Members of Beeville’s Parks and Recreation Commission voted to recommend the purchase of a $22,000 playscape for Poesta Creek Park and exchanged words about possible improvements for Veterans Memorial Park when they met outdoors Monday evening under VMP’s largest pavilion.
The selection of the playscape came quickly after commissioners reviewed drawings of a couple of possibilities. When commissioners asked City Parks Superintendent Fred Diaz which of two playscapes he would recommend, he suggested the $22,000 one, saying it would better serve the needs of people using the new facilities at the park on South Tyler Street.
The park has become one of the city’s most popular public attractions since city work crews built a paved, half-mile walking trail, several shelters and installed benches and picnic tables on the property.
The project was made possible by a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with some local funding and labor provided by city employees.
The playscape commissioners are recommending will be built on the park’s south end near the largest of the shelters and the parking lot. Commissioners took no action on recommending a smaller playscape for the north end of the park because they did not have as much information on the smaller unit.
Diaz said the smaller playscape would be much like the $22,000 model but it would have “a slide or two less” than the larger one.
City Manager Ford Patton said the installation of the playscape will begin after crews from American Electric Power have installed low-level lighting around the walking trail. That facility sees plenty of use after dark and the lighting is expected to make the trail safer after the sun goes down in the evening.
Patton said he wants that part of the project to be completed before the other work begins “so AEP can get their trucks in and out” of the park.
The installation of the playscapes will follow and then city crews are expected to build barbecue pits for the existing shelters. The final part of the project will be the installation of fencing around the property to keep park visitors from parking cars on the grass.
This second phase of the improvements at the park was made possible by a $60,278 grant from the Beeville Economic Improvement Commission budget, made possible by the city’s 4B sales tax collections.
Discussion on proposed VMP improvements came after commissioners heard suggestions that the city replace the old wooden playscape once located north of the Little League ballpark complex with one of the new type that will be installed at Poesta Creek Park.
The city tore down the wooden playscape years ago after it began to deteriorate.
Diaz said a playscape that would be close to the size of the one originally there would cost the city somewhere between $60,000 and $80,000.
Patton again expressed interest in fencing, saying it would help to keep people from driving and parking on the grass at VMP. He also suggested the addition of some prefabricated restroom facilities in the park.
Commissioner Gilbert Herrera then asked about recommendations for the Little League facilities located just south of the pavilion where the commissioners were meeting.
Diaz said the only plans currently underway were for a new drain field for the existing restroom facilities near the Little League and softball fields.
Herrera, who once presided over the Little League organization, then mentioned some plans he and others previously had considered. The plans would require the installation of some new lighting equipment and turning around one of the existing fields. However, Herrera said he did favor the idea of building a new Little League four-plex. That had been one of the ideas proposed by Commission President Bill Hooten and included in drawings for park improvements made by Coastal Bend College drafting students.
Hooten, who had just arrived at the meeting, defended the idea of the new four-plex field arrangement and a number of the other suggestions that had been made for the park.
“Who’s to say this can’t be done?” Hooten asked. “Let’s make some changes.” Hooten has been recommending a bond issue for some time to pay for extensive projects at the city’s largest park.
City Finance Director Robert Aguilar then reminded commissioners that for every $48,000 in bond sales the city takes on property owners will see their taxes increase by a penny per $100 of assessed valuation.
Patton told commissioners that the city currently is paying about $160,000 in bond debt each year.
When Hooten asked about the possibility of a substantial bond debt being retired in the near future, Patton said that would be the original bonds sold in the early 1980s by the Beeville Water Supply District to pay for the city’s surface water system. He said the city then would probably need to finance improvements to the system that have been needed for some time.
“I’m not trying to say no,” Patton said. “I’m not trying to say it can’t be done.”
Hooten then brought up the fact that voters had just approved a bond issue for the Beeville Independent School District. “Why can’t the city figure out what’s needed and ask voters to pass a bond issue?
Patton said the City Council would be asked this week to consider approving a bond election to pay for water system and drainage improvements and he invited Hooten to approach the council and see if its members would consider adding park improvements to that issue.
Hooten responded by saying he wants “first-class” improvements to park facilities.
“Why not try?” Hooten asked. “I just think it’s time the citizens of this town got something they could be proud of. We have too much ‘I don’t think we can’ instead of ‘we can,’” Hooten said.
“There’s a lot of money out there,” Hooten went on as he suggested that state and federal grant funds are available for park improvements.
Hooten then told fellow commissioners to do what they want. “My term is almost up and I probably won’t do this again.”
Herrera said he too had wanted significant improvements in Little League facilities at VMP. “Then I got on the City Council,” he said. Herrera said being on the council taught him that a city needs money to pay for improvements and that burden falls on taxpayers.
Patton suggested that the city staff obtain some figures on the cost of some of the proposed improvements to VMP. “Believe me, Mr. Hooten, this city does follow up on grants,” he said. “It’s not nearly as easy as it seems.”
Hooten then commented on a previous attempt by the city to obtain funds to build tennis courts that the BISD could use. But Patton and Herrera both explained what had happened in that instance.
Patton said the city formed a commission to consider park improvements at the time and not one of those on the board put tennis courts high up on his or her list.
“I remember that,” Herrera said, “I was on that committee.” He agreed with Patton, saying not one member gave tennis courts a high priority.
Aguilar then commented on how changes in the way the EIC budgets its funds has affected the city’s spending. “People need to realize that it’s the citizens of Beeville who get stuck with higher taxes,” he said. “People in the county don’t get stuck with the cost of developing the Navy base, it’s the people of Beeville.”
“With what we have, I think our city staff does one heck of a job,” Herrera said.
When Hooten compared facilities here with those in other cities, Patton asked him if he had inquired about the fees the parents of Little League players had to pay in those other cities to provide those facilities.
“Just tell parents that they will have to pay $75 a kid for them to play Little League and there won’t be many kids playing,” Patton said.
“That’s at least a good start,’ Herrera said of the playscape and some shelters that Patton had recommended for VMP. He suggested Little League ball park decisions be taken up for next year.
Commissioner Greg Traylor agreed, saying it was too late in the year to consider changes in the Little League facilities unless the city built entirely new facilities at another location. Herrera made a motion to begin VMP improvements by recommending the installation a new playscape across the street from the Little League fields, the construction of some new shelters similar to the ones recently built at Poesta Creek Park, fencing to keep vehicles off the grounds and the installation of some prefab restrooms.
No action was taken on that motion and Patton was asked to prepare a more detailed list of improvements.
”I understand Mr. Hooten’s frustration,” Herrera said and he referred to his days of trying to get things done while serving on the Little League board.
Herrera mentioned that the walking trail at Poesta Creek Park first came up when he was on the City Council but the project had to be delayed for other necessities.
“I’ll be glad to serve with Mr. Hooten on a grants committee,” Herrera said.