Amarillo, TX - The Amarillo City Council is shaking up a board that makes key decisions for the three downtown catalyst projects, and some on the council are concerned it could have a negative effect on downtown.
At Tuesday's city council meeting, Randy Burkett, Elisha Demerson and Mark Nair voted to replace three people that sit on the Local Government Corporation (LGC) board, including the president.
There are many boards that have a hand in downtown Amarillo, but the LGC is the key player. The LGC represents the council in deal-making and contract negotiations for the hotel, parking garage and multi-purpose event venue.
LGC President Richard Brown has been involved with downtown development for more than a decade. His term on the LGC along with former council member Ron Boyd's is up at the end of this month and Mayor Paul Harpole wanted to reinstate them. However, other council members had new faces in mind.
"We all agreed we need some diversity on these boards," said councilman Randy Burkett. "You look at Downtown Amarillo Inc., the LGC, TIRZ and a lot of these boards and you have the same people on a lot of the boards. I think it's important to get some different people with different ideas on all of these boards and that's what we plan on doing."
Attorneys William Biggs and Bryan Poff will now take over. Burkett is also joining the board and will replace former council member Lilia Escajeda. "The way that board works is there has always been two current council members on that board. Lilia Escajeda was placed on there as an existing council member at that time she was put on there. So once she was no longer a sitting council member, we took her back off and we replaced her with a current one being me."
Harpole said the timing of the change worries him as construction on the convention center hotel is set to begin this month. "The concern I have is the transfer of knowledge," explained Harpole. "We've had people that have worked for years on these boards. We're at a critical point in the next few weeks of solidifying contracts and finalizing agreements. It raises an extreme concern for me. It's a concern about how we would instantly train these people who haven't had this experience. I'm not questioning their abilities, I'm simply questioning the timing and how this was done."
Harpole asked to table the new appointments until the council could interview the candidates, but a majority on the council voted to move ahead with the appointments despite his request.
Burkett said he is not worried about the transfer of knowledge and believes LGC President Richard Brown will still be able to help with downtown through his involvement on other boards.