West U Council approves pacts with church, sports groups; needs more time on facilities task force, city manager

November 10, 2015 By:Sarah Tucker

Local News

By Sarah Tucker

Councilmember Brennan Reilly has lost his bid to change a long-standing arrangement with West U Baptist Church and has seen his push to create a residents’ Facilities Master Plan Task Force stalled.

West University City Council approved all three memoranda of understanding with community organizations at its meeting on Monday.

The MOUs are with Tri-Sports, West U Aquatics and West U Baptist Church and detail expectations on items such as field use, signage, parking and janitorial services for 2016.

At issue was whether or not the MOUs – specifically the one with WUBC – were in the city’s best interest, as questioned by Councilmember Brennan Reilly at an October council meeting.

Parks and Recreation Director Tim O’Connor called the MOU with WUBC a “mutually beneficial partnership” through which WUBC allows the city to use its parking lots in exchange for use of city facilities on Sunday. Other groups pay the standard space usage fees, and one group, the Greater Houston Church, brings in $20,000 a year to the city.

Reilly felt the exchange of parking for facility usage wasn’t enough and wanted staff to develop a fee that was more “equitable” and reflected value, utility usage, and general wear and tear.

“I don’t think we’re getting what we’re spending,” Reilly said.

Interim City Manager Chris Peifer pointed out that the city has had an agreement of some sort with WUBC since the 1940s and ’50s, likely because the church deeded the land for city hall.

“If we’re putting together some type of calculation of equity over time, how do you calculate that?” Peifer asked.

O’Connor said the MOU went beyond “tit for tat” for parking and building usage. He described how during hurricanes Ike and Katrina the church housed city staff and their families for a week and charged nothing for it.

“I’m confident that if we made that same request a week or two weeks from now, I can’t imagine them denying that request,” O’Connor said. “It’s just a good partnership.”

Council approved the West U Aquatics and Tri-Sports MOUs unanimously after some discussion and voted 4-1 to approve the West U Baptist Church MOU with Reilly voting against it.

Task force

Council also discussed the scope and purpose of the Facilities Master Plan Task Force. The Facilities Master Plan considers all options for facilities and looks at inventory, staff and space needs, timelines, and budgets to prepare for present and future needs.

At issue was whether the recommendations outlined in the plan constituted policy or were simply recommendations and warranted citizen input.

Mayor Susan Sample read a prepared statement and was adamantly against creating a task force, saying it was “not appropriate” to ask a group of citizens to create something that should be “under the purview of trained professionals.”

Reilly and Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kelly disagreed and advocated for a task force and resident input.

“You can’t have too much public opinion,” Kelly said.

Mardi Turner disagreed that resident input was needed because the plan was only an assessment that suggested projects. Once council agreed on a project, then they could call a task force and get feedback, she said.

“I see recommendations, potential suggestions; no policy,” Turner said.

Ultimately council decided to table the issue for a future meeting, hold a workshop session to further review the plan and continue interviewing for task force members.

Council also tabled the city manager position without discussion. This was following a closed executive session where they discussed matters related to the city manager. Peifer has been serving in the position since August, when 14-year City Manager Michael Ross was fired.

WU council-web

One Response to “West U Council approves pacts with church, sports groups; needs more time on facilities task force, city manager”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    As much as I support the church, I could not believe the distortion of the truth from Tim regarding the church parking lot. Listening to him, you would think there was a parade of seniors with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. I spent enough time around the Senior Center to know this is not true! Most seniors are walking fine, maybe slowly and stiffly, but walking without support. Are seniors going to exercise class? To my knowledge, seniors mostly use the main entrance steps from parking, not the back that is locked, except to staff, not the side that opens into a room that is probably in use. Tim, is your nose growing?
    As for signage, WUBC should not agree to entering into ANY agreement. I hope they learned that lesson. Just look at the hideous blue sign at friends park. Really?!!! This community owes much to WUBC. The guidance they provide shapes future generations. We still owe WUBC for the Super Block fiasco. Lawyers were expensive, valuable time lost, hard feelings began to surface. Brennan, get over it! Your focus should be on the Senior Center and why they are using tax resources for private parties and charging seniors for a breakfast with donated money. WUBC is good for WUP. The relationship is symbiotic. Focus on things that aren’t working, like why this leadership punishes their citizens for speaking out against wrongs. Or, why you don’t raise the long overdue 65 exemption that was brought up in city council months ago? You are so passionate about personal causes, direct some of that passion to causes requested by WUP citizens. I pray that we get leadership to be passionate about civil rights and the will of the people.

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