Tonight’s Mineral Wells City Council meeting broadcast live.
Posted by Mineral Wells Index on Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Mineral Wells, Texas is a small, quasi-industrial community less than 80 miles west of the Metroplex. The city holds a declining population of roughly 15,000 people and features the towering skeleton of the renowned Baker Hotel–an abandoned property that will take $60 million to refurbish.
Following the May 2018 exit of Mike Allen, who served as mayor for the previous 10 years, the city of Mineral Wells elected a new one. His name is Chris Perricone. Living off of Hwy 180, Perricone lives in a one-story home with his wife and four children, with one on the way. As a private citizen, he is a self-made man, owning and operating Patriot Roofing Co. Perricone also wears his faith on his sleeve.
“I didn’t [want to be mayor],” Perricone says. “I prayed about it and felt that God wanted me to run. So I prayed about it some more just to make sure.”
Perricone, for many Mineral Wells citizens, is the man who is going to bring sensibility back to Mineral Wells, a city aching for economic sanity.
“The city’s population is declining,” one citizen told me. “Therefore, property values are declining and taxes are through the roof.”
This is a problem that has seemed everlasting to the people of Mineral Wells. When the Mineral Wells Index published an article in 2016 addressing Allen’s reelection to his final mayoral term, one commenter said, “Mineral Wells is the only town I know that’s actually lost population over the years. It looks almost identical to the day Elvis died. It needs CPR and quick. I grew up there. Love the town. But it’s sad.”
Efforts to change the city’s method of economic development have originated from Mayor Perricone, but in each vote he faces a 6-1 opposition from his fellow city council members. The calls for reform have been met with aggravation by one Steve Butcher, the Director of Economic Development for the Mineral Wells/Palo Pinto County Area Growth Council (AGC). For the last 25 years, this “joint venture,” as Butcher calls it, has been calling the shots on economic development in the city of Mineral Wells, rather than the city council.
“[The AGC has] a steering committee of someone from the city, the county, the chamber [of commerce], the [Mineral Wells Industrial Foundation], and a fifth at-large member who has always been whoever’s running the index,” says Butcher.
The working relationship between the city government, the Mineral Wells Industrial Foundation, and the AGC is muddled at best. It was not even revealed to Mayor Perricone that he is a member of the AGC’s Steering Committee until weeks after taking office on July 3rd, when Steve Butcher spoke about economic development in the community at a city council meeting.
In the meeting, Butcher described a brief portion of the AGC’s history and the structure of the steering committee. The conversation went as follows:
Perricone: Who is on that Steering Committee for the city?
Butcher: The mayor.
Butcher: I believe that is your position, yes sir.
Perricone: So I have access to every deal you all have done? We’re trying to figure out a better way to do economic development. So would I have access to and be able to see all the documents you all have from the past 24 years?
Butcher: You can certainly try.
Perricone: I’m asking if I can.
Butcher: Well you can, I don’t know how many documents will be available.
Following Butcher’s presentation, Pastor Caleb Shipman of Gospel Light Baptist Church in Mineral Wells came forward expressing his disgust with Steve Butcher and displeasure with the city’s poor economic landscape.
Shipman said that out of the 16 industrial sites listed on the AGC website, MWED.com, “8 of them have incorrect or incomplete information, and four of them have been sold for some months.”
“That’s a 25% accuracy rate from the city sponsored site, so yeah, we need to do better,” said Shipman.
Shipman is the owner of a house on a 14.55-acre tract of land that he alleges was advertised without his permission and knowledge by Mr. Butcher in 2015 as part of an incentives package offered to American Precision Ammunition, a patented ammunition manufacturer, after having purchased the house and land in 2014.
“[He tried to sell] my house. If this was your house, you’d be pissed,” said Shipman. “He broke the law. He is in violation of the Texas Real Estate Licensing Act.”
Shipman expressed his intention to file a complaint. Footage of the council meeting was broadcasted via Facebook Live by the Mineral Wells Index. Many commenters on the video expressed their displeasure with Butcher, Industrial Foundation President Richard Ball, and City Manager Lance Howerton.
“We need to do better,” Shipman said in his conclusion. “We can do better.”
In addition, the mismanagement on Butcher’s part led to a great deal of hardship and community frustration due to misinformation. Precision Ammunition’s owner, Matt Campbell, and his family were promised the house and land, and thereafter, sold their house in the Metroplex. Upon moving to Mineral Wells, Campbell found that the house promised to him wasn’t the AGC’s to give away. In the process, Butcher also misrepresented Shipman. Each of these actions are in violation of the Texas Real Estate Licensing Act.
This is a developing story as part of an on-going investigation by Texas Scorecard into the actions of the Mineral Wells Industrial Foundation, the City of Mineral Wells, and its “Area Growth Council.”