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City Council discusses makerspace, communication 


The Sept. 18 City Council work session included discussion about the possibility of opening a makerspace* in Garland. A potential site was identified as the abandoned Texas Air National Guard Facility at Central Park. While this item was being discussed, a few council members expressed concern about what they consider a lack of information being shared with them on some subjects. Several members said that they were not aware until Sept. 5 that the mayor was meeting with a group about a makerspace and more specifically that the group was interested in the Central Park site.


“I guess I’m concerned that council wasn’t aware of this,” District 1 Council Member David Gibbons said. “Obviously, Mr. Mayor, you were [aware], and/or the staff, because I believe that you alluded that tours of the space were being conducted a week before our meeting.”


He said that council should be kept more aware of this type of operations.


Gibbons said that makerspaces are usually open 24/7, 365 days per year and he does not believe that this city-owned property is the appropriate location. He believes that the operation is better suited for a privately-owned facility in an industrial area.


“I think also, sir that we need to go ahead and confirm that we do not want to use Central Park as a makerspace location,” Gibbons said.


He is also in favor of demolishing all three buildings at the armory site to provide a “blank canvass” for the development of the dog park and skate park.


District 5 Council Member Rich Aubin agrees that Central Park is not the correct location. He isn’t sure that the city should participate in this makerspace process and pointed out that some of the users will be utilizing the space for profit making businesses and he doesn’t feel that it is appropriate for the city to provide space. Aubin also believes that all three of the armory buildings should be demolished.


District 8 Council Member Robert J. Smith feels that before anything is torn down, a final decision on the skate park must be made. His understanding is that the buildings would be removed to make space for a skate park.


“I think finalizing the skate park is a prerequisite before we figure out what we are going to do with the armory building,” Smith said.


He also thinks discussions with the makerspace group should occur after a skate park decision is made.


District 2 Council Member Anita Goebel said that she didn’t know about the makerspace project even though it is in her district.


“Like Councilman Gibbons said, council wasn’t aware of it and again, in District 2, we get things brought to the committee that nobody knows anything about until it’s here,” she said.


She agrees that the makerspace should be in an industrial area.


District 4 Council Member B.J. Williams said “we are 50 miles down the road and everybody didn’t leave in the same car” and he is not prepared to discuss the makerspace without more information.


Aubin said that the one decision that he feels could be made right away is that the makerspace does not belong in Central Park.


Mayor Douglas Athas explained to council that the makerspace group is not an appointed committee, but a group of citizens interested in opening a makerspace. He added that it is their right to do so.


“I’m being very cooperative with them and I really applaud what they are doing,” he said.


He added that the group will be at the next work session to present their findings.


“You can listen to them and decide if they have a good plan or not,” Athas said. “They will probably focus on the armory but the committee has been working on trying to bring together as many decision points as possible to be able to make a decision on where is a good place and how to bring a makerspace to Garland.”


He asked council to hear what the group has to say at the next work session and told council members that there was no way they would be able to know about all ongoing ideas and discussions.


“You will not always know what is going on in every corner of the city before it happens, but you will get to make the last decision,” Athas said. “So, exercise your right as a council member to be the one to make the decision, but you’re not always going to know everything before it gets here. If you hear a rumor, that’s great, too, I guess.”


Gibbons disagreed with some of the mayor’s comments and said that the group should have appeared before council, not simply the mayor or city staff, to ask about using city property for the makerspace.


“Quite frankly, I was concerned after the last meeting when, as Councilman Aubin said we were very clear to demolish the 25,000 square foot building. We made that decision on Sept. 5.”


He added that on Sept. 11, the makerspace group was still discussing using all three armory buildings. He concluded that someone was not communicating council’s position with the makerspace group or whoever is communicating with them isn’t telling them council’s position.


“I understand that all of us can’t be involved in every nook and cranny of the city, but when something has been going on this long that we are totally unaware of, I think that it is inappropriate, sir,” Gibbons said.


Athas reiterated his opinion.


“We are a city of makers. Texas Made Here is our logo, so I’m personally a strong proponent of a makerspace in Garland. This group is working to try to figure out the viability and the best way to perhaps get a makerspace to Garland.”


Williams reiterated his position that he understands that this group isn’t a council appointed committee and said that if it is a mayor appointed committee, he questions the process.


“The mayor can work with any group that he chooses to work with and this is not a mayor appointed group,” Athas said.


*According to a simple definition of a makerspace is “a community center with tools. Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone.”