The Museum of East Texas Culture was heavily discussed during the Palestine City Council meeting Monday night.
Mayor Dana Goolsby read a letter from the city that was sent to members of the board. The letter made clear the city’s stance on the property and what their role will be moving forward.
City Manager Teresa Herrera and City Attorney Gary Saunders explained that the city of Palestine has changed the locks on the historic Reagan Building, home of the Museum of East Texas Culture, after meeting with members of the board and spelling out their terms to move forward in a lessor/lessee relationship.
Herrera explained that the board had been told that they could not let the public into the building at this time, but members of the board had continued to do so. Saunders said it became necessary for the city to change the locks until certain criteria are met.
Goolsby pointed out that the museum is not the building, it is an entity of its own and the building is owned by the city and they are responsible for that building.
Herrera, Saunders and several council members all chimed in that the city is in favor of reopening, but there are some requirements that must be met first, including a plan for compliance with federal law, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act.
ADA requirements include a reasonable and achievable plan in place by the owner and any lessee before it can be opened to the public. The city said there must be a lease and an ADA Compliance Plan in place before any activity involving the public accessing the Reagan Building can occur.
Through a study done by the city, when they were considering moving the library into the building with the museum, they were quoted a cost of $10 million for a complete renovation including ADA upgrades. Goolsby noted that the cost for just the museum would be considerably less, possibly even half.
Herrera said there are no city funds through the budget or any other bond or borrowing program available at this time for the project. She explained that before there could be a lease between the city and museum that would permit the opening to the public, the museum would be required to discuss and agree with the city how the building could be brought into compliance with the ADA using funds provided by the museum. The museum would need to provide financial information verifying funds were reasonably available.
The letter also spelled out that the Reagan Building is owned by the city of Palestine and there is no lease or current authority granted by the city.
Hererra and Saunders explained that per the museum's bylaws, that even though four of their members voted to keep the museum closed for now, they did not resign. Saunders said members of the museum provided the city with a copy of the board’s bylaws and based on those bylaws, the proper procedure was not followed to elect a new board. Due to the continuing disagreement among board members, the city does not know which board to recognize and will have to wait to go forward with the museum, until the two entities can come to an agreement.
Also during the meeting, council members spoke out against a request for a specific use permit to sell beer and wine for off-premise consumption at 712 N. Cottage Ave. by Gorgonio Ordonez, Jr. during a public hearing on the matter.
Reasons included the location is in a residential area, families with children live in the area and an already high crime call volume.
When the council took the vote, they were unanimous in agreement to oppose the specific use permit by Gorgonio Ordonez, Jr.
For the regular agenda, the council approved a resolution to support the adoption and approval of the State of Texas and Texas Political Subdivisions’ Opioid Abatement Fund Council and Settlement Allocation Term Sheet in its entirety.
The meeting opened with public comments from A.D. Etheridge who informed the council that he had seen a city vehicle out of county, in Fairfield on the way to Mexia, which has been problematic in the past.
James Smith spoke, thanking those who helped, participated in and showed up to National Night Out at Larry Street Park.
Mayor Dana Goolsby issued proclamations for Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Lincoln A.M. Story Alumni.
The council opened the following bids:
• RFP 2021 021 Sale of Real Property
• RFP 2021 007 Mural South Palestine Herald Press Footing Wall
• REF 2021 019 Mural Visitor Information Center Repairs
• REF 2021 020 Mural 310 W. Oak Street Back Wall.
The council approved two consent agenda items, authorization for the city manager to seek sealed bids for asphalt replacement at the Farmers Market and approval to declare certain equipment as surplus to be sold off using a Buyboard approved online auctioneer, separately.
The council went into closed session at 6:35 p.m. to discuss economic development negotiations regarding Prospect #1015, consultation with their attorney on pending or contemplated litigation or a settlement offer including Laza, UPRR and other possible claims and deliberation regarding real property: the purchase, exchange, lease or value of real property, including the Community Forest and Howard House.