By MARTHA McCLAIN
Special to the PRESS
Laguna Vista officials will enter discussions to purchase a building to serve as a new city hall.
Town Council members Tuesday directed City Manager Rolando Vela to begin talks for the lease or purchase of a 4,784 square-foot building on Santa Isabel Blvd.
Property owner Jerry Harbin addressed the Council, saying the building is renovated and has parking for 21 vehicles.
“It will make a great city hall. I will do what I can… a lease for one year with an option to buy. I am here to help the city,” he said, adding that he would owner finance the purchase, if desired.
Some modifications, such as installation of hurricane doors, replacing carpet with tile would be required, Council members said.
Attorney Ricardo Morado added that as it was a two-story building, compliance with the American Disabilities Act would be required to allow all the public into city offices.
Mayor Susie Houston said, “It would be prudent to appoint an ad hoc committee to explore the possibility (of acquiring the building). This is too small…as evidenced by having so many kids in here this evening.”
“I move to appoint a committee to explore that offer, or to renovate this building, or we have that property across the street,” she said.
Councilwoman Nadine Smith replied, “I think we can handle it as a City Council.”
Councilman Michael Carter suggested as a fourth option, the 23-acre tract the Town owns on Highway 100. But, he added, “This is a good option. It’s the center of Town. I think we can do it ourselves.”
Houston responded that development of the remaining land in the 23 acres is required to be retail or business development, referring to stipulations in a grant proposal the Town is seeking to assist in the development of an environmental center.
As talks turned to financing, Vela suggested the use of Community Development Corporation funds, which come from sales tax revenue.
Carter noted that the Town needs additional space as it is growing, and “there are not that many areas left.” He added, “For someone to hold the note is huge.”
Councilman Rolando Gonzalez said, “We are a small town, not big on dollars. Anything we can get is appreciated. I would look at it carefully and decide what is best for the community.
Councilwoman Johvonne Howard said she was excited at the prospect. “The building is perfect for the community,” and she could see transitioning from the old city hall to the newer building.
The mayor called for a second to her motion to appoint an ad hoc committee, which failed to materialize.
Smith moved to instruct the city manager to start talks for leasing or buying the property — a motion seconded by Mike Carter. The motion passed on a 5-1 vote, with the mayor opposed.*
“I just feel the need to explore all possibilities,” she said.
*Correction: In the print edition of the PRESS, Councilman Mike Carter was incorrectly identified as the person who made the motion to instruct the city manager to begin talks for leasing or buying a new city hall property. Carter seconded a motion made by Councilwoman Nadine Smith. The vote tally for the motion was also incorrectly attributed. The vote passed 5-1, not 4-1 as originally printed. The PRESS regrets the error.
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