Weatherford News

Council prioritizes during work session

It was like Christmas in March.

Weatherford City Council members made their “wish list” heard to Kyle Lester, Budget and Strategic Planning Manager, or the “chief elf,” in hopes he and his team can deliver in time for the budget season.

At a work session on March 3, council members focused on key areas they wanted to address in hopes that a funding mechanism will exist when the time comes.

Topping the list was transportation.

“I think we’re going to have to get back on our transportation issues,” Mayor Dennis Hooks said. “I know that we have worked on that, but we still have a duty to our citizens to address those problems.”

Councilman Jeff Robinson agreed with the mayor.

“The bond failed, but we need to revisit this and determine a strategy moving forward,” Robinson said.

City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said he too was concerned about the issue.

“We’re already beginning to see some of the impact on the downtown area and it’s creating some issues for businesses down there directly related to transportation,” he said. “I have some concerns that you’re going to see some more vacant buildings down there in the future if those issues aren’t addressed fairly quickly.”

Robinson said he felt - like most - that people would have supported the bond facing the city were not for a tax increase.

“I would like to know how many people voted to vote down the project because they didn’t want to see the project accomplished, or because taxes would increase?” he asked. “Our job now is to see how we can do what needs to be done without raising taxes; can we do that, can we do it with a small tax increase, or can we do it over a longer period of time? But if we are going to do it over a longer period of time it’s even more important we get started sooner.”

Another big issue on the table was the Weatherford Public Library and where it fell on the list of priorities.

“It’s my opinion that we need to move up the timetable on the revamping of the library,” Councilwoman Heidi Wilder said. “It’s time to make the decision; if that is the building we’re going to maintain and keep - we need to get it up to date.”

She said while she understood the high priority on recreation and beautification of First Monday, she thinks the city needs to move the library up to a “higher priority” than it has been in the past.

Wilder also said that special attention needs to be placed on public safety, specifically fleet maintenance and replacement for the entire city, with an emphasis on the public safety fleet.

“We need to always make sure we have proper operating capital to upgrade our police and fire,” she said. “To me, it’s all about setting aside monies every single year for operating expenses in our public safety area.”

*The council approved a strategic plan a couple of years ago. The budget process is tied to the strategic plan in that it is used to prioritize spending. Lester’s job was to review the items listed in the strategic plan and determine if the council wanted to make any changes. The items listed are “big ticket items” and this just starts the a discussion.

Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102

Twitter: @LanceWinter