Last updateFri, 09 Jan 2015 12pm

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Gladewater City Councilman Scott Owens’ attempt Thursday night to redirect some of the tax money collected by the Gladewater Economic Development Corporation (GEDCO) met up against stiff opposition as the council voted 5-2 to reject his bid to place the measure before the voters on the May 10 ballot.
Mayor Harold Wells and council members Leon Watson, Lana Niemann, Sonny Anderson and J.D. Shipp voted to reject the ordinance, while Owens and Delbert Burlison voted no.
A lengthy discussion preceded the vote with Wells telling Owens he was “very unhappy with the way this came about” and he thought it was “totally handled wrong,” referring to Owens having an ordinance drawn up by the city attorney (Gary Shaver) and asking for the ordinance calling for a special election to be on the agenda before discussing it with council members.
Wells indicated he thought Owens had gone behind the council’s back on this issue.
He also said he was “confused” as to Owens’ actions of having the city attorney do city-related work for him personally. He asked – “Me and Leon (Watson) or me and anybody in here can walk into Shaver’s office and say ‘I want this ordinance changed?’”
“To educate you on this, any city council member can bring anything before the council,” Owens explained, adding that the city attorney (Gary Shaver) was not on “city time” when he drew up the ordinance and the city attorney did it for Owens free as a favor since they were old friends.
Todd Clifton, GEDCO board president, questioned what motivated Shaver to provide the free legal work for Owens and (Delbert) Burlison.
Owens said he wanted the voters to decide on whether or not the city could use some of the money which GEDCO - a Type A corporation - gets from a 1/2-cent sales tax for public infrastructure improvements. Those improvements could have included public safety facilities, streets, traffic control, parks and park facilities - which all qualify as a project for a Type B corporation.
Owens said the city has many needs current property taxes can’t address - such as street repair and if the GISD $35 million bond measure passes May 10 and the new Gladewater Middle School is built on the current site of public ball fields – the city may need to build a new sports complex to accommodate the needs of the youth. The school district owns the land where the fields are located, but the city maintains them.
Councilman J.D. Shipp wasn’t totally opposed to Owens’ idea, but he was worried about the “very narrow window” the ordinance before them Thursday night would create as for as educating the council about the pros and cons of such a move. “It’s a bit rushed,” Shipp said, adding he felt there needed to be more communication among council members on such matters.
Clifton said he felt the issue was “very rushed.” Clifton said there had been hints that GEDCO “hasn’t done a good job,” but he thought it had and he added that GEDCO was willing to partner with the city on projects.
Burlison said he didn’t think GEDCO had gotten a good return on its investment – citing that GEDCO had given about $1 million to companies as economic development and only gotten back about $130,000 in tax dollars from those companies.
Clifton told Burlison he thought he was being “that’s very short sided” and Burlison was “not seeing the whole picture.”
Councilwoman Niemann, who also serves on the GEDCO board, said it would be “irresponsible” of the council to put the ordinance on the ballot without being educated and fully informed. She said the council’s main focus should always be to do what is best for the people of Gladewater.
She added that if the city were to look at building a multi-million dollar park/sports complex, it would require much more research and discussion before ever taking such an expensive project to the voters.
GEDCO is currently helping various organizations such as the Gladewater Main Street program, The Gladewater Chamber of Commerce, the Former Student’s Association, Operation Give Gratitude, and the Gladewater Antique District Association with advertising and promotions. GEDCO has also partnered with city organizations on projects that benefit the city of Gladewater, such as helping pay for sidewalk projects and other infrastructure.