Orasi out, city okays funding for events

No action in closed session on evaluation
Reporter Editor

New water meters can be read a block away on a laptop. New water meters can be read a block away on a laptop. Rockdale City Council members quickly ended the Orasi Era on Monday, reaching an “amicable separation” with the firm that managed several less-than-successful events last month.

Meeting in regular session at City Hall, the council took no action following an executive session that included a verbal evaluation of City Manager Kelvin Knauf.

Council members also approved funding for several upcoming events from the hotel-motel tax, including the 2013 Christmas parade and 2014 Tejas Festival, and listened to concerns on local events actually putting “heads in beds” to aid the city’s economy.

ORASI—The council quickly voted 5-0 to terminate its agreement with Orasi, which will be paid through October in settlement terms worked out by Knauf and Jack Thompson, Orasi president.

Knauf referred to the settlement as “amicable.” Thompson attended the meeting but did not comment.

Last week the city’s tourism committee recommended termination of the contract in the wake of cost overruns and other issues concerning two dances and an antique fair promoted by the firm last month.

EVALUATION—Following Monday’s regular session, council members met in executive session to give a verbal evaluation on Knauf’s job performance, according to Mayor John King.

In a previous session the council had noted it had never actually spelled out its goals and expectations on the position of city manager.

No action was taken following the closed session. King said a formal evaluation is planned at a later date.

KAY—The council approved a $4,000 hotel-motel (HOT) tax grant for handicap accessible doors for the ongoing restoration of the Kay Theatre, but not before council member Joyce Dalley expressed concern about continuing requests for funding from the Kay Theatre Foundation.

Dalley said she would support Monday’s $4,000 request—which was approved on a unanimous vote—but noted the foundation has received $21,500 in HOT funds.

“There hasn’t yet been a single hotel room (occupancy) generated,” she said. “I understand there’s a possibility in the future there will be, but I’m a little concerned about the continual coming before the council and asking for more money and more money and more money.”

Gary Griesbach, Municipal Development District ( MDD) board member, said volunteers restoring the Kay are caught “in a Catch 22 situation.”

“They can’t hold anything in there until it meets city codes, or most of those codes, but they can’t raise any money until they hold events,” he said.

Griesbach said he believed the volunteers were spending money “prudently and efficiently.”

PARADE—Joan Ratliff, tourism committee chair, said the committee was unsure if money alloted for the Chamber of Commerce to sponsor Rockdale’s Christmas parade activities should be spent from the HOT fund or the general fund.

The council approved up to $2,200 for Christmas parade related expenditures by the Chamber.

TEJAS—The 2014 Tejas Fest is envisioned as the largest ever and the city approved HOT expenditures of up to $17,500 for the March 21-22 event.

Ratliff said new events include the Almost Patsy Cline Band, a poet and singer Craig Toungate with his “In the Shadow of Giants” musical production based on the Texas Revolution.

She said a number of grants will be sought. The council noted the Tejas Fest committee was approved for $14,500 last year, but due to receiving sizable grant support, spent only $5,523 and returned the rest to the city.

METERS— The counc i l okayed the long awaited hightech water meters, accepting the $586,048.97 bid of Hydro Pro for new electronic meters for the entire city.

The meters represent the biggest change ever in Rockdale meter reading.

Instead of a city employee walking into your yard, lifting a heavy lid and reading numbers, the new meters can be read with a laptop computer.

Knauf said meters for the entire city can be read by one employee in less than a day.

“They will also be more accurate and provide much more information,” he said.

Meters should be installed, residential and business, by the end of March, 2014.

In other business, the council:

• Approved a rate change for Atmos Energy, representing a compromise between Atmos and the coalition of cities opposing its request for rate hikes.

• Okayed an MDD request to apply for a USDA grant for extensive sidewalk and other improvement to downtown Rockdale.

• Endorsed an MDD request to proceed with plans to improve the 1980s- era Patterson Civic Center. Extensive improvements are planned both inside and outside the building.

• Re-nominated Kerry Starnes for the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (POSGCD) board of directors.

• Re-nominated current Milam Appraisal District (AD) directors who have indicated they wish to serve another term and nominated Mike Vance to replace Ratliff, who is stepping down.

• On a 5-0 vote, elected Brian Morton to the tourism committee. Two previous votes failed 3-2, one to name Russell Fischer to the board and another to table the vote until a subsequent meeting.

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