Opponents Submit Petition to Stop Public Works Move

April 30, 2015 By:Anne Marie Kilday

Local News

UPDATED: 5/1   9:25am

A group of West U residents opposed to the city’s long-range Master Plan for Municipal Facilities on Thursday submitted petitions signed by 946 residents, in an effort to block the city from issuing $3 million in debt to finance a part of the plan.

West U City Council candidate Brennan Reilly submitted the petition to City Secretary Thelma Lenz at 9 a.m. The opponents needed 511 signatures, or 5 percent of registered voters, to stop the City Council from selling $3 million in certificates of obligation, which is on the agenda of the council’s Monday night agenda.

But West U Mayor Bob Fry said the city council can vote to approve the $3 million in city debt, “contingent upon certification” of the signatures on the petition.

The city’s long-range Plan for Municipal Facilities has been a controversial issue in West U since mid-October, 2014. The city council unanimously approved the plan to create a so-called Super Block of Municipal Facilities, on the properties located between University, Auden, College and Amherst. The plan includes a proposal for the city to purchase four lots owned by West U residents, as well as two lots on Amherst owned by the West U Baptist Church. The church is planning to build a new  7,000-square foot Youth Center.

The city and the church are involved in real estate negotiations that involve the “swap” of church-owned land on Amherst for the city-owned Public Works maintenance facilities located at 3826 Milton. The $3 million is needed to pay for the costs of moving the Public Works maintenance facility out of central West U, to city-owned property on Dincans.

“It was incredibly easy to get signatures,” Reilly said. “Well over 90 percent of the people I asked agreed to sign.”

Fry said Thursday that the city will proceed with its real estate negotiations with West University Baptist Church.

“We are going to do the deal with the church, and we are going to move the maintenance facility,” Fry said. “We will pursue other financial options.”

Reilly said that he and 27 other West U residents circulated the petition throughout the community — at Little League baseball games, community events like concerts at Colonial Park, candidate forums, and by going door-to-door.

The city’s long-range Plan for Municipal Facilities has been so controversial that a four-person slate of candidates opposed to the plan is seeking election to the city council, in the May 9 election.

The slate includes Reilly, former Mayors Bob Kelly and Burt Ballanfant, as well as Mardi Turner. Another independent group is made up of Bruce Beneke, Sonny Brandtner, former city councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Steven Segal and Phil Snyder.

The West U Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved the church’s request for a specific use permit for the Milton property, where the church plans to build a new 7,000-square foot Youth Center.

In order to pay for the cost of moving the Public Works maintenance facility, and related expenses, the city council recently advertised the $3 million in certificates of obligation.

Certificates of obligation are a streamlined method of municipal finance that do not require voter approval. State law, however, allows for residents of a city to petition for a public vote.

Fry said that if the signatures on the petition are verified by Monday night, “then we won’t vote” on issuing the $3 million in certificates of obligation.


23 Responses to “Opponents Submit Petition to Stop Public Works Move”

  1. Patrick Henry Says:

    Emporer Fry has decreed and we subjects must obey. The next City Council should publish it’s possible intent to take Fry’s house by imminent domain like he has done to the super block residents. See how his highness likes it

    • advocatefortransparency Says:

      Newsflash… the residents in the super block want the city to own the block instead of the church. Ask them.

      • David Says:

        the superblock and wubc expansion has left those homeowners in a very difficult situation. But you don’t care about that advocate do you?

        • advocatefortransparency Says:

          The city seems to be the only one that cares about them. You all want a youth center in their backyard instead of where the current beautiful maintenance facility is located.

          • David Says:

            As I said Advocate, you just don’t care about those four homeowners do you?

  2. proreligionwestu Says:

    This Reilly, Kelly, Ballanfant, Turner anti-religion slate is really scary. Reilly publicly spoke about the condemnation of the churches property in the city and the slate getting elected to pass ordinances to prevent the freedom of religious worship in West U. The council meeting recordings in November are the proof.

    They used their typical scare tactics in getting people to sign the petition. They asked me “are you for transparency in government? then sign here” I did not since I knew the full story. I heard they asked another “do you want your taxes to go up? if not then sign here. This has been their typical strong arm approach to their petition and this issue in general.

    The bottom line is that the Baptist church will either build their new youth center on the property they own on Amherst, next to City Hall, or they will build it on the corner of Milton at College where the surveyed residents said they preferred it.

    First the slate did not like the library and community center being considered in the 30 year master plan so the city took it out. Next they said that the city needed to have town hall meetings, which the city did. Next they said the city needed to get a legal opinion on the churches religious protections and the city did. Next they said that the city needed to perform a survey to determine resident support so the city did. The residents support the council’s current actions. Next they said that the public works administration building on Amherst has too much useful life left to be included in the deal with the church so the city took it out.

    The city has listened to this loud anti-religion group for six or seven months now and it is clear that all they want is to have a reason to try to take over the city council and privatize all of the public works and parks services and stop churches. Like I said, Scary!

    • Brennan Reilly Says:

      No one used scare tactics to collect signatures. Your lies won’t work because the people who signed the petition know the truth. People signed because they want a public vote on the bonds and the land swap that is facilitated by the bonds. Citizens are upset that the City Council authorized $3 million of bonds even though the City’s brochure stated that the cost to the City would be $2 million. What is the extra $1 million being used for? The City Council has refused to publicly discuss. This has nothing to do with religion or the church. It has to do with taxpayer dollars being used wisely by our City government.

      As to taking the public works administration building out of the deal, that has never been discussed publicly by this City Council. I’ve attended all the meetings. All discussions regarding the land swap occur in closed executive session. Only the Council Members and City Staff are present. Were you there?

      Quit hiding behind false names. Disclose yourself so that we know who you are and where you are getting your information.

      • West U Resident Says:

        Okay, if you don’t want to call it scare tactics, you can just say half-truths and misinformation. Same result. Brennan is a total loose cannon.

      • advocatefortransparency Says:

        Speaking of truth Reilly. The only thing the city council has done is authorize the ADVERTISEMENT OF UP TO $3 million. They have not approved an amount and it was their statements that they expected the number to be less. Keep spinning your lies.

        • David Says:

          you are correct advocate, the vote to approve the bonds is at Monday’s council meeting. But they won’t be able to vote if the petition is certified!

    • david Says:

      The movie the Exorcist, now that was scary!

    • David Kuykendall Says:

      Regarding the resident survey earlier this year, support for the moving the Public Works Maintenance facility dropped to 26.5% when respondents said they followed the issue very closely.

    • Get your facts straight Says:

      The only reason the library and community center were taken out of the plans was that Steve Radack, from Harris County, stood up at a Council meeting last fall and said. The community center and the library was not West U’s to give or sell to anybody. I was sitting there his exact words were “AND IF THEY GIVE IT TO THE BAPTIST CHURCH, WE’LL (Harris County) WILL TAKE IT FROM THEM TOO.”

      • advocatefortransparency Says:

        Actually Radack was not even close on his facts but it did make for great theatrics. Read the deed.

        • 40 year resident Says:

          Didn’t it say that the property would revert to the estate of the original donor?

      • West U Resident Says:

        A library isn’t even a permitted use on the property covered by that deed Radack was waving around at the City council meeting. It’s obvious none of the residents who discovered its existence, or Radack, had even read it. I’m pretty sure that was not their desired intent – to expose that the library can’t even be located there – but it was the result. By not reading the deed before they bandied it about, they’ve most likely put the city in the unenviable position of figuring out how to deal with a building that is in a location where it is not allowed. Thanks guys for putting our beloved library in jeopardy. Way to go.

        • david Says:

          Dont you think it would have been appropriate for the city attorney to run a title search? The City botched this, not the residents!

          • West U Resident Says:

            I guess back when the library was built a title search should have been done, but that was 50 years ago, so nobody is alive to blame. I haven’t seen anywhere that Council voted to dispose of that property. I do see an angry herd who found a document and didn’t read it before throwing it around. It’s apparent that they still haven’t read it but are touting its existence as some great victory. I guess if you want the library gone, it’s a victory, but I don’t think most residents would agree.

          • advocatefortransparency Says:

            Wrong again. The City did not grandstand with the document, the slate and Radack did. Wouldn’t that be ironic if the property reverted to the heirs and the slate lost what they claimed they were trying to protect.

    • Lucille Gallman Says:

      Sir and/or Madam: Please don’t try to create an environment of intolerance by either the city or the church. This sort of activity is not and never has defined the city of West University Place on any level.

  3. Brennan Reilly Says:

    Bob Fry is quoted in the article as saying “We are are [sic] going to do the deal with the church, and we are going to move the maintenance facility,” and “We will pursue other financial options.”

    Bob, please listen to the residents of West University. 946 of them signed a petition requesting that the City slow down and make its case to the public. This is more people than voted in the 2013 election (900 ballots cast) and over 150 more than voted for you (794) in that election. They are not a handpicked group. They are the everyday citizens who take their kids to the school and little league fields, who eat at Little Matts, who use our parks, and who drop off items on heavy trash day at the maintenance facility you want to sell.

    These people care about our City and want a say in what happens next. They want an explanation from their elected representatives, not more secret meetings behind closed doors and not “other financial options.” Explain to them why you are right and they may agree.

    Please listen to them. Many of them voted for you in the last election. They deserve your serious consideration.

    Brennan Reilly

    • brennan reilly Says:

      The original article has been edited extensively to take out the Mayor’s quote referenced in my comment above. The original article was well written and very informative. Please post again!

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