UPDATE: Amarillo business owner unable to present petition during City Council meeting

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – UPDATE: Amarillo business owner Craig Gualtiere was expected to submit a signed petition during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, calling for a vote on the City Council’s City Hall project. However, he was unable to do so.

Explained by officials during the meeting, Craig Gualtiere was unable to present the petition because the project was not an item on the agenda. Due to Texas state law, discussions that are not on such agendas are not allowed.

ORIGINAL:

Roasters Coffee & Tea Owner Craig Gualtiere is expected to submit a 10,000-signature petition to the City of Amarillo during its City Council meeting today, from what he says are “voters who simply want a say when it comes to funding substantial projects which will ultimately incur taxes on Amarillo citizens.”

In late June, Gualtiere filed a civil petition with the Potter County Court that is still pending, asking to stop the City Hall project with the claim the City has dismissed the will of voters.

The project comes from the City of Amarillo saying that the building needs immediate attention in order for it to remain functional.

In May, Amarillo Facilities Manager Jerry Danforth presented three options to the city council: renovating city hall, renovating the Amarillo Hardware building, or doing neither.

Danforth said the cost to renovate the existing city hall would be about $28.5 million. Renovating Amarillo Hardware and the process of moving over there would cost about $31 million. Lastly, the cost of not doing either renovation is estimated to be $5.5 million for the next two years to keep city hall running.

According to the statement released by Gualtiere this morning, Amarillo’s use of Certificates of Obligation to fund the City Hall project is incurring “long-term debt without the consent of citizens” who will have to repay it. He claimed his issue is not with the project itself, but the use of Certificates of Obligation to fund any project without asking taxpayers.

Certificates of Obligation are usually backed by property taxes and other local revenues, according to a description from the Texas Comptroller. Unlike bonds like Proposition A, Certificates of Obligation do not require voter approval “unless 5 percent of qualified voters within the jurisdiction petition for an election on the spending in question.”

“Local governments pay for public infrastructure projects by issuing long-term debt, either through COs or the more common general obligation (GO) bonds, which require voter approval; or through revenue bonds that must be backed by a specific revenue stream, sometimes generated by the project itself.” said the Comptroller’s explanation, “Given their streamlined adoption process, COs can be particularly attractive when a local government wishes to, for example, take quick advantage of lower interest rates, purchase a newly available property or come into compliance with a federal or state regulation.”

Meanwhile, Gualtiere said that his petition is intended to require the City Council to allow a vote on whether or not to spend the money through Certificates of Obligation to move City Hall.

“We have successfully compiled more than enough signatures which requires the Amarillo City Council to allow Amarillo voters to decide whether or not they agree with the Council’s decision to move our City Hall.” Said Gualtiere’s statement, “I believe it is critical for Amarillo residents to have the right to vote on this project. After all, we will be the ones footing the bill for decades to come. Whether or not you agree with moving City Hall, we simply cannot allow the City to use Certificates of Obligation as a vehicle to go around voters.”

The Amarillo City Council meeting will be streamed on MyHighPlains.com at 1 p.m. on July 17.

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