City council votes on new Huntsville expansions

Photo courtesy of Jacob Courtney

The city council members voted down an expansion to Huntsville skate park, listened to first readings about forming an Airport Advisory Board and raising retirement benefits for city employees on the months first meeting.

A motion to expand the skate park 20 feet on the north side and 20 feet on the east for $30,000 was put as a motion to the City Council. The area would be to add safer areas and a place for younger children to practice skateboarding.

“I would just say that this was one of the best positive things we’ve done at least this year,” City Council member Bert Lyle said. “They love it and I go by there at least every day and there are kids on it.”

Mayor Andy Brauninger brought up that the expansion might interfere with the Shawshank Disc Golf Penitentiary, though Parks and Recreations Director Penny Joiner reassured that there was no overlap.

City council member Blake Irving then brought a line of questioning about lack of maintenance of Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Center. He mentioned basketball hoops, lighting and bathrooms. Joiner said the basketball hoops were on back order awaiting a welder to mount them and bathroom renovations were not planned at this time.

“It is an older park, but I think throwing money at a skateboard park that just got here, barely been there 30 days, and for us to spend 30,000 to expand it when it should get in line and be a budgeted item with park CIE (Capital Improvement Element) projects,” Irving said. “I can’t support this.”

The City Council members rejected the motion in a vote of 6-2.

There were two first readings of motions that may be voted on in the future.

City Council members proposed a motion to amend Chapter 10 of the Huntsville Municipal Code to include an Airport Advisory Board. City Manager Aron Kulhavy said a group of seven citizens appointed by the mayor and ratified by city council members would supervise the Huntsville Municipal Airport and it is perhaps future expansions.

“I now have companies out there that if we were to expand that airport, they might be interested in bringing more business here,” city council member Vicki McKenzie said.

Mayor Brauninger said he knew pilots that would be willing to sit on the board. Council members did not vote on the proposal.

City Council members considered adopting Ordinance 2021-30 to increase service credits from 50% to 75% for City Employees using the Texas Municipal Retirement System.

Service credits treat the salary throughout a city employee career as equal to the one given at retirement. The proposal would increase the amount of their salary employees would get back at retirement. City government members reduced service credits from 100% to 50% due to budget concerns in 2013.

“It sounds like a lot of crockery that TMS (sic) that they got all these computations going on,” city council member Dee Howard Mullins said.

Human Resource Director Julie O’Connell replied that the process involves looking at deposits made, the city matching contribution of employees of a 2-1 ratio, an estimation on how long the retired employee will live and which plan an employee chooses.

“In some cases, if they were here 30 to 35 years, they could possibly be getting their full salary upon retirement,” O’Connell said. “It’s an excellent plan.”

City council regular meetings are held every first and third Tuesday of every month.

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