Well, here we go again.
Another Glen Rose City Council meeting, another session of cleaning up messes.
Several items on last week's meeting agenda involved correcting things that never should have happened in the first place. That means the council has to spend time at its bimonthly meetings redoing items or putting out fires.
Agenda item 6 – “Schedule a workshop for Council and Preservation Board to discuss plans and define roles for rehabilitation of Oakdale Park.”
Actually, it should have said “reschedule.” The first meeting was canceled because the public notice was posted incorrectly. This isn't the first time a meeting has been been canceled for that reason, either.
The late city clerk Mygnonne Thomas, who kept things running smoothly at Town Hall, has been sorely missed.
Agenda item 7 – “Discuss and possibly restructure personnel positions for Oakdale Park.”
What a mess Oakdale Park has become. This gem of a historical park has turned into a political football. After the city bought the park, the authority to work on the project was given to Billy Huckaby, director of the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau. It made sense – the park is an events venue.
Then as work progressed, the second-guessing began. Preservationists raised good points – should cabins be moved, as called for in the Oakdale plan devised by Bud Surles? Should money be spent to build pad sites for expensive recreational vehicles? What about the big crack in the pool? What were the priorities, exactly?
The main problem is the city didn't figure out what it wanted Oakdale's use to be – whether it was to be meticulously restored to its original condition and function, or be renovated – meaning updated, not historically restored – and used as a tourist magnet to generate revenues. The council devoted many sessions and hours to these questions.
Only after work had already begun did the council, prodded by preservationists, reconsider the work it had ordered and whether it made sense or not.
Huckaby became the convenient scapegoat and focus for attacks. Some perceived he was the sole person calling the shots at Oakdale, which wasn't the case. Last week the council shifted the authority for the construction part of Oakdale Park's improvements to City Superintendent Ronald Bruce and kept Huckaby over the events portion.
A city manager could have helped sort out the alternatives, lay out the options for the council and suggest a timetable, budget and who would do the work. A part-time council and city boards don't have the resources or time to do the kind of thorough job that's needed on projects such as Oakdale that involve so many facets, including grant applications and state and federal historic requirements for funding and restoration.
Monday night the council and Preservation Board finally met in their rescheduled workshop to discuss how to work together to preserve Oakdale Park and yet make it commercially viable. But so much time has been lost spinning wheels that could have been moving forward in a way that involved all parties and their concerns.
Agenda item 14 – “Executive Session….Disciplinary action and possible termination.”
The city's chief code enforcement officer, Darrell Webb, got a verbal lashing from Councilman Chris Bryant for signing off on the construction permit for Family Dollar's new store taking shape on the western end of Big Bend Trail – even though it didn't meet the city's uniform commercial building standards ordinance. Specifically, the ordinance requires that at least 60 percent of a building's exterior be constructed of native stone. Family Dollar's store clearly doesn't meet that criteria.
The ordinance was passed in January as part of the city's Comprehensive Plan for future development and growth.
Bryant and Councilwoman Barbara Mitchell wanted to fire Webb, but council members Sue Oldenburg and Johnny Martin did not. With Bob Stricklin absent, the mayor's vote wouldn't have met the threshold for termination. Webb ended up with a written reprimand in his personnel file and will be required to keep a work log and receive more supervision and training.
Bryant said the council shouldn't have to drive around the city to make sure ordinances are being enforced. Code enforcement has been a recurring problem, he said.
“That's a perfect example of why we need a city manager,” Bryant told me after the meeting. “We are going through a process that we shouldn't have to.”