Fort Worth’s shift toward smaller, neighborhood libraries has rankled some residents, who say the city shouldn’t ignore the value of a large, central library. 

The city solidified its shift away from building a new downtown branch when council members voted Tuesday to approve a long-term lease to establish a new, smaller downtown library after the closure of the Fort Worth Central Library in June

Carter Riverside resident Rick Herring spoke against the move. Downtown libraries in other cities are grand buildings that represent the heart of a place, he said, and the leased space near the Tarrant County Courthouse doesn’t fill that role.

“Fort Worth should have a central library that showcases our civic pride,” Herring said while cycling through images of libraries in the top 25 largest U.S. cities. “To me, a grand library is a hallmark of a great city.” 

“I don’t disagree,” Mayor Mattie Parker said following Herring’s remarks.

Many of the downtown libraries Herring referenced were likely paid for through bonds, Parker said. Whether Fort Worth wants to use bond money on a new library is a larger policy discussion. The council will consider a grand central library and several other proposals moving forward, she said. 

Fort Worth’s next bond election will likely take place in 2026; however, planning is already underway. 

“Moving forward this council will be able to tackle those big policy decisions,” Parker said. “As a growing city, we do need marquee projects, and we also need to make sure that literacy stays as a top priority for the city of Fort Worth.” 

Forest Park Pool gets $3.5 million more

The City Council also voted Tuesday to spend about $3.5 million more than initially expected on constructing and upgrading Forest Park Pool. Contractor Steele & Freeman requested the change order, citing increased costs of construction materials and labor. 

Council members unanimously agreed to fund the additional costs. 

The city will pay for the higher price tag using funds from Fort Worth’s gas lease fund, the parks and recreation general fund and the capital projects fund. The pool isn’t the only bond project to require additional funding; Fire Station 43 in Walsh Ranch got an additional $4 million in June, and the Intermodal Parkway Improvements project got $1.5 million in April. 

City Council initially allocated $11 million to the project through a $560 million voter-approved bond in 2022. The new $13.03 million price tag will buy residents a new lap pool with eight, 50-meter lanes, a separate leisure pool and a large slide.

The city initially planned to allocate only $7.5 million to the project, sacrificing the Olympic-sized lap pool, until residents demanded the city invest more money in the historic renovation. Forest Park Pool is one of two city-owned pools open in the city. 

The pool is scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day 2024, Scott Penn, Fort Worth’s senior capital projects officer, previously told the Report. 

Fort Worth hires outside law firm to defend short-term rental lawsuits

Kelly Hart & Hallman, LLP, will defend the city of Fort Worth in any lawsuits over its short-term rental ordinance, after council members approved a $150,000 contract with the law firm Sept. 26. 

Because of the complexities involved in short-term rental litigation, the importance of the issue, and the current heavy caseload of the city’s own lawyers, hiring outside counsel is the right move, staff wrote in a document to council members

The contract approval comes as Kelly Hart & Hallman is actively defending Fort Worth against a suit, filed in June by more than 100 plaintiffs, that argues the city’s restrictions on short-term rentals are unconstitutional. 

Those restrictions, which explicitly made it illegal to operate short-term rentals in residential areas and required other operators to register, were passed by the Fort Worth City Council in late January. Their passage came after months of public comment and back-and-forth discussions among council members. Ultimately, the restrictions were intended to make it easier for city staff to cite short-term rentals operating illegally in neighborhoods. 

The plaintiffs in the current lawsuit, most of whom are individuals and LLCs operating short-term rentals in Tarrant County, believe the final restrictions council members approved violate their private property rights established in the Texas Constitution.

Disclosure: Fort Worth Report board of directors member Marianne Auld is the managing partner of Kelly Hart & Hallman. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report in collaboration with KERA. She is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri where she majored in Journalism and Political...

Emily Wolf is a local government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Round Rock, Texas, she spent several years at the University of Missouri-Columbia majoring in investigative...