If there were a common theme that ran through the Van Alstyne Community Center Monday night, it would be that it takes a lot of volunteers and a lot of forethought to keep a village running.
The Van Alstyne Chamber of Commerce hosted the State of the Community forum, as a way for the public “to learn the inner workings that go on every day,” Chamber President Brenda McDonald said as she opened the evening’s forum.
Van Alstyne schools
The school representatives opened up first. David Brown, the public school district’s assistant superintendent, was first of many presenters.
“We appreciate the partnership between the city and the schools and the organizations — that’s one of the things that make Van Alstyne a special place to live,” Brown said in his opening.
Brown spent most of his time talking to the crowd about the May 6 bond election, what the asked-for $24 million will be used to accomplish and how various statistics show that this is a real and prevalent need. He also explained the way the district’s money and bond money can and cannot be used.
The district is asking voters to allow it to build a second elementary school, which Brown said will ease the student population burden not only on the current elementary school, but also on the middle school. Brown also encouraged senior homeowners, over 65 years of age, to apply for a tax homestead exemption, which will save them tax dollars.
“But, it’s not automatic — you have to apply,” Brown said.
Early voting for this bond will be from April 24-28 and May 1-2. Brown closed by encouraging anyone with “thoughts, plans and ideas” to contact him or anyone on the school board.
“We are really willing to work with you,” he said in his closing.
Kim Williams, dean of the Grayson College south campus in Van Alstyne, said that the school is also expecting major growth, and is making plans to accommodate that growth. She said, too, that she is reminded regularly that so many local people don’t know what all Grayson College offers.
“We offer a full-core curriculum,” Williams said. “Students here, knowing they want to transfer to a university, can leave us with an associate degree in one of several subjects.”
Dual credit is “a big thing” with the college, she added. About one-fourth of the total enrollment are those earning dual credits for their high school and their college work.
Williams also discussed the college’s scholarship program, conducted through a foundation.
“It’s the best thing for the (educational) buck in this area,” Williams said.
The Van Alstyne Education Foundation was represented Monday night, with an explanation that they have several fundraisers for scholarship and for helping teachers supply their classrooms, each year, including a 5K run and the upcoming March 23 Denim & Diamonds gala. More on that is available online at www.VanAlstyneEducationFoundation.org. In its first four years, the foundation was able to grow from providing, raising and helping with $38,000, to last year’s total awarded money at $200,000.
City and community updates
City Councilman Brad Clough explained the responsibilities placed upon council members.
“We are the legislative body, the policy makers, the regulators; the financiers for the city,” Clough said. “We start in August setting the budget and holding public hearings so everyone can be involved. And we are the employers. First is the city manager, who is directly responsible to us, and the others under him we are responsible for, although not directly. And we are the buyers, such as the recent approval of the (new) collection company for outstanding bills.”
Clough also talked about the two ways that the public can voice its concerns: To speak up during public hearings and during the ever-present ‘Citizens Communication’ which is always on the city council agenda.
Clough said, “There are some exciting things going on,” and mentioned a company called Dewberry, which has put together and presented to the Council a facilities plan for housing all government agencies under one roof. That is an item, he said, that will come up in a future public hearing. City Council meeting agendas are, by law, completed and posted on the city’s website 72 hours in advance of all meetings.
Clough also talked about the new construction showing up all around the town.
“Stone Hollow is already going vertical, we’ll be seeing D.R. Horton houses going vertical soon, and the Paladium 130-unit apartment is vertical, too,” Clough said.
Patrick Flynn, on the Economic Development Board, encouraged anyone and everyone to come to a board meeting and drew laughter when he said, “Be prepared to spend two hours, but that shows you how busy we are.”
EDC can offer Small Business Loans at a lesser interest rate. EDC is applying for a grant through Texoma Council on Governments to clean up the old city dump on Oil Mill Road, Flynn said.
Keeping volunteerism in the family, Patrick Flynn’s brother, Collin Flynn, is on the Community Development Board.
“Whille EDC focuses on industrial, we spend time on parks, commercial and retail business, cultural and tourism activities,” Collin Flynn said. CDC currently is funding several events: Gazebo renovation at Dorothy Fielder Park; renovations to the Senior Center, Public Library, and Museum; new playground equipment; assisting with the rail car renovations; and the Fall der All festival, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and being held on Oct. 21. Patrick Flynn gave as an example that CDC provided lighting on walking trails at Forrest Moore Park and made them wheelchair accessible.
Patrick Flynn also said that there are 24 civic organizations in Van Alstyne, all serving the community.
Wayne Womack encouraged the public to attend all Planning & Zoning Commission meetings, held at 6:30 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month.
Teddie Ann Salmon, with the Parks & Recreation Board, said they meet on the third Thursday of the month, except that has changed for the March meeting, which will be on March 23. The city has four parks: North Park, McKinney Wilson Park, Forrest Moore Park and Dorothy Fielder Park. P&R is working toward a veterans memorial.
“We are long overdue for this,” Salmon said.
They are also developing a bike trail to run from the north to the south end of town.
Keep Van Alstyne Beautiful was represented by Laura Cooper, who said they have a business meeting on the second Monday each month and clean streets and parks on first Saturdays.
“In the spring, we plant,” Cooper said. “It’s all volunteer.”
There is a KVAB membership drive on March 6 at the Community Center.
Rodney Williams said that the Van Alstyne Library board is a “separate advisory board made up of all facets of the community — retirees, moms and dads.
“Our main job is to assist and advise our lovely Judy (Kimzey, the head librarian),” Williams said. “We serve as liaison between the community and library. We feel this work is very important and want to keep the library running well into the future.”
The separate Friends of the Library had Arnold Barrett as its representative. Barrett said this is a non-profit organization used to raise funds to help the library. Friends members meet the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m., and hold a fundraising breakfast on the first Saturday morning of each month. There’s also a July 4 weekend breakfast and car show and two book sales to help raise money. These are planned for April 27-29 and Sept. 29-30. One can join the Friends of the library for $5 and for that, Barrett said, one gets three breakfasts on those Saturday mornings.
“It’s a good deal for seniors,” he said.
Mayor Larry Cooper said that Van Alstyne is “fortunate in so many ways, geographically, with State Highway 5, State Highway 75, the railroad and FM 121 all run through here, (we are) well situated for growth.”
Cooper said that the population is nearing 4,000 now, and when it reaches 5,000, the town can change from a General Law government and become a Home Rule city after developing its charter.
“One thing that scares and worries me is the roads,” he said. “We have to keep up with the population. That government complex — that’s probably going to happen before too long. If you’ve been inside our city buildings, you’ve seen that many of them are dilapidated or we’ve plain outgrown them. The council agrees we need to have a public meeting about this.”
McDonald was the final presenter. She detailed regular and special upcoming events, including the networking breakfast the second Wednesday of every month, a in-the-planning-stage of Meet the Candidates, Music in the Park to begin in May or June, Fall der All, and the annual fundraising golf tournament.
“We need volunteers, especially at Fall der All and the golf tournament,” McDonald said. “We’re always eager for more help.”
She added, “This makes me smile, seeing so many people be curious about the behind the scenes work that goes on, willingly and lovingly.”