NEWS HEADLINES

‘Your land, my land…’; Decatur may still own property under 1939 school building

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Decatur ISD will move into its new Central Office in just a few weeks, as a $2.3 million renovation and restoration project on the 1939 Decatur High School building nears completion.

But the district may not own all the land it sits on.

DISD requested a replat of the 8-acre tract as a formality, tying the entire tract together and un-dedicating some city streets that run through it – streets that have been out of use for decades.

As it turns out, a portion of the land – including some where the school has sat for more than seven decades – still belongs to the city.

“Part of the acreage within that platted tract does not belong to Decatur ISD,” city attorney Mason Woodruff told the council at its meeting Monday. “It belongs to the city, at least as a matter of record.”

Woodruff said the matter was only brought to his attention about a month ago.

The replat was no problem and won the council’s unanimous approval. Woodruff said since the city is the other landowner, if the city signs off on the replat, there’s nothing that will hold up the project or delay the district’s moving in.

“Both the city and school district still need to do some research and see how the property was acquired,” Woodruff said. He recommended that if no deed or action can be found in either entity’s minutes, the city just donate the property to the school district.

“They would need to request it,” he said. “If the council approves, we could do a deed.”

The remodeled portion of the property was built in 1938-39. For several years it was used by Weatherford College as a local campus, before the county built it a new facility that opened in 2012.

After it was vacated, the school board voted to remodel it for a central administration building, leaving the current admin building to serve as a stand-alone technology building.

The district will likely make the move within the next few weeks.

POLICY ON HOT MONEY GETS OK

The council also approved a new policy on the use of Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax (HOT) money to bolster marketing efforts for events coming to Decatur.

Recently both the city and the Economic Development Corp. (EDC) donated funds to help Fossil Pointe Sporting Grounds attract and publicize the Texas Sporting Clays Championships, to be held in this area Sept. 17-21.

The council approved $5,000 from HOT money and another $5,000 from sales tax revenue as well as the use of the Decatur Civic Center for the event’s awards banquet. The EDC approved a $15,000 grant.

But city officials, wary of an onslaught of requests in the wake of that approval, decided to create a policy to set aside a fixed amount of money for such events and require a lengthy, written application.

“I just want to head this off before we have a problem with a lot of people coming to you guys on a monthly, routine basis asking for hotel/motel money,” said city Finance Director Brad Burnett.

Under the new policy, applications would be due by the end of July, and the city council would consider them once a year as part of the budget process. Organizations would then submit expense reports, and city staff would reimburse up to the amounts approved.

“We’ll have a pot of money out there – I’m thinking in the neighborhood of $10 or $12,000,” Burnett said. “It’s a pretty detailed application, but if you have a lot of these, we’ll need a lot of information to determine which to fund and which not to.”

City Manager Brett Shannon said the process is needed to control the expenses.

“Doing it this way, you’re always going to be OK on your budget,” he said. He noted the policy mirrors one currently used by the city of Mansfield.

TRUCK FINANCING APPROVED

The council also approved the purchase of a sewer vacuum truck for the Public Works Department at a cost of $296,740.

The purchase will be financed over five years with payments of $64,022 a year – a total of $18,818 interest at 3.124 percent – through the Government Capital Corp.

The first payment was budgeted at $58,000, so the city will have to find a little money elsewhere for this year, Burnett said. Future payments can be budgeted at $64,000.

PLATS APPROVED, VARIANCE DENIED

Five items on the council agenda were requests for action on zoning, replat or a variance.

In addition to the school district’s request, the council approved Chris and Micah Fernihough’s request for a final plat on about 4.3 acres they own along South U.S. 81/287.

The couple, owners of TLC Lawn Care, which sits at the front of the long, narrow piece of property, said they plan to build warehouses at some point and wanted to get the plat done in advance. The council approved it unanimously.

Jeffery Pinkerton, who owns a 1.44-acre lot on North Lane and Mulberry, asked the city to replat his property to close portions of an alley and a street that cross it, but have never been used.

That replat was approved, but a variance Pinkerton requested from the city’s sidewalk design standards was denied.

He agreed to escrow the funds, meaning the sidewalks and curb-and-gutter along both Lane and Mulberry can be installed as part of larger projects in future years.

The council also approved a zoning change from single-family 2 to restricted business for Stephen Todd and Susan Parks. The law firm plans to convert a house at 400 E. Main St. into a law office.

They had requested C-1 zoning, but the council approved C-0, which is slightly more restrictive. Either designation allows the law office according to city Planning Director Dedra Ragland. The office is in the city’s Central Business District, which allows houses, offices and retail.

One nearby property owner opposed the change due to traffic concerns.

APPOINTMENTS

The council reappointed six members to the Decatur Hospital Authority board of directors and named one new member.

Loyd Jackson, who was first appointed in 1989, was reappointed along with Andrew Sandford, Debbie Waggoner and Jana Erwin, D.O. – all of whom were appointed in 2008 – and Lesa Warren and Mark Duncum, who were appointed in 2010.

Ray Cook, who served on the board in the early 2000s, was newly appointed to bring the total number of directors to 11.

Burnett was named to the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ Air Transportation Technical Advisory Committee (ATTAC) because a vacancy opened up.

Mike Sayers, the city’s former airport manager who retired last year, is also a member of the committee. Burnett took over those duties when Sayers retired.

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