Sep

02

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : September 2, 2016

The lower portion of this sign shows obvious deterioration and missing bricks -- indicative of the kinds of maintenance issues found throughout the center that has overwhelmed the funding sources of the center's current board of directors.

The lower portion of this sign shows obvious deterioration and missing bricks — indicative of the kinds of maintenance issues found throughout the center that has overwhelmed the funding sources of the center’s current board of directors.

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–About 60 people attended the first public forum on the changes being proposed for the Cain Center. The hour or so Aug. 29 meeting allowed each speaker two or three minutes to say what they would like to see at the non-profit community center.
The current Cain Center Board of Directors is handing over the Cain Center to the City of Athens on Jan. 1, 2017. The city council has said it intends to close the facility in order to do a comprehensive overhaul of the property to possibly include housing some city’s offices.
The meeting was started with a slide show of various features of the Cain Center in dire need of repair or replacement. Most alarming was the condition of the mechanical room that serves the indoor swimming pool and hot tub, as well as the supporting structures both underneath and in the ceiling.
The slides made it obvious that the 35-year-old building is in great need of upgrades in every category.
“It’s like a shock that the Center has gone so far downhill,” center member Donna Wallace said.
Cain Center board member and ball park renovator Chris Tinsley said: “This is how we save the Cain Center and make a statement.” Tinsley summed up many of the comments made by casting a vision for the 200-acre park with its walking trails and community center. “I see this as a collegiate campus with pathways connecting all its facets. There’s enough room here to build an Athenian-styled amphitheater for town hall meetings, if we want,” he said. “The city takeover is the answer to the question: ‘What can we do to make sure this is here for the long run?’”
Athens city manager Philip Rodriguez corrected conceptions that the city was doing away with the original intent of the center by opening offices there.
“We won’t be moving all our administrative offices to the Cain Center,” he said. Another speaker suggested a site selection process for moving any city works into the park. “The police station and city hall should be in a very visible location, easy to direct others to, not tucked away in a park,” one woman said.
An MS sufferer, Wallace told how much the water therapy and opportunity to swim has meant to her health, and was joined by another attendee in suggesting the planners needed to think bigger!
They spoke of establishing an aquatic center that had several special-use pools for therapy, for swim meets and triathlons, wading pools for children and for those in wheel chairs. “Let’s aim at the best to generate income and get good stuff going on.”
Representatives from the pickle ball (a whiffle ball version of tennis, played indoors) league and the Gun Barrel City Quilters Guild were both vocal about their needs and requests.
The quilters were told to they needed to find another venue for their April quilt show, league players were asked to be patient during the closed construction stage.
A group of six quilter guild members were visibly upset that they now need to scramble to relocate the group’s April show, after having printed up many of the advertising to promote the event. Tinsley and Rodriguez told the group, the coming changes were not being formed until July.
A quilter explained the group had reserved the show dates back in April and had put up a reservation fee. Tinsley said to call the reservation person to see about a refund.
Robert Morton, a former YMCA director, said, “Fitness and wellness of citizens is a responsibility of the city. There’s nothing wrong with a city-owned and operated fitness facility. Regardless, others will still go to private fitness centers.”
Tinsley expressed his certainty about the direction the Cain center is going. “No one in the city has ever told me, ‘no,’ when it came to funding park improvement. In fact, no one has said ‘no’ to me when I’ve sought volunteers or materials. It’s why I feel confident about the Cain Center,” he said.
The city council will issue Certificates of Obligation totaling $12.1 million, the majority of which will help fund much needed restorative work to save the beloved community center.

Aug

31

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : August 31, 2016

By Robyn Wheeler
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK–Mabank ISD Board of Trustees adopted its 2016-17 budget and tax rate at the Aug 22 monthly meeting. Local, state, federal and other revenue is expected to total $33,242,854, which is a little more than $182,000 more than last year’s budget. Expenses total $33,853,123, slightly up from the 2015-16 expenses of $33,097,778.
The board decided to propose the same tax rate as last year, which comes to $1.04 for maintenance and operations (M&O) and 32.5 cents per $100 of property value to service the district’s total construction debt of $41,229,976. The proposed rate is less than needed to raise the same amount of money that funded last year’s budget, which comes to $1.044 (M&O) and 34 cents per $100 (I&S), totaling 1.384 – which is in excess of the rollback rate of 1.365. However, Superintendent of Business Operations Scott Adams explains that the effective tax rate is actually slightly less than the rollback rate, due to the increase in assessed values throughout the district. In fact, the proposed rate reflects an increase over last year by .51 percent.
New property added to the tax roll is valued at $10,472,840, adding to the total taxable property value of $1,137,767,449 — slightly more than last year’s $1,129,614,499.
The district is carrying unencumbered balances in its M&O Fund of $4,600,000 and $3,100,000 for interest and sinking (I&S).
The majority of the school district’s general fund budget is allocated to payroll, totaling $21,815,171, or a little more than 77 percent of the budget. Last year, the tax rates reflected a total expenditure per student of $9,367 per student with funds raised locally accounting for slightly more than half the cost at $4,754. This year, the district will educate the same child with $9,280, of which $4,695 is raised through local property taxes. The balance of both amounts is funded through the state.
The school food service fund budget indicates a $1,632,106 total revenue and expenses of $1,688,780, reflecting a slight deficit. Contracted services are allocated up to $1,458,708. Revenue for the debt service is budgeted at $3,723,000, a little lower than last year’s budget of $3,821,456. However, the district will pay $3,851,456 on its debt this coming year, drawing about $125,000 from its I&S fund balance, Adams said.
In other business, trustees:
• heard about a new TEA innovative course titled: Peer Coaching for Students I-IV — a year-round program that pairs a student with a special education student. Teachers and staff are saying the new class has been a rewarding experience for all involved. Four students have enrolled in the program so far.
• accepted a donation of $2,500 for beginning of the year supplies for each grade level.
• heard campus openings went smoothly although traffic was a little congested as in past years however principals reported a decrease in traffic each day.
• heard the district scored a superior rating on its preliminary Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST), receiving a 96 out of a possible 100. Adams noted that 95 percent of school districts throughout the state earn a superior rating.

Aug

26

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : August 26, 2016

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
TOOL–West Cedar Creek Municipal Utility District directors learned the Public Utility Commission had set Aug. 25 to hear its application to expand its jurisdiction to include the City of Kemp and its water customers.
General manager Tony Ciardo noted that the PUC had rejected its application twice before. At least now, the application has bene accepted and is undergoing a review. “We expect the PUC to return with directives for us to perform before the application becomes effective. We have all the (required) notices filled out and ready to disburse, but we can’t until we’re given the OK,” he explained.
Locally, everyone involved is for it, he added.
In other business, directors Eldon Cox, David Lewis, Clifton Smith and Wanda Sanders:
• reviewed a request from Roy Walker to remove the service charges from his account and restore water service. After a lengthy discussion, both parties agreed to see what a judge will rule in the charge of theft of service. Walker maintained his innocence and ignorance of any such thing. He said he’s been hauling buckets of water from elsewhere to his home for essential use.
• noted a pile of returned letters dating back to Oct. 29, 2015 to a commercial customer, who changed its billing address without notifying the district. Office personnel continued to make courtesy calls to warn the customer of impending service disruption for nonpayment and someone came to pay the bill. On Aug. 12 the district received the backlog of return to sender mail from the Dallas post office. “This has been a real nuisance.” Ciardo said.