The Undercurrent: New year, new beginnings

This time of year, it’s tempting  simply to look behind at what happened in the last 365 days and review the year that was. But we prefer to learn from the past year and look forward.

A new year means new beginnings. And this year Glen Rose and Somervell County have a lot to look forward to – some big challenges as well as big opportunities.

Here are our picks of the top 10 local “to do” items for the new year. Feel free to add yours using the comments form or on our Facebook page.

Happy New Year!

1. Decide what to do with the medical center.

It’s time to settle this contentious and very important issue once and for all: Do you want a hospital in Glen Rose or not?  If so, are you willing to pay for it? And how much?

It’s all but certain that supporters will succeed in getting the required number of signatures needed to put the measure on the May election ballot.  Then it’s up to you and other voters.

 2. Revive the downtown square.

Business on the square typically goes through wax-and-wane cycles, but it’s looking pretty down in downtown right now. It used to be you could find shops keeping regular business hours, but we’ve seen plenty of days when hardly anything was open. It’s a shame because tourists often walk around the square, peering in windows and looking for something to do or buy…then leave.

On the other hand, we sure can’t blame storeowners for not staying open when business is light. But it’s a chicken-and-egg situation: if stores don’t stay open, people won’t come and if people won’t come, stores won’t stay open. It costs to keep the lights on and buildings heated and cooled, not to mention the cost of inventory and people to run the stores.

The Central Appraisal District’s revaluation of properties around the square in 2012 couldn’t have come at a worse time. Property taxes will double, triple, quadruple or more for some building owners. One retailer, Caylor Creek, already has closed, citing the higher taxes as one of the main reasons. It’s time for some action, which brings us to the next point:

3. Light a fire under economic development.

We know a lot of people are trying to help local businesses – the Glen Rose Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Association and the Convention & Visitors Bureau among them.

CVB Director Billy Huckaby, in his new position as economic development point man added to his CVB responsibilities, has some good ideas. Some folks didn’t like that the city and county each ponied up $15,000 for his ED duties, but let’s give him a chance and hope he can get the economic development ball rolling.

 4. Stop the micro-managing at Town Hall.

Some members of the Glen Rose City Council still don’t seem to know that the city administrator, whom they hired, is now in charge of city employees. The micro-managing and second-guessing continues.

City Administrator Ken West’s contract is up in April. Let’s hope it’s extended and that he accepts another stint as the city’s top manager. Under his leadership morale has improved, the city government operates much more smoothly and council meetings are much more organized, orderly and efficient.

West is a smart manager. Give him the responsibility, hold him accountable and then step aside and let the man do his job.

Council members set the vision for the city and make the big decisions. Telling city employees how to do their jobs is not their business.

 5. Don’t let a single child go hungry.

The lines at the Somervell County Food Bank next to First United Methodist Church grow longer all the time. The food bank needs so many things – food, to be sure, but also volunteers, drivers and cash to buy the food items it doesn’t receive.

Those who use the food bank are lucky that they not only receive canned and dry food, but also fresh food.

It’s a startling statistic, but about half of the students enrolled in the Glen Rose ISD come from families whose income is below the federal poverty line. We have hungry kids in our community. We can all help. Let’s do it and not just at Thanksgiving or Christmas time, but year round.

6. Pay attention to water and the environment.

It’s easy to take water for granted until you don’t have any. The city of Meridian to our south is warning of possible water rationing in the new year.

Somervell County is fortunate to have had the foresight to build its reservoir, but forecasts call for a prolonged drought to continue.

Conserving water is up to each of us. So is protecting the environment. So recycle, reuse and repurpose. Use the transfer station to deposit tires, oils and other material that shouldn’t be dumped.

And treat water like the precious resource it is. The next big fight pitting cities and regions against won’t be over oil or gas. It will be over water.

 7. Use the River Walk.

When I went to the River Walk to take some photographs for this website’s Christmas photo gallery, I was reminded again of what a lovely place it is.

But no one was down there using it. On nice days, you see more people there, but the “if we build it, they will come” line of thought hasn’t brought enough people to the River Walk.

A few suggestions: How about a canoe rental operation? Some food vendors such as an ice cream stand or hot dog purveyor?  An art show along the River Walk? Or some other events?

Let’s do something to make the expense worth it besides just looking pretty.

8. Become a friend of Barnard’s Mill.

The Somervell History Foundation oversees the preservation of Barnard’s Mill and some folks in town apparently think it’s some high-falutin’ bunch of high-rollers who don’t need help.

That’s far from the truth.

The foundation members, and I’m one, share a desire to keep this gem of Glen Rose’s heritage from falling down. More needs to be done at the mill and it will take a village to keep it going.

So if you haven’t visited in a while, go down there. Take your out-of-town friends. Take your kids. Volunteer to water the grounds or do something to take care of this piece of history that is so precious.

The mill is one of the oldest buildings in North Texas. There aren’t many mills left anymore. If you don’t want to join the foundation, fine, but become a friend to the mill in some way.

Just think what Glen Rose would be like without it.  Some residents were born there when it was a hospital. Some worked there. It’s more than just a building.

9. Vote!

Voter turnout is still very light at local elections. Do people not care or not think their vote can make a difference? It’s appalling that a person can be elected to the Glen Rose City Council with only a couple hundred votes.

Do you really want your future and your children’s future in the hands of someone who can just rally some friends and family members and get elected? Isn’t that what helps create conflicts of interest – and haven’t we had enough of those?

An important election is coming up in May. The hospital district issue hopefully will draw voters out of their homes and to the polls. The mayor’s job and two city council positions are up for grabs. Get out and make your voice heard. Please.

 10. Keep cleaning up Glen Rose and Somervell County.

Boy, did I get an earful when I wrote a column about trashy properties in town in my previous job as editor of the Glen Rose Reporter. Lots of folks tried to silence me. They called my boss, who called me and told me that I “didn’t need to be making enemies in town.”

Well, I sure don’t TRY to do that, but I’m not afraid to ruffle feathers when necessary. And that column did some good. Suddenly, a vacant building with a caved-in door and an exposed refrigerator – a danger to children – got a new door. Rusting cars in some yards got moved. I drive around town and look at the properties I photographed and see progress. The City of Glen Rose even hauled in a giant dumpster and offered it to residents who wanted to deposit all sorts of junk in it.

The county doesn’t have ordinances against junky properties, but it’s still disheartening to drive around and see eyesores that mar this area’s natural beauty.

Let’s have another cleanup day. Let’s all pitch in and help our neighbors clean up their properties. And let’s keep making Glen Rose and the county as beautiful as they can be.

Kathryn Jones is editor of the Glen Rose Current. 

2 Responses to The Undercurrent: New year, new beginnings

  1. Larry P. Smith Reply

    January 30, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Kathryn,thank you for sticking with Glen Rose. We need your voice and your opinion!
    The City and County accomplished several noteworthy things in 2012 and I made attempts before the first of the year to tell the world about them. You are right. Now,it is 2013 and we must look ahead.I had prepared to comment on each of your challenges/opportunities individually but,I kept coming up with the same answers.
    Get involved! Show pride in your community!
    Support our Leaders! Vote,volunteer and select the area or areas where you can be of best service.
    Then,do it and good things will happen. We have to
    “Make Things Happen” to improve our community.It is
    up to all of us!
    These are areas that I haye selected:
    Vote for a Hospital District.It is the only viable solution to ensure continued quality medical
    care in Glen Rose.
    Support and work for Economic Development to create jobs,improve business and strengthen the local economy.This “opportunity” is the solution to
    most of our “challenges”.
    Support and promote Barnard`s Mill,the River Walk
    and,especially,the revitalization of Downtown.
    Always,with preservation of the character and quality of life.
    I will close with a quote from Abraham Lincoln:
    “Things may come to those who wait,but only the
    things left by those who hustle.”

    • Kathryn Reply

      January 30, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Thank you so much, Larry. I will. I meant to post your comments as a letter to the editor and I will get that done. Thanks again!

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