Weatherford Democrat

May 10, 2014

BACK TO OUR FUTURE

Mineral Wells voters overwhelmingly pass 4B sales tax election


Mineral Wells Index

— By TODD GLASSCOCK

James Siegler came out of the Palo Pinto County Annex in Mineral Wells on Saturday with hope that a “big, old grand building” will have a grand future.

The “grand building” in question, the Baker Hotel, will have a promising future, as Mineral Wells voters passed a 4B sales tax proposition to allocate $4 million in public funds from sales tax revenues to be dedicated to a $56.2 million hotel restoration project. Final but unofficial votes totaled 1,623 with 65 against, a 96 percent margin of victory.

“I'm ready to see it,” said Vince Anderson, who voted for the proposition. “I've been wanting the Baker redone for a long time.”

Felechia Johnson, who also voted for the proposition, said the time had come for the Baker's restoration. She has lived in Mineral Wells all her life and saw it when it was in good shape and looks forward to seeing it come back to life, adding it will be something that will benefit future generations as well.

“I feel like this is needed,” she said, “and it's something that the city can afford.”

Siegler said he also voted for the proposition and saw its value to the city. He has lived in Mineral Wells since 1968 and recalled the hotel's last years before it was shut down. He said he ate in the café, and liked to have coffee there; he occasionally sipped a scotch in the hotel's bar.

“If I had won the lottery it would be mine,” said Barbara Kimbrell, who voted early for the hotel, and waited with a giddy crowd outside the hotel to hear election results from Mayor Mike Allen. “I always wanted to buy it.”

She said she joked with her husband that she would leave nursing to work at the hotel.

The crowd out front of the Baker cheered as Allen, aka Doc Brown from the “Back to the Future” movies, stepped out his DeLorean time machine to announce the day's vote totals.

In a lab coat and wig, Allen, cheerfully climbed the Baker's steps and read the day's totals. “We're with the Baker. We have our own destiny. Let's move back to our future.”

At an election-day celebration, investor Chad Patton of the Baker Development Partners LLC (Baker Restoration Team) said he and his team were “humbled by all the community support. It's been a lot of work and we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

“This is a phenomenal day for us and for the city,” said restoration team member Laird Fairchild, who along with Patton, shared a dream 12 years ago to get the Baker restored. More than a decade ago, Fairchild began hunting on some property just east of Mineral Wells. Patton would join him on an occasion. After several trips through Mineral Wells, they began falling in love with the city and started having hopes for a restored Baker.

He said the city's support was incredible, from Mayor Mike Allen to building inspectors such as Tony Stubblefield and Robert Turk, who looked after the hotel, and to everyone who donated time and money on the project such as Beth and Steve Watson, organizers of the Friends of the Baker.

Speaking outside of the Baker, after votes were announced, Mayor Pro-Tem John Upham raised a toast to the hotel. “Here's to the future.”

And the crowd raised their flutes of champagne and toasted the “Grand Old Lady” and her new life.