The City Council on Tuesday loaded up the May 6 general election ballot, asking voters to consider funding a $45 million, 68,000-square-foot adult activity center and adopting a civil service system for city firefighters.
Before adding the senior center bond project, the council reduced the cost from the $55 million that had been proposed. The figure included a more aggressive accounting for inflation that some council members considered excessive and feared some voters would reject as too expensive.
“To do that to this particular project is almost villainization,” said Councilman Charlie Parker. “I don’t want to put something in front of the people that is so astronomical that they’re going to go, ‘You’re crazy.’ ”
The council voted 8-1 to put the center on the ballot. Councilwoman Victoria Farrar-Myers voted against the project, citing the strategic master plan’s sector approach to developing park facilities, rather than central locations that can be inconvenient for some residents to reach.
The center would be built on wooded property at the Pierce-Burch Water Treatment Plant’s 25-acre site just east of Lake Arlington.
Open to residents age 50 and over, the facility would include a gymnasium, indoor track, aquatic center, kitchen, aqua-therapy, group fitness areas and lounges.
Voters will also decide on a civil service system, a more rigid process for hiring, promoting and disciplining employees.
The Arlington Professional Fire Fighters Association, which has had a contentious relationship with Fire Chief Don Crowson and the department leadership, successfully petitioned to require the City Council to put the issue on the ballot
Established by Chapter 143 of the Texas Local Government Code, civil service is designed to eliminate political interference and create permanent employment tenure. It places more value on testing and seniority and can limit the influence of management on personnel matters.
Crowson, who has headed the department for 6 1/2 years, said the city’s current personnel system has worked well.
“I do feel that our current hiring process is highly successful, especially in our efforts to be more reflective of the community we serve,” Crowson said in an interview.
Arlington voters overwhelmingly rejected both previous fire and police civil service propositions, according to a staff report. The vote was 7,922 to 4,627 in a 1979 election, and 9,843 to 5,277 in 1991. In those elections, petitions called for adopting civil service for both the police and fire departments. Only the fire department was the subject of a petition for the May 6 election.
City voters also will do their perennial election duty on May 6, choosing City Council members. The seats of Mayor Jeff Williams and Council members Robert Rivera, Kathryn Wilemon, Lana Wolff and Michael Glaspie are expiring.
Following Rivera’s announcement that he won’t run for re-election, three candidates have filed to replace him — Marvin Sutton, an air traffic controller; Roxanne Thalman, a development analyst; and Blerim Elmazi, a student working on a doctor of jurisprudence degree. The candidate filing deadline is Friday.