Daily Light staff writer

The Waxahachie City Council pledged more than $100,000 to help renovate the barns at the Waxahachie Rodeo and Fair Grounds during its meeting Monday evening, paving the way for the demolition of all but one of the structures.

The oldest barns at the complex “have become somewhat dilapidated, but have become unsafe,” director of parks and recreation John Smith said.

The newest barn — built in the 1970s — is still usable, and will receive cosmetic and functional upgrades, Smith said.

Working with Waxahachie ISD FFA advisor Mike Morgan, Smith set aside $25,000 in his current fiscal year’s budget to work on the barns, initially believing that was enough to cover half of the costs.

However, that estimate was far too low, Smith said.

In addition to being ADA-compliant, each of the structure’s posts will have to be sunk in concrete piers to withstand the wind load, increasing the cost considerably, he said.

The new structures — which will retain the white, gabled facade of the previous barns — were designed and engineered free of charge by local architect Anthony Mottla and an engineer with whom he contracts.

The city’s half of the new barns will be about $118,000, Smith said.

The council’s motion for the pledged funds is contingent upon WISD committing half the funds for the project, a commitment which Morgan told the council the board of trustees had been made aware.

Morgan said he and Smith would hopefully present the same information to the board at its next meeting.

Although the city owns the property on which the barns sit, the school district’s FFA members have traditionally used the barns for their animal projects.

The school’s FFA program averages from 90 to 100 students undertaking animal projects every year, Morgan said, noting that about 90 to 95 percent of those students use the barns to house their animals as they do not have room for them at their homes.

The proposal met with support from council members, with Ron Wilkinson calling it “a great project.”

Joe Gallo expressed his desire to ensure that all students in Waxahachie — those at Waxahachie High School and home-schooled alike — would have the opportunity to use the barns, to which Smith said he anticipated a “first come, first served” element to the barns, in which the Waxahachie ISD would hold primary status.

The barns have been designed with more space than what the FFA program currently requires, and opportunities for home-schooled students could be available, Smith said.

Construction on the project should move relatively quickly because the barn will simply be a metal pole structure, Morgan said, adding that “the process will take much longer than construction.”

All FFA projects have been cleared out of the old barns, which have subsequently been gutted. “They’re ready for demo,” Morgan said.

Saddle Brooke Estates update

In development news, council approved the assessments, assessment rolls, service and assessment plan, temporary note and payment agreement for the platted and unplatted portions of Saddle Brook Estates.

The two portions compose Waxahachie Public Improvement District No. 1, a taxing entity which will charge its residents for amenities throughout the subdivision.

Located on U.S. Highway 287 east of Waxahachie, Saddle Brook Estates is anticipated to eventually be the site of thousands of homes, with prices ranging from about $150,000 to about $250,000, representatives said.

The council approved the measures only after a lengthy public hearing, which had been continued for several meetings due to legal review of the proposal’s aspects.

Representatives from the numerous companies involved in developing the PID spoke to the council regarding their areas of interest, including the expected property appreciation (from millions of dollars in value when undeveloped to worth in excess of $1 billion eventually).

The costs of the PID-levied bonds will be paid off by residents over a 30-year period, though residents will be able to pay off any remaining balance at any time, the representatives said.

The required repayment will be disclosed to new residents through homebuilders, the representatives said.

In other business, the council:

Approved a notice of intent to issue $35 million in certificates of obligation, to pay for several projects around the city.

These projects include:

1). Constructing and improving city streets, sidewalks, railroad crossings, and signalization on city streets, together with plans and designs for municipal public parking,

2). Improving and extending the city’s waterworks and sewer system,

3). Acquiring fire truck and architectural design and plans for a fire station,

4). Constructing, improving and equipping city parks, including constructing and equipping a senior citizens center and acquiring a historical railroad depot and

5). For paying legal, fiscal and engineering fees for the projects.

Approved the preliminary and final plats of the WISD Park Place Elementary Addition, located northeast of U.S. Highway 287 between Broadhead Road and Indian Hills. Approved the preliminary and final plats of the WISD Sixth Grade Center Addition, located south of Parks School House Road and across U.S. Highway 287 from Clift Estates. Approved a request by downtown director Anita Kornegay to close certain downtown streets during the evening of Friday, June 22, for the summer movie program and Farmers Market. Approved a bid of $49,346 for a vehicle exhaust system for the city’s fire stations. As part of a federal grant, the department will only be responsible for 10 percent of the cost. Authorized request for proposals for landscape architectural services for two streetscape projects and other future projects.

Director of planning Clyde Melick told the council the RFP is a request for design work. If no delays occur, this process will be completed in May 2008.

Tabled an ordinance to adopt the 2007 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan.

E-mail Anthony at Anthony.Trojan@waxahachiedailylight.com