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Weeks after Willow Park Mayor Ken Hawkins proposed that the six cities of East Parker County unite under one municipality with the Aledo name, another proposal has come forward.
Hudson Oaks City Councilman Bill Young, who Hawkins mentioned as a supporter at the town hall meeting last week, has written a full response to Hawkins' united cities proposal and is proposing a separate plan for the assumed growth coming to Aledo, Hudson Oaks, the Annettas and Willow Park.
At the town hall meeting at Los Vaqueros Banquet Hall last week, Hawkins, who did not mention Young by name, said he had "full support" of a Hudson Oaks City Councilman. After Hudson Oaks Mayor Pat Deen confirmed that Young was the councilman that spoke to Hawkins, Young said that he and the Willow Park Mayor "miscommunicated."
But now, Young suggests that the cities don't merge, but take councilmen from each of the cities and form a task force that will in turn have the cities work together as the area grows in coming years.
Thursday morning Young e-mailed The Community News responding to Hawkins' plan while providing his own.
Hudson Oaks Mayor Pat Deen said there already is a cooperative effort among the cities.
“A spirit of cooperation and collaboration among the cities in East Parker County is a goal we all share," Deen said. "The strides made in this arena over the past several months have been tremendous. The concept of an elected leaders’ task force is one that has already been in place in East Parker County for nearly two years. The mayors of the six East Parker County cities meet to discuss various regional issues on a regular basis. As appropriate, the mayor protems of the cities are involved in the discussions as well. These regular gatherings have facilitated the cooperation that has led to, among other things, the settlement of longstanding legal disputes and a joint approach to water and wastewater planning."
"It is also important to note that, however commendable Council Member Young’s opinions are, they do not represent any official policy either debated or adopted by the Hudson Oaks City Council,” Deen added.
Mayor Ken Hawkins has proposed the six cities of Eastern Parker County to merge into one. The cities of Aledo, Willow Park, Hudson Oaks, Annetta North, Annetta and Annetta South would become the new Aledo. This proposal is Ken’s solution to a population explosion all these cities will soon be facing.
While some have rebuffed his proposal, there are elements of his proposal that are worthy of due deliberation. He has identified an upcoming problem, and we dare not ignore it.
Ken’s proposal is comprised of three distinct components. The first is a warning to all in Eastern Parker County that we are going to soon see a rapid increase in population like we have never seen here before. It is coming our way, ready or not. We must prepare or suffer the consequences.
The second component of Ken’s proposal is the recognition of the requirement for a new level of cooperation and coordination to be exercised among the six cities. It is critical that all cities are able to work together to meet the oncoming challenges. Recent activities have shown improved levels of cooperation between the cities, but we must now cultivate and develop our ability to work together to accomplish the most effective and efficient results possible. If we fail to plan together, we will be planning to fail.
The third component of Mayor Hawkins’ proposal is the actual mechanism to insure all six cities will cooperate together. His suggestion of the six cities merging is one solution. At some point in the future this may be the best solution. But right now, I believe this path would create greater problems. Problems that would distract from the main issue of the population explosion. Instead of focusing on the movement west from the metroplex, we would now be overwhelmed negotiating each city’s position in the new Aledo.
The first issue that comes to mind is Ad Valorem (property taxes). Aledo and Willow Park currently collect property taxes from their citizens. The three Annettas and Hudson Oaks do not. I know the current council of Hudson Oaks has worked very hard, as have all previous councils, to avoid all Ad Valorem taxes. Invoking this tax on our citizens at this time for the purpose of a merger is not acceptable. Our council would not do it, and our citizens would not accept it if we did. And this is just one subject of debate that would have to be resolved before a merger could be contemplated. Other subjects of compromise would also find their way to the list. Now we are no longer talking about the original problem, we are debating the compromises the cities would be required to make in order to merge.
The solution I would propose is this: We must acknowledge the problem Ken has identified. And we must also find a way to commit our cities to work together. Cooperation is the key. Merging isn’t the only way we can work together. I would propose each mayor appoint one or two members of their councils to a new Eastern Parker County Task Force. Each city remains independent yet committed to cooperating and planning for the good of our communities.
Ken Hawkins has made a bold proposal to merge the six cities of Eastern Parker County. While most of the cities have rebuffed his recommendation, we all must recognize that components of his proposal are worthy of due deliberation.
Ken has identified an upcoming problem heading this way, and we dare not ignore it. The metroplex is preparing to move west. Our population in eastern Parker is predicted to explode in the near future. The time to start planning for this population explosion is now.
One of the driving forces of this rapid population growth is the development of the Walsh Ranch. It is eleven sections of land on the far west side of Fort Worth, has frontage on both I-20 and I-30 (including where the two merge together), and is in the planning stages of development right now. Everyone east will soon be looking west, and we need to be ready for lots of new neighbors heading this way.
The major challenge facing the six cities is to develop a method or procedure that will allow each city to participate and cooperate in planning that will insure mutually beneficial results for all of eastern Parker County. Recent activities have shown improved levels of cooperation between the cities, but we must now cultivate and develop our ability to work together to accomplish the most effective and efficient results possible.
A merger could provide a unified planning ability. But merging would also have our attention diverted to subjects such as ad valorem taxes, elected officials, and determining who’s in charge.
A simpler solution would be to create a Task Force comprised of representatives from each city that would allow us to provide unified planning and cooperation.
The creation of a Task Force would allow the cities to immediately focus all attention on the original problem of explosive population growth.
We must find a way to work and plan together. If we don’t, we can look forward our own version of the I-20/South Main horror that daily impairs Weatherford’s traffic. Without action, that could soon be in our backyard. If we fail to plan, then we will be planning to fail.