Council has flare-up over city-owned lake house

By James Draper

Gladewater council members had a brief flare-up during their June 15, divided over whether or not to separate the city’s lake house from the lake store – and whether or not it was even an issue.
The back-and-forth included a disagreement over proper procedure on the dais, and bled a later discussion about renovations at the city-owned house on Lake Gladewater.
Mayor Scott Owens kicked off discussion of the agenda item, contending both structures fall under the city manager’s authority, especially while a search for a new Lake Warden gets underway.
“Housing may or may not be an issue with that,” he said. “They’re not tied together other than they’re in the same park. I don’t know the necessity of separating these two. That’s, to me, a moot point.”
Council member Teddy Sorrells moved to separate the use of the store from the nearby house.
“I wanna hold up there and go ahead and have a discussion,” Owens replied.
From Sorrells, “Mr. Mayor, I’d like to go ahead and make a point of order.”
Owens: “I did not call for a motion yet.”
Sorrells noted discussion should technically follow a motion.
“We’ve never followed strict Robert’s Rules of Order anyway,” Owens answered, “so I’m going to have some discussion of it.”
According to councilman Rocky Hawkins, he grew up on the lake and has been living there for 40 years, including 10 years sitting on the Lake Board. During that time, he said, the store and house were a package deal – free rent as an incentive for the person managing the store and, naturally, keeping an eye on lake affairs.
“To me, that worked for 45 years,” Hawkins said. Granted, “We’ve made some bad choices on store managers. It did not work that well. They should have been reprimanded, had their license canceled early on…”
For Hawkins, retiree Dustin Minton wasn’t given a fair shake when he offered a proposal for the lake store.
“I would like to say, that part is not true. He was 100 percent heard by this council in everything,” council member Brandy Flanagan countered, insisting it’s not the council’s job to dictate how the store is run. “When someone leases a building for a business, it’s not that landlord’s job to dictate how they do it. That is their business. Our job is to say, what are we going to do with these two buildings? And then, at that point, if we decide to keep one as the lake store we allow someone who wants to have a business in that lake store to put their proposal before us and we can make decisions that way.
“We’re getting way too involved in the part of trying to tell people how they can do their business out here. And so, I am 100 percent In favor of the city taking back over ownership of the house and letting that store be a store and a business for someone.”
The overall discussion remained a non-issue for Owens.
“My contention there is that we have ownership of the house, we have ownership of the store,” he said. “I say this is a moot point (whether) we’re going to separate them or join them, either way.”
There’s a set precedent regarding the house and store as a unit, Sorrells said, using the house as incentive related to the store.
“My position is, Mr. Mayor, this motion removes the precedent,” Sorrells said, empowering City Manager Charlie Smith to negotiate the best deal for one or both buildings. “He is the chief executive officer of our city. We are not. It’s not our purview. That’s the city manager’s purview.”
The issue has been under discussion numerous times, Mayor Pro Tem Sonny Anderson reminded the group. He agrees Minton never got a proper chance to execute his proposal, and Anderson sees no reason to change the status quo right now.
Ultimately, Sorrells motion failed 3-2 with council member Michael Weber abstaining and councilman Kevin Clark absent that evening.
In a subsequent discussion about renovating the lake house following the last tenant’s sudden departure, the council members accepted Smith’s recommendation to put off specific action (i.e. repairs) for, perhaps, two or three months until there’s a plan in place for who will occupy the house.
There’s no need invest funds and risk vandalism in the interim, Smith said.
“The last person who was in the lake house left it in deplorable condition,” Owens said. “Less than deplorable condition. Probably should be a lawsuit on that, but then we’d spend everything on the lawyer and not get anything out of it anyway.”
The council discussed various preferences for the renovations – i.e. moving forward with stained concrete instead of concrete or tile – before agreeing with Smith to get remodeling bids in-hand while waiting for other plans to take shape.

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