After months of discussion and a great deal of input from the community, the City of Mason finally approved the usage guidelines for the new Richard P. Eckert Civic Center during their February 9th meeting.
The contentious point had been over allowing the serving of alcohol at functions held at the Civic Center. It is located at 1024 McKinley Avenue, in the middle of a residential neighborhood, prompting concerns from some neighbors and city commissioners that people leaving events at the facility might pose a risk to the residents.
During Monday's meeting, many of the same people who spoke at the January meeting once again voiced their concerns and opinions about the alcohol issue.
Commissioner Anna Velez moved to accept the usage guidelines, with alcohol allowed, for a one year trial. That motion died for lack of second.
Commissioner Bob Vacek then moved to accept the guidelines, with alcohol allowed; but, with no trial period. He pointed out that no trial was necessary since the City can revisit the guidelines at any time.
The final vote was 3-2, with Commissioners Eloise Burges and William Beaty voting against the measure. Both Mrs. Burges and Mr. Beaty had expressed their concerns that allowing alcohol would negatively impact the neighborhood.
The new guidelines prohibit smoking and smokeless tobacco inside the Civic Center; restricts smoking to a designated smoking area; and limits the alcohol that can be served to only beer and wine (no kegs allowed). Those serving alcohol will pay an additional $300 deposit.
As the City begins working with the contractor to fix the problems with the new water tower on the west side of town, the Commission considered an option to add a logo to the tower instead of just painting it white. The Mason I.S.D. had indicated that it would be willing to split the $7,250 cost of putting a purple horseshoe and the word Mason on the tower. If the City puts just the word Mason, in black, they would have borne the entire $5,300 cost; but, with this agreement, the City and the school district will each pay $3,625. The motion was approved unanimously.
The city approved spending $350,00 over ten years for the purchase of a landfill compactor. The device is, according to discussion, integral to the operation of the landfill. The city will pay approximately $42,000 per year, with a total repayment cost of $423,494.80. The motion passed unanimously.
City Administrative Financial Director, Gayland Thorn, made a presentation requesting permission to refer delinquent utility accounts, as well as municipal court accounts, to a collection agency. Mr. Thorn explained that the City has $48,000 in delinquent utility accounts and $40,000 in unpaid fines from Municipal Court that they would like to consider for possible referral to an agency.
He offered Municipal Services Bureau as a possible agency based upon their list of clients and references. They do not charge an "up front" fee, but retain 35% on accounts less than one year old and 50% on accounts older than one year. The vote was unanimous to allow Mr. Thorn to move ahead with retaining the services of MSB to collect those accounts.
During a discussion about the possible rehabilitation of the City swimming pool, Mayor Brent Hinckley told the Commission that $15,000 had been budgeted for repairs; but, the smallest bid received for minimal repair work had been around $30,000. He reminded the Commission that the swimming pool already operates in the red each year, and finding lifeguards continues to be a challenge.
Commissioner Bob Vacek expressed his desire to find some way to afford to fix the pool, and made a motion to accept the $30,000 bid, but the motion died for lack of second.
The issue of the swimming pool will be discussed again at a later meeting; however, Mayor Hinckley explained that it was probable that the pool would not be able to be opened for the summer.
During acceptance of the consent agenda, it was agreed to accept a resolution designating March 26, 2009, as Texas Topaz Day in Mason County. That date will be the 40th anniversary of the Texas legislature's designation of topaz as the state gemstone.
The meeting adjourned at 7:22 p.m.