Street deal saves car show
By LPR Staff
An announcement from event promoter Joel Gammage last week that the Hot Rods and Hatters Car Show event had outgrown downtown Lockhart and would therefore be cancelled next year prompted a social media firestorm through the weekend.
Initially left unclear to the public, the Lockhart City Council took heavy fire for allegedly being “uncooperative,” and trying to “drive the show out of town.”
After canceling, and then deciding to hold off on the cancellation, Gammage addressed the concerns during the City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday evening, when street closures for the event were on the table for discussion.
“The council, and each of the council members have been very supportive of us,” Gammage said Tuesday. “I’ve never doubted your support, for me or for the show, and I’m glad that we were able to reach a compromise that lets us continue to hold this event for the benefit of this community.”
That compromise includes expanding the space available for the show, while addressing concerns about safety and traffic flow downtown.
Initially, Gammage had asked for the entirety of Commerce Street to be closed for exhibitors and foot traffic only; that idea drew resistance, not only from the neighborhood, but from City Manager Vance Rodgers, as well as the management staff at HEB, who expressed concern that closing two of the store’s four entrances would press excessive traffic to Highway 183, creating dangers not only for customers trying to enter or exit the store, but for the general public, as well.
Additionally, Gammage had hoped for a closure of Pecan Street from Highway 183 to South Blanco Street.
Citing public safety hazards, particularly in relation to the residents who live in those areas and being able to provide emergency service access, Rodgers proposed a compromise on Tuesday evening – one that Gammage and the council both found agreeable.
For the Saturday of the show, slated Feb. 2 – 3, 2018, South Commerce Street will be closed in part, from the northern curb of the southernmost entrance to HEB, through downtown to Pecan Street. Hickory, Bee, Live Oak and Pin Oak Streets will be left open to regular traffic, as will Pecan Street. Parking throughout the most impacted residential areas will be restricted to resident and business parking.
“This is the best thing that I could come up with, with the least amount of residents that we would have to escort in and out,” he said. “I sat on that street last Saturday and watched, and I saw, from 7 – 9 a.m., 46 resident trips in and out, and I just don’t think it would be feasible to provide that much escort to the residents all the way up the street.”
Gammage noted the closure would also provide additional safety for the participants and visitors to the show, by alleviating any confusion about a Commerce Street entrance.
“Every year, we’ve had to move barricades because people don’t realize it’s not an entrance, and this way, it will be more clear that the Prairie Lea Street entrance is the only entrance,” he said.
The Council asked Rodgers to provide the map of the closures in the utility billing in December and January, so residents have ample time to prepare.
Noting the backlash from the general public upon hearing the Hot Rods and Hatters Show could be canceled, Councilmember John Castillo asked his colleagues to consider requesting HatRod Productions, the event promoter, to make a donation to the city’s Downtown Revitalization program, or another service within the City. Gammage noted that in the past, all water and soda sales have been handled by the Downtown Revitalization Committee, so such a benefit to the City is already in place.
The council was unable to take action on the donation idea, because no such item was listed on the agenda.
In other business, the Council bid farewell to five-year veteran Benny Hilburn, who attended his last meeting at the dais on Tuesday.
Hilburn, who opted not to run for another term in the upcoming November election, will not be present for the Nov. 16 council meeting, when the votes will be canvassed, because of a prior commitment. He expressed his thanks and gratitude to the City Staff, in particular Rodgers and City Secretary Connie Constancio, for their service; he also praised the constituents of District Three for allowing him to serve for the last five years.
In brief news:
The Council approved a variety of vendor contracts.
They read, and approved a resolution that will provide financial considerations to Chunilal, Inc., DBA Schlotzky’s, in return for their investment of nearly $1.4 million in improvements and the creation of a minimum of 15 full-time jobs in connection with their planned construction in Lockhart. Rodgers said the plans for the site had been permitted, and a ground-breaking ceremony is expected in the near future.
The Lockhart City Council routinely meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Third Floor Council Chambers of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library Complex. The meetings are open to the public and available for viewing at lockhart-tx.org.