Tag Archives: City of Rockwall

Rockwall Council member wants meetings live online

At the Nov. 16 Rockwall City council meeting, Council Member Glen Farris recommended the City investigate using social media sites and blogs to better communicate with City residents. We applauded that idea and emailed each of the Council members to congratulate them for approving Glen’s proposal. We hope the City will begin using them right away.

At the same meeting, Council Member Mark Russo also suggested streaming or broadcasting council meetings live online. Sounds like another great idea to us!

Mark told me the other day that he believes it will help increase the Council’ transparency, and help city residents to better understand what Council members are doing. He said City Manager Julie Couch prefers that sessions be edited but he prefers live.

The only problem appears to be budget. Mark worries the cost to start will range between $50-80,000 per year for multiple cameras, editing and production services.

But one or two good video cameras, microphones and Skype.com or YouTube.com could easily solve that problem. Oprah uses Skype for live interviews.

YouTube.com might not show meetings in real time but the proceedings could easily be uploaded within minutes for free!

Council member Farris appalled by our boat docks opinion, WFAA news story

Rockwall City Council member Glen Farris sounds upset.

After my editorial opinion last week stating that the million-dollar boat docks upgrade at The Harbor is a “bad idea” while so many people and organizations are struggling financially, plus the ensuing WFAA-TV News story the next day, Rockwall City Council member Glen Farris wrote on his GlenFarris.com blog Thanksgiving day that he is appalled with my implication that the Council should bail out a non-profit.

He wrote:

“I am appalled at  The Rockwall News and the Boys and Girls Club of Rockwall for implying that the City of Rockwall should give up economic development opportunities and bail out a nonprofit organization.”

He added:

“It is not the responsibility of any City to ensure that non-profits thrive or even survive.”

First of all, I must clarify that the Rockwall Boys & Girls Club did not imply anything. It was just my opinion and mine alone. I’m not connected to the Club – just a big supporter. The Club did not ask me to write the opinion. Any implication is just by me, and no support should be withdrawn from the Club for my opinion.

Secondly, as I admitted in my editorial, I have much to learn about the handling of city tax dollars and municipal bonds. Former Council member Bob Cotti tried helping out by emailing that the boat docks are being paid for by municipal bonds and they cannot be used to assist non-profit agencies.

But as Council member Mark Russo told me two days ago, municipal bonds are really just loans from the bank which the City will then repay with tax dollars. So, as I therefore understand it, it is still tax dollars that are being used to pay for the boat docks.

Now why should the City spend a million tax dollars to repair and expand from nine to 30-40 boat slips? What was the Council’s reasoning? And did Rockwall residents really have much of a say in the matter? Was it publicized that such a decision was being considered?

According to Mark, there are two main reasons why the Council decided to spend the money now.

First, the boat docks were not correctly designed and/or built in the first place by the engineering firm which originally built them (I’m working on getting their name).

Fortunately the City had a warantee built into the contract, requiring the engineering firm to return to repair the docks, but their renovation still didn’t make it right.

So the rebuild is now required because the docks are deemed unsafe.

Among my questions are these: Should the taxpayers and City really have to pay for this renovation? How about holding the feet of the original engineering firm to the fire to pay for it – until they get it right? Is there no other recourse now for the City other than to borrow more money (tax dollars) to pay for it? Do we really have to hire Bellingham Marine to build it right?

And, by the way, it’s my understanding that the contract was awarded to Bellingham without putting the contract up for bids. Is that even legal? I’m told by one Council observer that the City can sign contracts up to $25,000 without using the bid process, but not a million-dollar project. I’m further researching that matter now.

The second reason for the boat dock contract, according to Russo, is to help alleviate the parking  problem at The Harbor, especially on weekends and during summer concerts. Adding 20-30 boat docks was seen as a way to provide additional parking spaces for boaters, which is apparently what Glen considers “economic development opportunities.”

But isn’t that just serving the minute portion of Rockwall residents who have boats? Is it really necessary to invest another million bucks so they can have somewhere to park their boats? Wouldn’t the money be better invested in more parking places for cars and trucks – thereby serving far more Rockwall citizens? And why weren’t more boat slips built in the first place?

If the boat docks would have been built correctly in the first place, would all of this money have been committed to this expansion? According to Russo – admittedly just one council member – probably not! The thinking at the time was that if the City could get a good price now from a contractor – with the economy down – then they might as well do both.

I’d like to hear the answer to that question from more City Council members and plan to ask each of them shortly.

In conclusion, the way I see it, all of this discussion comes down to the basic issue of how successful the private-public partnership at The Harbor is, and whether more tax dollars should be spent there when so many businesses have left, so many store fronts currently stand empty and so few people are shopping there. It almost seems like a ghost town at times!

Obviously the Council can’t let such an important development fail. But is an expansion of boat docks really the answer?

If we’re not going to assist non-profits (which the Council did just last meeting when it approved $20,000 for the non-profit Rockwall Committee On Aging) and really want to expand “economic development opportunities” (as Glen put it), then why doesn’t the Council ensure that The Harbor has an effective advertising and promotion campaign? A million-dollar ad budget would do a lot more to fill businesses with customers than boat docks. The Harbor also needs to recruit better businesses which will attract more customers. Lease rates of just under $10,000 per month for some store fronts also seem incredibly high!

But the promotion of The Harbor is another story which I need to investigate further, so residents can better understand how our tax dollars are being managed and spent. From the digging I’ve done so far, I’ve been told that very few dollars are being spent regularly to promote it.

In conclusion, Glen wrote that he wonders why RISD, the National Boys & Girls Club and the Rockwall Club’s board of directors were not included in the Channel 8 news stories, suggesting they all have some responsibility for the Club’s financial problems.

Good points, Glen, which we will definitely investigate further! TheRockwallNews.com was the first news operation to break the news that the Club is facing a financial crisis, so we’ll follow up on their progress soon. We also plan to ask RISD and the National Boys & Girls Club what they’re doing to help keep the Club open, and we definitely will this week.

We’ll let you know what we learn.

Texas First Lady, Governor’s wife, kicks off Rockwall’s Main St. revitalization program

anita-perry

Texas First Lady Anita Perry, with her husband, Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Despite the driving rainstorm, Texas First Lady Anita Perry, the wife of Gov. Rick Perry, presented the City of Rockwall with the 2009 Texas Main Street City designation today at the Old Historic Downtown Courthouse.

The ceremony, plus brief reception at the City Center afterward, kicked off the City’s three-year program to revitalize the its historic downtown using preservation and economic development strategies.

The award presented to Rockwall by Perry, representing the Texas Historic Commission (THC) in partnership with the Office of the First Lady, recognizes communities that showcase a passionate dedication to community preservation efforts through their participation in THC programs.

“Preserving Texas historic treasures ensures that our unique culture and rich heritage is saved for future generations,” she said. “The Main Street designation recognizes communities which embrace the treasures of their past and protect them for the benefit and enjoyment of all Texans’ futures.”

Perry was welcomed by Mayor Bill Cecil and newly-hired Rockwall Main Street Manager Bethany Golden.

Joining Perry were representatives from the the Texas Historical Commission and Independent Bankers Association of Texas.

Rockwall preparing to cancel May city elections

Yesterday was the deadline for candidates across North Texas to file for municipal elections in May.

Since no one filed in Rockwall to oppose Mayor Bill Cecil or current City Council members Glen Farris, Matt Scott or David Sweet, the City is preparing to cancel the election.

The cancellation also means there will be no vote to change the city charter to allow city council members to campaign for mayor without stepping down first.

Arrest of Barbara Sims for cheese heroin possession poses important questions

Now that Rowlett grandmother Barbara Sims has been arrested for intent to deliver a large quantity of cheese heroin and was identified by police as a “high-level drug dealer,” it poses several questions to leaders and residents of Rowlett.

While she’s out on bail and the investigation continues,  should pressure be mounted to require her to sell her home and move immediately?

As my wife said, she’ll probably just set up her alleged manufacturing operation somewhere else anyway, now that she’s been released.

If I lived in the 6500 block of Fairfield Dr. I would be particularly irate to have someone so labeled living amongst my neighbors.

What can or should they do?

What should residents of Rowlett do?

In Rockwall, where I live, one of the major news stories this past week has been the case of Tim Salahi and Paige Elliot, who died from using the very same drug which Sims is suspected to have manufactured.

I don’t want someone like her anywhere near Rockwall or Rowlett.

No doubt, everyone deserves his or her day in court, but considering all that was found in Sims home, there’s a very strong likelihood that she is in fact a “high-level drug dealer” and should be forced to leave our area.

What do you think? How can we do it?

Rockwall City Council votes to annex Lake Rockwall Estates, 6-1

run-down1

Houses, mobile homes, autos and more are crowded into the generally run-down Lake Rockwall Estates area, located South of I-30 off Horizon Rd.

In an effort to clean up a generally run-down portion of the  community where over 1,000 children live, the Rockwall City Council voted last night to annex Lake Rockwall Estates, 6-1.

More city services will now be provided to the area, plus police will add patrols to the area troubled by high crime.

Read the details on the blogs of two City Council members:

RockwallTalks by Glen Farris

Margo Nielsen

Rockwall now has healthy inventory of building lots available

About one year ago, the City of Rockwall was almost out of developed lots available to homebuilders for building new homes.

Now the City has turned that statistic around and has an 89-month supply, with an inventory of about 1,090 lots on the ground, according to Rockwall City Manager Julie Couch.

“Up until about a year ago, we were almost out of new lots,” she said. “We now have an inventory.”

Rockwall also has nearly 2,000 lots that have preliminary plats. Another 800 are zoned for residential use.

According to City Planning director Robert Lacroix, the lot supply is a healthy inventory for a growing community.

“It takes a year to 18 months to go out and develop land so you can sell lots,” Lacroix said. “We’re probably in a very good position for people when things start to change and they want to move.”

Three years ago, Rockwall was fourth on the list of the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, increasing at about 4,500 people a year. But annual starts have declined by a quarter to 147.

The city used to see 500 to 700 permits a year, Couch said.

Dick Skorburg, president of The Skorburg Co., is developing the Stone Creek subdivision in Rockwall, which will have 1,700 lots on 800 acres, built in 10 phases, according to Skorburg’s Web site.

“Each submarket needs to be looked at on their own merits because they vary greatly,” he said. “There are quite a few submarkets that are healthy. We’re happy with all of our projects and where we are.”