By David Kapitan
The on-again, off-again move of the Bluebird Festival to Jack Lester Park is on-again this week, after council members voted unanimously on Tuesday night to allow the Bluebird Festival Association the right to pursue a move of the annual event to the park.
In August, Collette Shelton, president of the Wills Point Bluebird Committee, made a presentation to city council members requesting their blessing in moving the festival.
Shelton outlined the pros and cons of the potential moves under questioning from council members. At the August meeting, councilman Mike Jones was firm in his desire for the festival to stay downtown, stressing that any move would take away from the festival’s original intent and hurt local businesses.
Fellow council member Paul Addison expressed mixed emotions about the potential move, but ultimately voted in favor of allowing the Bluebird Committee to pursue a move to Lester Park. After brief discussion, the city council approved the Bluebird Committee’s proposal, with Jones casting the lone dissenting vote.
Numerous calls and complaints made during the public forum portion of the September council meeting prompted council members to revisit the potential move of the Bluebird Festival at its October meeting.
At the October meeting, council members asked Collette Shelton for an update on the planning and sponsorships for the 2013 festival. Shelton advised that some strides had been made, but all other progress had been stopped due to the harsh community backlash the Bluebird Committee had received.
Council member Mike Jones again raised concerns about loss of revenue and loss of exposure to downtown business that moving the festival would bring.
Shelton countered Jones by noting the Committee had plans for dedicating a portion of the festival grounds at Lester Park to local businesses to sell their merchandise or advertise their business.
Jones also raised concerns about the potential damage done to the park, especially if it were to rain during the festival. Fellow council member Paul Addison disputed the damage that could be done to the park, citing that the circus had previously used the grounds without causing any lingering damage.
After Jones reiterated his desire for the Bluebird Festival to remain on the brick streets, Shelton advised the council that members of the Bluebird Committee had already decided to not hold the Bluebird Festival on the bricks (and find an alternate venue) if the Lester Park option was taken away.
Mike Jones, Oscar Rogers, and Randy Adams voted in favor of rescinding the Lester Park option, with John Pope voting against and Paul Addison abstaining.
On Tuesday night, the council entered into an executive session for 30 minutes on an agenda item listed as “consultation with city attorney regarding possible pending/threatened litigation involving the Wills Point Bluebird Festival Association.”
Council members reconvened into open session and voted unanimously to re-approve the Lester Park option for the Bluebird Festival.
After the meeting, Wills Point Mayor Deby Frye stated, “Other than what was said in open session, the only statement I have is that the BBC sent correspondence asking that the Council reconsider its decision. Anything that was discussed in executive session is privileged.”
Shelton, who was at the meeting but didn’t address the council, added some insight into what the council likely discussed behind closed doors, stating, “The Bluebird Committee sent a letter to the city that brought to light some things that could possibly come from rescinding Lester Park.”
Asked about the status of the 20th Annual Bluebird Festival, Shelton noted, “We’re crunched for time, but we can and will get it done.”
In other business:
-The council heard a presentation from Bill Bailey of Caldwell Tanks regarding the painting and necessary maintenance of the city’s water storage towers. At least two of the three towers are currently in need of repairs to remain compliant.
-The council approved street closures for the 2012 Christmas Bazaar and parade.
-The council moved forward with its city manager search by okaying the hire of Strategic Resource Group (SRG) to conduct a search of potential candidates. The council tentatively set a February start date for the person hired.