(Associated Posers) - ORLING, TX – A contentious city council meeting packed the chamber tonight as a controversial budget amendment took center stage. City Manager Timothy Gonzales introduced the budget by saying it was balanced, there were no layoffs and no taxes or fees were raised even in the midst of a years-long recession.
When the Mayor asked for comment City Councilman Joey Putter introduced an amendment to the budget that would replace $410,000 for “economic development” for an item that had been omitted from the Orling-Lost Colony Chamber of Commerce's items. The mayor pointed out that it had not been included with the proposed budget sent up by the Chamber. Councilwoman Rosie Canning seconded the amendment motion. Indeed this “economic development” was just a large stadium suite.
City Councilman Mike Gall offered an impassioned defense of the amendment. “We entered into this contract as a city, as a people. Our word is our bond. I cannot hope but that we do the honorable thing and approve this amendment, for the safety and life of our very souls. Violating this contract will just leave us indebted as a city since we are responsible for covering it should the Chamber not”.
The Mayor asked the opinion of the City Attorney if the city was beholden to the contract. City Attorney Charlie Andrews said “The City Council never passed this, the Chamber entered into it but the council never did”. Council members Canning and Gall then pointed out that this was ten year deal from 2008.
Mayor Elizabeth V. Dunn then asked the City Attorney if one council could leave future councils chained to such a contract. Charlie Andrews answered that “If it had been fully funded at the time, then it would be pretty rock-solid, but this was not. One council can't leave future councils chained to unfunded contracts”.
Then the Mayor pointed out that the Chamber itself had been trying to dump the stadium suite and sell the lease to someone else. She said the team's training facilities and merchandising would leave or not irrespective of the city owning a leased suite. “It won't matter one iota to the General Manager when time for comes for him to make that decision”
Instead of leaving the matter settled Councilman Mike Gall, who is also a member of the Orling-Lost Colony Chamber of Commerce Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, invoked God, citing the invocation at the beginning of the meeting. “We must do the right thing. Our people trust us to do the right thing. They trust us not to leave them high and dry and leave contracts unpaid”. Then Mike Gall took a serious tone “This item was only left out of the final proposal because someone put pressure on them.”
Councilwoman Canning was more technical and analytical in her defense of the offered amendment. “$410,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the budget” she told those present “Adding this will not hurt anyone, it doesn't take away from anyone else. This is economic development that our city needs, it creates jobs, it attracts businesses that invest in this city.”
Council member Gall agreed saying “We agreed to party with business leaders and contractors and the people expect us to party in style at the Stadium Suite. We just want the best partying the money can buy, the people of this city would want nothing less”.
Then the Mayor and Gerry Farr discussed briefly how the amendment item had already been dealt with in previous work sessions. The Mayor and Farr both noted their opposition to the amendment. Mayor Dunn also said that nobody was changing any minds arguing over it and called a vote on the amendment.
The amendment was defeated 4-5. Then an immediate vote on the full budget passed it 6-3.