New business inquiries directed to EDC, which will work closely with city staff
By David Webb
GUN BARREL CITY–The Gun Barrel City Council gave the Economic Development Corp. the responsibility of negotiating with new businesses following a lengthy debate Tuesday.
The council approved a motion by Councilwoman Carol Calkins that City Manager Gerry Boren direct all future inquires and negotiations with restaurants to the EDC. The motion also stated that Boren and his staff would work closely on the development of 380 agreements for restaurants and other commercial interests.
Calkin said she had worked closely with Boren and EDC President David Skains on the plan, and that they both agreed the approach would be beneficial by limiting negotiations to “one voice.” The councilwoman said Boren should be more focused on “the major areas of managing the city services, including police, fire, parks, and infrastructure including roads.”
Before the council approved Calkins’ motion, Councilman Marty Goss, a longtime critic of the EDC, objected to the plan and amended the motion to remove any mention of 380 agreements, which are allowed under the Texas Local Government Code to provide money, loans, city personnel and city services to promote economic development.
In a 3-2 vote, the council rejected Goss’ amendment and approved Calkins’ motion. Mayor Jim Braswell and Councilman Ronald Wryick voted with Calkins. Councilman Rodney Bevill voted with Goss.
After the meeting, Goss said the council’s approval of the motion “muddied the waters.” He complained that the EDC directors do not understand their roles, and that they believe they possess more authority than they really do.
About 18 months ago, the council gave the city manager sole authority to negotiate 380 agreements with restaurants only during a period of conflict between the EDC and the council. “This does not need to be rehashed,” Goss said during the debate.
Goss said the council, city staff and EDC had not been following the city’s charter. That failure led to all of the conflict between the council and EDC, he said. “If we follow the charter, a lot of the problems we have been having will go away,” he said.
Goss said the city’s 380 agreements are standard instruments that do not need to be negotiated. The city’s policy on the agreements is, “If they don’t ask, we don’t offer them,” according to city officials.
In response to Goss, Calkins argued that the 380 agreements developed by the city in the past proved to be flawed. “It is not tried and true,” Calkins said. “In effect, it is incorrect at the present time.”
Calkins said her motion did not move responsibility for preparation of the actual 380 agreement away from city staff. It only gave responsibility for the discussion and negotiation of incentives to the EDC.
After the meeting Goss said that he believes Gun Barrel City has outgrown the use of a volunteer board of directors to direct EDC business, and that a professional director should be hired to coordinate economic development in the city.
Calkins said in an e-mail she disagrees with Goss’ assessment of the EDC. “I really do not understand where he is coming from,” she said. “I have been quite impressed with the credentials and professional resumes of the EDC board. From attending their meetings and watching the video meetings, it is apparent to me that they take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously.”
In other action, the council:
• tabled all discussion about plans to develop a farmers market in Gun Barrel City on Main Street at the site of the old city hall building until a special meeting called for 4 p.m. Monday, March 2.
• authorized Boren to apply for a Local Government Management Assessment Program that will measure efficiency. The program is a free service managed by the Texas Comptroller.
• learned city staff estimated the economic impact of July Fest to be about $191,000.
• ordered city staff to ensure that the allocation of hotel/motel occupancy tax revenue complies with legal requirements.
• heard reports about city staff plans to update building and fire codes.
• discussed plans for city officials to attend National Incident Management System training for disaster preparation.