Selecting an architectural group for a potential quadplex, the Texas County Memorial Hospital Community Improvement Districts (CID) tax and the 2024 budget were among matters discussed Monday by the Houston City Council.

Robbie Mortensen, parks and recreation director, presented the council with his recommendation for an architectural firm for a potential quadplex. The council approved Mortensen to seek a bid from Turf Solutions Group out of East Peoria, Ill. The decision was based on the group’s submitted qualifications and Mortensen’s recommendation. 

Turf Solutions Group provides recreational land design, project management and construction services for sports field complexes, athletic fields, athletic facilities, golf courses, golf practice facilities and military site improvements. It has completed projects in 42 states since 2005.

Kristie Miller, chamber of commerce, asked council members if they have formally rejected the chamber’s offer to donate land for the project in exchange for a concession stand the chamber could own and operate. Members affirmed Miller that they had not heard of the offer that had been spoken to Mark Campbell, former city administrator. They invited her to submit a written offer. Mortensen said the opinion of the architectural firms is that the land would not be less expensive over time compared to other tracts under consideration. 

Jeff Gettys, Texas County Memorial Hospital director of projects and foundation, spoke to the council on the CID tax and the related surgery center. Gettys said the hospital has started to incur construction expenses and that a broken radiator has delayed the opening of the new surgery center until likely mid-January.

Don Romines, alderman, asked when the tax will be complete. Gettys said that pre-construction cost estimates have risen significantly due to the rising costs of materials and labor. The CID board intends to complete the tax within the original time frame, fiscal year 2029. Since inception in 2020, the city has distributed $420,206.46 from the tax. 

Lloyd Wells, city administrator, and Romines said a draft of the 2024 budget will be done this week to be sent to the finance committee for review. The committee, consisting of Romines, Sheila Walker and Kevin Stilley, plans to meet Monday, Nov. 27 at 6:30 p.m.

In other matters: 

  • Narancich, Wells and council members recognized members of the middle school cross country teams and the high school volleyball team for their recent achievements. 
  • Mortensen told members that he will put a plan together for Bridges Park in the coming weeks. The donated property is situated at North Lilly Avenue and West Highway 17. The 1.88-acre tract will be known as the “Elmer and Estella Bridges Memorial Park.” 
  • The council did a second reading for new ordinances pertaining to the fire chief and appointed officials’ insurance. They decided to delay discussion on electrical incentives for subdivisions to clarify wording. 
  • Ceplina updated members on a potential downtown art project. He said the artist would like $500 upfront for supplies and that the estimated cost for the project would be $3,000. Ceplina expects to receive a mockup soon of the mural that would likely be completed in April. 
  • The mayor said she has received correspondence from the airport project contractors who have contacted authorities to see if the airport could pass inspection despite low concrete pressure in non-landing spots. 
  • Stilley questioned why the city attorney’s pay and benefits were increased while the city continues to pay outside firms to litigate. 
  • Narancich and Heather Sponsler, city clerk, said the firm that does the city’s annual audit needs questions answered to complete it. Sponsler and Narancich said a draft version and other supplements have been submitted to the state to avoid fines. 
  • Stilley asked whether a forensic audit is still wanted. He thinks it is possible that parks and recreation funds have been misappropriated. Other members were hesitant of an audit due to the cost. 
  • Ceplina mentioned a rumor he heard that an intoxicated council member was given a ride home by city police. Members stated the rumor was not true. 
  • Directional arrows at Holder Drive and U.S. 63 are still being discussed. 

At 7:56 p.m., the council adjourned into closed session. 

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