San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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January 28th, 2009
Parks panel seeks direction from commissioners on next step

Managing Editor

For more than a year, Hays County’s Citizens Parks Advisory Team has been sidelined under the commissioners court’s moratorium on considering new parks and open space projects.

On Tuesday, county leaders tried to restart the process during a workshop on how to allocate the unspoken for $8.6 million from a $30 million bond package approved by voters in May 2007. Parks committee members showed up to voice frustration with they called confusion over what to do next.

“We’re disappointed in what we see as a failure so far to implement the parks master plan. Thirty million would have gone a long way in preserving open space and we really have not done much in that direction,” said Chris North, the group’s secretary.

Others disagreed about the value of projects already funded but no one argued that the process has gone smoothly.

The court first set a 60-day moratorium on dispensing parks and open space bond money in January last year and later extended it indefinitely while the Citizens Parks Advisory Team was to develop criteria for active use parks and recreational areas.

The original scoring system weighed heavily toward open space acquisition causing several otherwise well-received projects like the San Marcos Police Athletic League’s ball fields complex to score low by the team’s standards. Before the new criteria was developed, however, the court designated $13.3 million specifically for habitat preservation, water quality protection and waterway access, casting doubt over whether the new criteria was necessary.

In the meantime, a number of other organizations have lined up to make pitches for uncommitted funds even as some projects bypassed the moratorium via sponsors on the commissioners court.

“These people who have been waiting in the wings at least deserve a hearing,” said Pct. 2 Jeff Barton, in asking committee members to develop the parks and recreational criteria despite limited remaining funds.

Complicating the outlook, the county will rely on using at least some of the remaining bond money to initiate its habitat conservation plan, which will buy and preserve endangered species habitat to offset loss to development.

The parks advisory team is scheduled to resume meetings next month.

Of the $21.4 million that has already been dispensed, $5,010,017 has gone to projects that lie in precinct 1; $8,504,000 to precinct 2; $6,600,000 to precinct 3; and $1,041,919 to precinct 4.

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