of state cars, coming from the east, turning around in my driveway and going back east ... when they see that thing across the street, I think they are looking for a way back on the interstate."

McBrayer also said the dilapidated house was also a nesting place for rodents and vermin, that there were "rats coming out of that place bigger than a Chihuahua dog."

Council members and the city manager assured McBrayer the abatement steps would be accelerated on the property and Councilman Larry Powers said the house would be on the agenda for next month.

Council then gave unanimous approval to the abatement, or demolition, of houses located at 1045 North Jackson St., 607 Lamar St., 204 West Beckham St. and 206 West Beckham St.

In other business, the council named Jay McClendon to represent the city on the Sulphur River Municipal Water District, Mike Barrett to sit on Hopkins County Appraisal District board and Deborah Balkcom, who is a member of the Civic Center board, as the city's representative on the Tourism and Promotion board.

Following an executive session, the council unanimously approved a trade involving property at 128 Fore Street to Sulphur Springs Independent School District for property at 306 Magnolia.

"This is a real simple issue," Maxwell said. "The school, the county and city all jointly own a piece of property on Fore Street due to a tax foreclosure some years ago."

The school district was asking the city sign over its interest in that piece of property in exchange for a piece of property on Magnolia Street that abuts a drainage ditch the city may have a future need for.

Council also unanimously approved a resolution denying a request from Atmos Energy for an increase in rates charged customers, and in a companion resolution ordered the gas utility to show cause regarding the "reasonableness of its existing natural gas distribution rates.

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