Sunday, October 14, 2007
Heritage Cove project
supporters pack city hall
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
GUN BARREL CITY–The Gun Barrel City Council faced a room just short of a packed house Tuesday night.
Nearly all present had a keen interest in supporting the Heritage Cove development.
Over the last four city council meetings, the council has rejected requests for a joint check to Landers Development and East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District to hook up the project’s sewer lines to the main.
That amount totals $35,312.58, based on the project’s estimated impact on the recently expanded wastewater treatment plant.
Though councilman Charles Townsend’s intent in placing the discussion item on the agenda was to offer a possible solution to the impasse the council faces, the wording of the item prohibited the council from taking any action.
After citizen comments on the item, Townsend said his idea is to have the city cut a check to ECCFWSD and get reimbursed from the Economic Development Corporation.
“I feel he (Townsend) has a valid suggestion for discussion,” councilman Todd Hogan responded.
Hogan and councilwoman Kathy Cochran were the focus of much criticism in the public comments on the issue. Councilwoman Patsy Black, who also voted against releasing funds “on principle,” was absent.
The sticking point centered on one paragraph of the performance agreement, which states the EDC “shall have no obligation to fund any grant request or disburse any proceeds if an Event of Default occurs.”
The agreement also bars the developer from applying for and receiving any future grants or aid.
Mayor Paul Eaton, based on his 30 years as a developer meeting contract obligations large and small, commented on a necessary element he called “good faith.” Things always occur to alter the contract during the performance of a job, he said – “that’s when good faith comes into play.”
“I know Mr. Landers is a man of his word,” he added toward the end of the meeting.
The roomful of spectators chose Dennis Wood, the former president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, to voice their view. Wood presented a petition with 200 names asking the council to honor their agreement to pay the impact fee.
Wood pointed out the only defaults with the original agreements from two years ago are over completion dates. He outlined valid reasons for missing those dates, including excessive rain.
“Why aren’t we bending over backwards to help him?” Wood asked as he outlined the benefits the project promises to the city.
His speech was greeted with loud clapping and whistling.
After the meeting, when Wood examined the paragraph pointed to by Cochran and Hogan, he told The Monitor the wording does not prohibit the council from approving the check for the $35,000 – it simply says they are under “no obligation.”
“It’s still up to them. It’s not illegal for them to follow through on their promise,” Wood said.
Current EDC vice president Richard Wendel reminded the council the EDC’s job is to attract developers and new business to the city.
“The council is to ensure we are using taxpayers’ money for that purpose. Let us continue to do our job,” he said.
Real estate agent and a Landers Development spokesman Curtis Webster asked the council what had happened to the spirit of cooperation that was evident at the project’s ground-breaking Aug. 21, 2005. “That was a proud day in Gun Barrel City,” he said.
Realtor Buck Gentry said he wanted “Gun Barrel City to be a great city, not a city of broken promises.”
Ken Landers used his comments to correct misinformation he felt the council was operating under.
“I have never asked the city for money,” he said.
“I purchased a failed project for $2,850,000 in exchange for the land,” Landers pointed out. “None of that money came from the city. I have never once refused to complete a single item in any of our agreements. I only request more time to complete certain items.
“What we have tried to do for this community is take over an unfinished project that the EDC could not complete and that you spent millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on, and make it successful,” he added.
Former councilman Keith Crozier ended his comments with a request that Hogan refrain from voting on issues pertaining to Heritage Cove while involved in litigation with its developer.
Councilman Marty Goss explained during the council discussion of the agenda item that if a lawsuit was enough to prohibit a council member from voting on a given issue, then any member could be gagged on any controversial issue simply by the filing of a lawsuit against them.
The law only prohibits a council member from voting on a particular issue if they are charged with a crime, he said.
Ken Landers has made a number of allegations against Hogan pertaining to misuse of his office, both as an IRS agent and a councilman in association with the Heritage Cove project.
“I am not against this project,” Hogan said. “However, we are a government entity overseeing the spending of taxpayers’ funds – that puts us at a higher level of accountability. We have to adhere to those contracts.
“This isn’t personal to me. I have nothing to gain from this project,” he said.
Hogan spoke of his son achieving Eagle Scout last month and the 12 rules making up the Boy Scout Code of Conduct.
“How can I be an effective leader, if I do not adhere to those principles?” he reasoned.
Clemmo hired as Kemp police chief
Monitor Photo/Barbara Gartman
Clemmo is expected to take up his new duties as soon
as he is able to free himself from his former obligation to Kaufman
Mowing ordinance reviewed and