Belton Council changes status quo

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Mayor Jeff Davis declared a five-minute recess during a special Belton City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 4, when meeting attendees began speaking out of turn.

The first item on the agenda was a resolution which had been postponed from the May 28 council meeting, which would transition the Belton Corporation for Economic Development (BCED) to an “in-house economic development program managed and administered within the Community Development Department.”

Councilman Everett Loughridge and City Manager Ronald Trivitt had briefly discussed the possibility of a 60-day transition contract with the BCED before members of the audience began to speak up to state their opinions.

Mayor Davis stated that they were out of order, but one man insisted, “I might be out of order, but I’m gonna make my statement,” and a woman later said, “We have a right. It’s our money.”

Davis told them that taxpayers may ask to be put on the agenda, then declared a five-minute recess before the vote.

After the recess, Art Ruiz stepped forward to speak to the Council.

“It’s been a great fourteen years working for the community,” said Ruiz. “If you would extend it [the BCED contract], that’s fine. If you don’t want to extend it, that’s okay too.” He expressed a willingness to work with the transition to make it happen.

Councilman Trutzel stated his appreciation to Ruiz, and Mayor Davis agreed with Trutzel: “I think that resonates throughout the council and throughout the community.”

Council ultimately decided not to extend the BCED contract, with only one council member voting in opposition.

According to the agenda packet, “the City ‘In-House option’ would provide an overall cost savings of $11,872 for the remainder of FY [Fiscal Year] 2014.” The document goes on to state, “The estimated remaining funds of $11,872 would allow the budgetary flexibility to continue funding BCED during a transition period of up to one month. Any remaining money will be available for future economic development expenses.”

When asked for comment, Mayor Davis said, “It was never a personnel issue. The whole matter was economical and bringing it in-house.”

He explained that the City is after accountability: to keep an eye on what is going on, to have a “one-stop shop,” to better control the public’s money, and to coordinate economic development issues.

“With it being in house, it will all come together a lot easier,” Davis said. “We’re pinching pennies over here…. We’re still in a recession, and people have got to realize that.”

Davis is pursuing change in the City of Belton, and this is one example.  “The ultimate goal is that we change the status quo.”

A work session immediately followed the special meeting, and one of the items up for discussion was an off-leash dog park.

Several councilmen stated favorable opinions about the establishment of a dog park in Belton. However, Councilmen Gary Lathrop, Tim Savage, and Al Hoag all expressed hesitation over the proposed location at Markey Park. Savage requested that the Park Board and City staff review other possible locations.

Loughridge said that he believed the dog park could be established now, with the possibility that the land could always be taken back if economic development demands such an action in the future.

Savage said that the issue is about “the right location,” emphasizing the importance of parking and walking trail proximity, as well as the best place to get the most attraction.

The off-leash dog park was in the agenda for the Belton City Council meeting that took place on Tuesday, June 11. The ordinance to approve the one-month extension to the BCED contract for an “orderly transition” was also on that agenda.

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