San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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January 23rd, 2008
Commissioners approve $1.6 million for San Marcos athletic fields, park

From staff reports

Hays County commissioners on Tuesday preliminarily approved the first San Marcos-area expenditure from $30 million in parks and open space bond money passed by voters last May.

After weeks of behind-the-scenes wrangling, the Christian Federation of Police Officers youth sports program won $1.6 million toward its athletic fields and park complex. The facilities are part of the Village of San Marcos one-stop-shop social services campus planned for 29 acres off Hunter Road on a future extension of Reimer Avenue.

Sponsored by Commissioners Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe and Will Conley, the county’s contribution will be used to pay for the street extension and for fields, restrooms and concession stands. The grant was approved 3-1 with Commissioner Karen Ford voting in opposition after her motions to cut some of the money expended for the street portion of the project were brushed aside.

Before leaving the courtroom earlier in the meeting, County Judge Elizabeth Sumter said she would abstain from the vote because she is on the board of the Hays Caldwell Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, one of the future tenants of the related campus.

Debate over the appropriation tapped into deep-seated differences over appropriate use of the bond money and the proper role of the citizens committee appointed to vet parks projects.

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One thought on “Commissioners approve $1.6 million for San Marcos athletic fields, park

  1. Our Hays County Master Park Plan was created through a public process with professional guidance. Citizen priorities for spending tax bond money are clearly highlighted in this Plan that commissioners’ court adopted unanimously. Those citizen priorities were carefully adhered to until Tuesday when three commissioners imposed their own political interests on a heretofore non-political process, rejecting all the previous work to ensure park bond decisions are made fairly and objectively.

    In 2001, the county’s Grant Administrator began faithfully applying the Master Park Plan priorities and guided twelve park projects approved unanimously by commissioners’ court. The $3 million parks bond of 2001generated nearly $17 million in matching funds because all twelve park projects scored high on the citizens priority list.

    All twelve were public park projects. All scored high on the Master Park Plan criteria, including at least 3:1 in matching funds. More than half of the 2001 parks bond funds were spent in the Eastern part of the county. None of the twelve bond projects involved purchase of a developer’s flood plain at public expense, and none had any religious affiliation.

    Despite receiving the lowest score of any park project brought before the Citizen Parks Advisory Team (CPAT), and red flags about conflict of interests and suspect cost figures, Commissioners Ingalsbe, Conley and Barton rejected advice from their advisory team, who had relied on established citizen priorities, and voted to approve this non-qualifying project. Commissioner Barton was quick to reference tradition in passing the court gavel but he, Ingalsbe and Conley thought nothing of overriding the fair and objective process established by a public stakeholder process to score park proposals.

    These three have returned us to the era of backroom dealing and special interests. That spells trouble for the public interest.

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