Sunday, January 11, 2009

     

 

 

 

 

  City to apply for two park grants
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–Following a spirited town meeting Tuesday, the Gun Barrel City Council amended ordinances and adopted resolutions needed to apply for $575,000 in grant monies from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The city is trying for two grants; one a matching $500,000 grant – a highly competitive contest – along with a $75,000 grant being offered to small communities of 20,000 population or less.
The city already has the match, greatly due to the city’s economic development corporation.
Earlier, the EDC earmarked $200,000 for park improvements and is contributing a five-acre parcel it purchased from the city to support an indoor soccer stadium development at the park site, valued at $295,000.
The city and EDC have already invested about $50,000 in consultant fees, plans and drawings, city manager Gerry Boren said.
Park board members Deann Owens, Julia Preston, Kevin Roberts, Aaron Soucy and Sandy Janow have worked with Mark Baker and Cody Richardson of SEC Planning, LLC in Austin since Aug. 7, 2008, to develop the city’s master plan and city park site plan.
The council, upon the recommendation of the parks board, prioritized plans to improve the 26-acre park area on the west side of Municipal Drive for the larger grant, as well as a four-acre square on the east side for the smaller grant.
“We felt the current park had some good bones that we could build upon,” parks board chair Carol Strickland explained. “It would be best to start there, instead of developing a whole new park someplace else in the city.”
Plans for the larger portion call for adding two soccer fields, tennis courts, a basketball court, horseshoe pits, additional parking and improvements to the existing baseball fields.
The architectural drawing features more than 100 trees (most already pledged), two additional parking areas and the extension of the walking path around the city lake.
The east section’s level meadow, where the July 4th festival was held, would hold two more soccer fields for children 10 and younger, a parking area, a spot for a future farmer’s market and a permanent 20x40-foot event stage.
Next week, Boren said he planned to have the city’s grant application reviewed by the East Texas Council of Governments, “to get their blessing,” before sending it to the grant board in Austin at the end of this month.
“If we don’t get the grant this time around, we’ll resubmit it in July,” Boren said, though he indicated he is optimistic about the city’s chances.
The grant application’s paperwork includes numerous letters of support and pledges of labor and material, plus letters from various Mabank High School sports teams.
Earlier this year, the council adopted an ordinance requiring building developers to either contribute green space or money towards the city’s park system in order for the city to sign off on their plans.
The city also is planning on having a full-time parks manager.
Street department employee David Marrow is on board now, helping to shepherd the park plans and assist with the grant applications.
The long-term plan calls for about eight neighborhood parks with varying characteristics spread out across the city, along with trails connecting them to one another and to other major attractions throughout the city.
In the meantime, the existing baseball fields concession and restroom building has been spruced up with a fresh coat of paint, thanks to members of the street department under the direction of Mike Horton.
“Good things are coming,” Boren repeated as a mantra, “good things are coming.”

Lakeplex Lanes changes owners
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

SEVEN POINTS–After 32 years of owning and operating bowling alleys across the city of Dallas, Don Gano and his wife, Lore, got out of the city and moved to the Cedar Creek Lake area.
The couple now reside in Tool.
She is an occupational therapist in Malakoff, and he decided to get his real estate license.
But after only 2½ years, Don has found himself back in the bowling alley business.
“It’s Mark Twain’s fault,” he said, smiling at his joke.
“Twain said, ‘if you take your hobby and turn it into a vocation, you will never work a day in your life.’ He was right. Bowling is my passion.”
When he bought Lakeplex Lanes from its former owner, Mary Jane Hinkey, Lore was overheard talking to some family members.
“Don now has a new mistress,” she said of the business he is now running. “He spends more time with her than me.”
Don was quick to add the remark was made in fun.
“She’s very happy for me because she knows it’s my passion,” he explained.
He has plans for the modern 24-lane facility in Seven Points.
“We will be doing some remodeling, making room to host birthday and anniversary parties,” he said.
“We plan to do fund-raisers for schools, organizations, and anything for just about anybody,” he added.
New goals for the business includes better visibility for the facility.
“It’s hard to get to, and I need better signage,” Don explained.
“We want to make it a family entertainment destination for kids from age 2 to 102,” he added.
“And we will be offering incentive programs for elementary school students,” he continued.
Plans for more activities and other community projects are being considered.
“I think the lake area is a great opportunity, but the business has not been presented correctly to the area as it should have been,” Don said.
“We don’t want to be a ‘phantom’ business any more. We want to be better known in the community,” he explained.
Some changes are already underway.
The hours of operation have been extended, closing at midnight on Fridays and open from 1-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Don said.
“The best change is a Sunday special with a 99 cent game offered from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. then continuing with regular prices till closing at 9 p.m.,” he said.
In addition, an ad in The Monitor contains a coupon that customers are instructed to bring in for a free game
Saturday mornings, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., are devoted to a new junior program for youth ages two to 21, in a sanctioned league format, with open bowling to midnight.
Lakeplex Lanes is located at 321 Veteran’s Lane in Seven Points, next to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4376, across from Brookshires Grocery.
For appointments and information call (903) 432-4094.

Chamber members discuss possible economic stimulus
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

SEVEN POINTS–Stimulated by a demographic-economic study presented during the January business breakfast, Seven Points/Tool chamber branch members brainstormed on events that might attract people and dollars to the lake area.
Ideas ranged from starting up small fishing and bowling tournaments to building a little league attracting up to 600 children.
Bill Grissom pointed out holding events requires both volunteers and community support. “The same people are doing most the work,” he said.
Jim Taylor of First National Bank of Kemp/Seven Points shared population graphs, annual building permits, unemployment rates, small business employment surveys and housing inventory for sale to give business leaders a clearer view of what their customers are likely facing.
Most telling was the lakeplex demographics taken from the 2000 U.S. Census.
While those with disabilities make up about 18 percent of the population nationally, in Seven Points and Tool, disabled individuals make up around 30 percent of the population.
Those over the age of 60 make up about 22 percent of the population nationally, but around 31 percent for the two west-side cities.
These individuals are most likely to be on fixed incomes, and are the first to lose any discretionary spending funds, Taylor said.
When the price of fuel increased, instead of eating out maybe three times a month, they now can only manage once a month or not at all, he pointed out.
Taylor said other retirement community businesses help increase income from this segment by offering early bird specials that feature smaller portions and lower costs.
“You’ll have to operate on narrow profit margins,” he added.
Another telling statistic among adults 25 and older, 39 percent in Seven Points and 29 percent in Tool have less than a high school education.
“We should do all that we can to encourage literacy and adults getting their GED. Prospective manufacturers examine the quality of the potential workforce as determining factors for coming into an area,” Taylor said.
Besides bringing in dollars from outside the community, Taylor also recommended encouraging those with marketable skills to participate in cottage industry, manufacturing items that can be sold over the Internet.
“If someone on a fixed income of $1,000 to $1,500 a month were able to increase their income $50 a week, that would be a 25 percent increase, or more discretionary funds that they could spend in the local economy for goods and services,” he pointed out.
Many such operations could get started on as little as $500, which he called micro-loans.
He pointed out that a recent Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunas from Bangladesh made such small loans, mostly to women.
His first loan in 1976 was for $27 to a small bamboo furniture manufacturer owned and operated by women. Thirty years later, Yunas’ company provides $5.7 billion in loans to six million people, 96 percent of them women.
“The more we can do to help them (cottage industries) develop and get their products to market, the benefit to the community could be large,” Taylor said.


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