Breaking a self-imposed moratorium on dispensing what’s left of $30 million in parks and open space bond funds, Hays County commissioners on Tuesday awarded $266,000 to the Dripping Springs Youth Sports Association for ball fields.
The association appeared before the court last week asking for the money to cover the cost of quickly building football, soccer and lacrosse fields at Founders Park after the group belatedly learned that Dripping Springs ISD construction would force them off fields they’ve previously used. The grant will enable the association to sod, seed and irrigate fields, hook up water and rent equipment before the end of November. The association says it serves 1,200-1,500 families in the Dripping Springs area and neighboring western counties.
Conceding that the fast-track grant violates the moratorium she sponsored, Pct. 4 Commissioner Karen Ford said, “We try to set up procedures and policies in a way things should go under ideal circumstances. But sometimes the best intentions are intercepted by needs you didn’t consider before or weren’t needs at the time.”
The expenditure passed 3-1, reflecting the same margin in February when Ford was the lone vote against a $1.6 million grant to the Police Athletic League to develop its new fields complex off Hunter Road in San Marcos.
On Tuesday, Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton voted against the grant request, saying breaking the moratorium is unfair to organizations waiting to make pitches for uncommitted funds. County Judge Elizabeth Sumter and Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe joined Ford in approving the Dripping Springs grant; Pct 3 Commissioner Will Conley was not in court following his and wife Erin’s birth of a daughter on Friday.
Saying the Dripping Springs request is an urgent, unforeseen need and that precinct 4 has not yet received its share of parks funds, Sumter said the request is “a worthy project in terms of equity for parks money across the county.” Said Ingalsbe, “A lot of the times we see these projects as only serving a certain segment of the community or certain area of county but I hope we can see it as a benefit to the whole county.”
The court first set a 60-day moratorium on dispensing parks and open space bond money in January and later extended it indefinitely while the Citizens Parks Advisory Team develops criteria for active use parks and recreational areas. The original scoring system weighted heavily toward open space acquisition causing several otherwise well-received projects like the San Marcos athletic fields to score low by the team’s standards.
Last week, the committee heard the youth sports association presentation on their grant request but declined to make a recommendation, citing the court’s standing instructions to not process applications while the moratorium is in effect.