Cain Center to become Athens municipal building

athenscaincenterThe City of Athens to assume control of the Cain Center in 2017, with plans to renovate the facility for public recreation and City operations.

City of Athens press release

The City of Athens and the Board of Cain Center, Inc. have agreed to a new plan for the Cain Center.

In a motion approved by the Cain Center board on Friday, Aug. 5, the Cain Center will close its doors temporarily on Dec. 31, 2016, in anticipation of the City assuming control of the facility in January. After the first of the year, the City plans to begin a major reconstruction project, providing much needed capital improvements to the facility.

Cain Center Board Chairman Cliff Bomer said, “The proposal by the City to take over the Cain Center makes a lot of sense. The Cain Center board feels this decision is in the best interest of the center and will benefit both the citizens and City on a long term basis.”

The City plans to permanently relocate its administrate services to the Cain Center, including the Police Department and Fire/Rescue Administration. In addition, the City will consider improvements to the recreational uses at the facility, including a complete overhaul of the Cain Center pool.

The reconstruction phase is expected to last approximately 10 months, beginning sometime in January. During that process, the Cain Center, including the pool, fitness and recreation areas will be closed during construction.

“The revamped Cain Center will include both public recreation and City operations,” said City Manager Philip Rodriguez. “All of the administrative services for the City will soon office out of the center. A new police station will also be built on site, giving our Police Department a 21st century facility to work from, which has been one of our greatest needs. We also anticipate overhauling the pool for both public use and swim competitions. This will help ensure the intent of the original Cain Center remains intact and ready for the next several generations.”

City officials have communicated a strong commitment to developing a new and improved pool facility but added that the City has not made a determination as to other specific recreation amenities at this time.

“We plan to dialogue with the community and learn what the citizens of Athens want as far as other recreation amenities at the new center,” said Mayor Jerry Don Vaught. He added, “Of course, the council will also consider what financially makes sense and is sustainable. The Cain Center has been a gem in our community, and we’re committed to making it better than ever.”

Funding for the project is anticipated to come from Certificates of Obligation, or CO’s, which is a municipal finance tool available to cities in Texas. CO’s are anticipated to be issued before the end of this calendar year, in order to take advantage of historically low interest rates. Currently, the City expects to finance approximately $8 million, with the majority planned for construction and renovation-related expenses directly. During the financing process, the City will be required to specify how the funds will be used.

According to the City’s Director of Finance Marty Coursey, “In the bond covenants, the City will have to spell out what we plan to build and where it will be located. The City has debt that’s maturing this year, and has taken an approach beginning this year, to not increase the City’s debt for any other purpose.” Coursey added, “The City refinanced existing debt last fall, which will save taxpayers $414,000 over the next several years. We’re steadily moving in the right direction financially.”

The issuance of CO’s for the Cain Center project will be structured so that there will be no impact on the existing tax rate.

The City also plans to market the building at 508 E Tyler Street that currently serves as Athens City Hall, in anticipation of the move to the Cain Center. There are a number of City-owned properties adjacent to City Hall that will likely become available in the near future as well. Utility Billing, Municipal Court and several administrative and internal service departments, including Human Resources and Finance, presently office out of City Hall, but that will change next year.

“A great benefit to having a combined municipal services center will be that the City’s management team will all be located in one place. This will increase efficiency and make City staff more effective and responsive when it comes to addressing the needs of Athens and its citizens,” Rodriguez noted. As of now, the City’s management team of nine is spread out over five different facilities throughout Athens.

“This is a new day in Athens” said Vaught. “This change will preserve the Cain Center for decades and will be a tremendous asset to the community. With the demolition of Henderson County Memorial Hospital, to the exciting plans in the works for the Texan Theater, we as a council want it to be obvious that we’re not only committed to growth, but also to preserving the best of what we already have in Athens. The Cain Center is certainly that for us.”

The City Council anticipates making the move to the Cain Center official during the budget adoption process throughout August and September.

Moving forward, the City is hopeful that more partnerships will make the revamped Cain Center an even better project.

“I see a tremendous opportunity to partner with the Cain Foundation, the Endowment, Athens ISD and Trinity Valley Community College regarding the recreation components of the project,” said Vaught. “I look at this time as a resurgence in Athens that we haven’t seen in many years. It’s truly a great time to be in Athens, Texas.”

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