Council debates Roberts Point work
City council members sent consultants and the city staff back to do some more work on recommendations for harbor improvements at a workshop on Thursday, Dec. 7, after hearing suggestions that call for a total of more than $3 million in improvements.
Consultant Carolyn James, of Gignac Architects in Corpus Christi, told the council she had broken the recommendations into two phases: a “buildings” phase and an “amenities” phase.
Putting all the proposed building construction and improvements in one contract gives a contractor a better package to bid on, she said.
“The amenities phase takes care of some of the other things such as sidewalks and paving, which you can do as you have the money,” she said.
“Doing it this way maximizes the dollars.”
But neither Mayor Claude Brown nor Councilman Bubba Jensen was happy with the idea of demolishing the existing Patsy Jones Amphitheater in Roberts Point Park and rebuilding it on a different site in the park. The council also seemed surprised that nothing
was said in the recommendations about refurbishing the city's four boat ramps in the harbor.
Jensen asked how much it would cost to tear down the amphitheater. James said they figured the entire cost – the demolition plus building a new amphitheater – at $75,000.
“If we took away the wall and roof and left the slab there … “ Jensen said.
“It wouldn't bounce the music back,” James replied.
“But would it work as a pavilion?” Jensen asked. “With our budget, I'd like to see what we can get done moving forward rather than backward (by tearing a structure down).”
“The structure is quality built,” Brown said. “I think it'll be there a long time. It's .Do you want it or do you not?' The building is an oddball deal. I've never understood putting it there.”
“Demolishing the (amphitheater) might be the thing to do, but it's in good shape and it's a good-looking structure in the wrong place. As far as I'm concerned, if it's still standing, we're getting our money's worth out of it.”
The question of the amphitheater came up because James wants to remove anything on the end of Roberts Point that blocks a view of the ship channel and Lydia Ann Channel.
“We can discuss it,” she said, “but if you leave it there, you're not going to address opening that point up the way you really want to.”
Councilman Keith McMullin brought up the question of boat ramps.
“I've heard people say we have little public access to the boat ramps,” he said. “Do we have an adequate number of ramps? And I understand that's also tied in to the parking available.”
Brown said the city has four boat ramps, all at the end of the city marina.
“(Ramp) one is perfect; two, it's scary how quick you can lose a boat there; three is shallow; and four was a waste of money.”
McMullin asked Harbormaster Jeff Logue what other options boaters have, if two of the city's ramps are not functional.
“Basically, there are no other options,” Logue said. “Having two ramps, we're pretty short. People wait in line.”
“Why isn't that a priority?” Mc- Mullin asked.
“I think it should be a priority,” Logue said.
“I've heard people complain it's a choke point for our community,” McMullin said. “I'm thinking about serving our tourists with tourist funds.”
(The harbor improvements the council is considering will be paid for with accumulated revenue from the city's hotel-motel tax, which can legally only be used for tourismrelated projects. That accumulated revenue now totals about $1.2 million, not including projects for which hotel-motel tax money is already committed, City Manager Michael Kovacs said.)
James said the recommended priorities were developed from earlier conversations with the city staff.
“The first thing to do is come up with a plan,” she said, “then pick the pieces you want to put in the first package. I hear some things rising to the top, and some not. Then, when we have that package, if there are some things you want to talk to the contractor about, those become alternatives.” Sears house
The council also discussed its position on what is known as the Sears house, the building the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association (PAPHA) is trying to save from being destroyed.
That item was added to the workshop agenda by councilman Jerry Watson, who was absent from the workshop because of an illness. Watson said in an e-mail to PAPHA board members that the council had discussed the building at its November meeting, “including the possibility of closing the Computer Center and razing the building to make room for the Sears structure, which used to be the Neblett residence.”
Watson urged the board members to attend the workshop as the council discussed the future of the building.
(At the November council meeting, council members did say they support preserving the home, but stressed that it could not be moved to the current location of the Computer Center, 430 N. Alister St., until a new home was found for the Computer Center and it was back in operation.)
Councilman Rick Pratt called the Alister Street location “ideal … from every standpoint.” He said it is in the heart of old town, which makes it doubly viable, and it's right on the main street, which makes it great for starting walking tours of the older section of the city.
“I did some research, and it was my opinion that the city staff thought that the (Computer Center) building needs to be removed and it would become a bigger problem as time went on.
“The (Computer Center) is a marvelous addition,” he continued. “It's a free Internet café. It has a relatively short history, and it's grown, but it seems like it deserves a better home.”
Brown said he was skeptical both about tearing down the existing building and about moving the historical building to that site.
“I can't imagine there being structural problems in that (Computer Center) building,” he said. “There are a lot of interior walls and it's all concrete”
Speaking of a suggestion to use the Community Park as an alternate location for the Sears house, Brown said, “I don't know the logistics of moving, but I'd have to say it would probably be easier to move it from Oleander to Cotter to Cut-off to the park versus an interior move in town. There would have to be a lot of power lines, phone lines … that's going to be a tough move on that building.”
Putting the house in Community Park, on Ross Avenue, would also have the effect of placing it at one proposed entrance to the Charlie's Pasture Nature Preserve. Plans call for a preserve entrance to be in the area of the park. At that spot it could be used as a city museum and as a nature preserve office, it was suggested.
“Moving it there again involves taking apart something that's in use,” Jensen said. “We've spent money putting the nature preserve together and we'll spend more over years. I think the building would be a nice touch for the nature preserve.”
But Pratt pointed out that such a move would mean the city would have to own the building instead of PAPHA.
“We're in negotiations at the moment with the owner. The plan is to lease the building where it is right now for a period of time because it's obvious we can no longer move a building temporarily,” Pratt said.
“I want to point out that it would be PAPAHA that owns the house, they're stepping up to the plate and saying we'll raise the money, we're not asking for city funds. But the job of saving this wonderful old house is becoming more problematical.”
Brown also said – and Jensen agreed – that he would oppose closing the street between the current Computer Center and the Community Center to add space to the site, thereby allowing both the Computer Center building and the Sears house to exist on the property.
“It would take some arguing to make me close that street,” he said. “That's scary. That's an artery off the major street in town. You're losing access for fire, police and emergency medical services. I couldn't even consider closing the street.”
In the end, the council agreed with council member Beverly Charles, who suggested that the two organizations – the Computer Club and PAPHA – get together to see if they could reach a solution.
“I see a function of associations working out what's best for everybody and see if we can live with their solution,” Hall said.
But with the possible sale of the property looming nearer, no date was set for members of the two groups to meet.