Home » Front Page Slider » Huntsville City Council OKs $140,000 in 1st Phase of Statue Center Upgrade
City Council approved the engineering design phase of a $1.86 million project to expand the Sam Houston Statue Visitor's Center. City officials say the current facility is too small to accommodate the more approximately 74,000 visitors it receives in a year.

Huntsville City Council OKs $140,000 in 1st Phase of Statue Center Upgrade

 By Walker County News Today staff

  The Huntsville City  Council on Tuesday approved the use of $140,000 in Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds for engineering design of the Sam Houston Statue Visitor Center Expansion and Renovation Project.

HOT funds are derived from a 7 percent surcharge paid by guests who stay in local hotels, motels and bed and breakfast establishments. HOT funds are not derived from property and sales taxes paid by Huntsville citizens.

Council also authorized the City Manager Matt Benoit to enter into a contract with PGAL Architects of Houston for these services and to provide additional services during the construction phase if the Council authorizes that at a later date. If fully authorized, the total project cost is an estimated $1.86 million, council said.

PGAL previously performed a Facility Needs Assessment for this project. Council approved the plan at this meeting.

PGAL recommends that an additional 4,268 square feet be added to the Visitor Center’s existing 5,000 square feet in a separate attached building. The new building will provide educational space, a catering kitchen, staff offices, and room to accommodate visiting groups.

Kimm Thomas, the city’s director of Tourism and Cultural Services, told the Council that the current Visitor Center is no longer adequate to meet the needs of these visiting groups.

“The current building was not originally designed to accommodate groups, only people coming and going. Since that time we have evolved to having groups there, sometimes two or three a day. And you don’t always know when they’re coming. Last year we had 49 scheduled groups, but we also had 283 non-scheduled groups. We get groups out there at the drop of a dime.”

She also said the Visitor Center needs additional space to accommodate groups of up to 150 people. City employees work in cramped conditions, sharing work space with storage space while also trying to greet and assist an ever-increasing number of visitors. In 2015, an 74,000 people visited statue and center, an increase of 7,000, Thomas said.

 

Before the vote, mayor pro tem Keith Olson emphasized that funds for the project were not coming from property or sales taxes but a “pass-through” tax collected from overnight visitors to the city.

Council voted 6-1 to proceed with the contract. Ward 3 council member Ronnie Allen voted against the measure. Ward 2 council member Tish Humphrey was absent from the vote.

“I’m not voting for this tonight because I don’t think the Long Range Planning Committee handled this properly,” Allen said. “Even though I would have most likely voted for the remodel, since they are lumped together as one project (remodel and expansion), I’m going to vote No. I’m also uncomfortable with the architect chosen for this project.”

Strategic Planning

Council voted to approve the 2016 Strategic Plan and to amend the plan to require that council review all recommendations by the Long Range Planning Committee in a workshop before the committee presents them for a vote in a formal meeting.

Council also agreed that the workshop and the formal vote would not occur on the same day.

Executive Session

Allen questioned why council intended to discuss in private City Charter Paragraph 11.17, requiring council to get voter approval before accruing new debt greater that two-tenths of 1 percent of the current assessed value of all taxable properties in the city. No one on council provided an answer. Allen’s motion  to hold discussion of the city’s charter in public failed for lack of a second.

Consent Agenda

Council approved all items without discussion.                                .

 

One comment

  1. George H. Russell

    Corruption at City Hall has reached a new level of insanity. I offered to design any new room for weddings, birthday parties, and other NON-TOURISTIC events FOR FREE!!!

    Most of the problems at the current cement statue visitor’s center are due to incompetence on the part of the overpaid staff and lack of normal maintenance.

    There is so much room for fraud, kickbacks and other forms of corruption that I can smell the stench all the way out to San Jacinto County.

    My crews built all of the log structures at SHSU Camp and could build a new 4,000 square foot room for a million dollars less than the $1,8 million.

    But wait!!!! The ITEM mentioned, as I suspected that the cost is now $2.2 million and I can guarantee that with the pre-planned and pre-schemed “change orders” the cost will go up to $3 million for something that does NOT PUT HEADS IN BEDS as required by HOT LAWS!!!

    Kim Thomas admits that she wants luxurious executive offices to that she does NOT have to greet visitors!!!!

    Fire them all and let the cement statue take care of itself.

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