By Kathi Bliss
One of the city’s most controversial and beleaguered construction projects is finally gaining momentum and is projected to be complete by the end of the year.
According to an update presented by Ronda Reagan to the Lockhart City Council on Tuesday evening, the restoration of the Brock Cabin is underway, and expected to be complete in time for a grand opening and fundraising gala in December.
“There has been work going on under the tarp that people can’t see,” she said of the project, which many believe has appeared to be at a standstill for months. “A lot of work has been happening that y’all can’t see, but we’re still working toward completion.”
That work, Reagan said, includes an assessment of the interior of the cabin, cleaning and stripping of paneling and wallpaper and the removal of rat and squirrel nests and “petrified squirrel corpses.”
Reagan said her organization, the Friends of the Brock Cabin, has formed a “construction supercommittee” which continues to meet every two weeks to plan the restoration of the historic cabin. That committee, she said, has gathered bids on much of the work required, drawn a construction timeline, and received architectural plans to restore the cabin to its original state.
When the restoration is complete, the Friends of the Brock Cabin plan to continue to raise funds to operate the cabin as a museum, and to pay docents to operate tours of the structure.
Recently, the roof of the structure collapsed, leading to a new barrage of questions throughout the community about the status of the restoration project.
“The fact that the roof caved in didn’t scare us,” Reagan said. “We knew that we were going to have to replace it anyway. We left it intact because it provided some extra stability when the cabin was moved, but we knew that we were going to have to replace it.”
The construction timeline includes framing the structure and the porch in September and then adding limited electricity and a security system in October.
“We’re going to keep it historic, but we have to have some small, well-hidden lights, and the security system, so we’re going to need to have electric brought in,” she said.
Later, the chimney will be restored and the structure “re-chinked” to add stability to the logs.
She said she expects the work to be complete in time for a Grand Opening ceremony and fundraiser “under the white tent” in conjunction with the Dickens’ Christmas in Lockhart, the first weekend of December.
In other business, friction erupted among the council as they discussed updating their Tax Abatement Policy.
Under state law, the policy must be reviewed and re-established every two years. However, several members of the council believe that the current policy is too restrictive, and hinders business development in the community.
“We’re being presented with this one-size-fits-all ordinance, and I want to make sure that we have the room to negotiate,” said Councilmember John Castillo. “We’re still in the process of trying to grow and we’re still trying to attract businesses here, and we can’t be this restrictive.”
Economic Development Director Sandra Mauldin countered that the policy she presented was the same policy that has been in effect since 2000, and there have only been minor changes based on changes to state law. City Attorney Peter Gruning bolstered her position, reminding the council that much of the policy was dictated by state law.
Some members were unfazed, however.
“I hear the lipservice that we’ll be able to negotiate, but I think that people come in looking for tax abatements and it’s already been decided what they’re going to get,” said Councilmember Richard Banks. “Some people don’t want the council to have the authority to negotiate.”
In the end, though Councilmember Benny Hillburn and Mayor Lew White voted to approve the policy as it was presented, the majority of the council voted to send the policy back to staff in an effort to change the language to make it more “user friendly.” Until the council approves a tax abatement policy, they are prevented under the law from offering new tax abatements.
In brief news:
They approved a bid for $232,700 for Clark Phase II for mechanical work in the Dr. Eugene Clark Library Complex restoration project. The project will complete the roof work and duct work, and the contractor, Fox and Hearn, Inc., submitted the only bid on the project.
The primary electric lines on South Commerce Street from US 183 to Prairie Lea Street will be upgraded under a contract with Techline Construction, LLC. The lines, according to City Manager Vance Rodgers, are too small and insufficient to the power needs in the area.
They approved a $130,000 expenditure of a new ambulance to replace Lockhart-Northern Caldwell County’s oldest unit, Medic 3.
They heard information about a new legislative directive that will allow for public meetings through teleconferencing, and discussed several aspects of the upcoming fiscal year budget.
The Lockhart City council routinely meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Center in the lower level of Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public and broadcast on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10.