The Orange City Council meeting was similar to a presidential race. After months and months of discussion and campaigning for favored projects, councilors took a ballot and wrote down their choices for spending new bond money.
Interim City Manager Kelvin Knauf said the seven members were close on their decisions on how to spend $8 million for the projects and major purchases.
The council agreed to spend $3.1 million on street improvements, down a bit from the $4 million set this past summer.
Mayor Larry Spears Jr. got his goal for a recreation center. The council decided to spend $3 million to fill in the swimming pool and rebuild the Orange Natatorium to be an indoor sports center with space for other activities.
Spears during the summer got the idea to repurpose the Natatorium and took the council and members of the media on a tour of the indoor pool area to show his concepts.
Beaumont architect Rob Clark made preliminary designs for the Natatorium. He presented the ideas on Tuesday night and said the renovation could cost about $3 million.
He called the Natatorium site one of the prettiest in town because it is surrounded by old live oak trees.
The pool will be filled in and the supports of the walls can still be used for the new building. Clark said two full gyms, that meet UIL standards, can be fit inside.
Spears was excited about giving youth a place to play sports like volleyball, basketball, and indoor soccer. He said people complain that there’s nothing to do for kids in Orange, and the rec center will give them a place to go.
He said all kinds of activities, like aerobics for senior citizens, birthday parties, plus arts and crafts, can be held at the new center. It will also provide a place for college and high school students to get jobs, he said.
The council also agreed on $800,000 to build a covered pavilion at the Boat Ramp to be used for fishing tournaments and other events.
Other expenditures will be $600,000 for a new pumper fire truck. Fire Chief David Frenzel said one used as a backup is now 18 years old and parts are not being made. The city has spent $43,000 in repairs on it during the past 18 months.
He said the city recently got a top rating from the insurance industry because of the quality of the fire department and services. The rating gives property owners lower fire insurance costs. The chief said the new truck would help assure the city keeps the insurance rating.
Knauf said the city will need a generator to run power at the future city hall on 16th Street. The generator at the current city hall is not big enough. The bonds will be used to buy the generator.
In addition, the council agreed to designate $200,000 on projects to improve 16th Street.
The bond attorneys for the city will begin the process of advertising and selling the bonds.
The council has pursued the bonds because then-City Manager Dr. Shawn Oubre said the bonds issued 20 years ago to pay for a new police station will be paid off. The city can issue new bonds and not raise taxes because the rate already includes bond payments.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-