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Skipping process, Hays County lifts parks moratorium for one project

Thursday, October 9, 2008 by Jacob Cottingham

The Dripping Springs Youth Sports Association received $266,000 from Hays County on Tuesday, effectively lifting a moratorium on parks projects in the county. A moratorium had been in place on all new parks projects until the Citizens Parks Advisory Committee was able to reformulate how it judges recreational proposal


After a debate about procedure, Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton was the lone ‘nay’ vote against funding, with Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley absent. The funding was a small victory for Pct. 4 Commissioner Karen Ford, who had been championing the DSYSA for several weeks.


Carl Owens, representing the Wimberley-based aquatics group Swimberley, epitomized the awkward position the DSYSA put the court in. Owens told the court his group, a nonprofit dedicated to providing Wimberley residents with aquatic fitness, has been waiting while the moratorium was in place for the committee to reorganize the scoring of evaluated recreational projects. He said he had thought that the court had put off all decisions about providing parks funding until the first of the year.


“I think all the projects that have been coming through have been worthy projects, but that’s not my point. My point is process,” he said. “I feel like I’m watching a football game and I don’t know whether we have four downs to get a first down or eight downs or two downs.”


His primary problem was that Swimberley had been playing by the rules waiting out the moratorium while other groups, such as DSYSA were bumped to the front of the line. “So we have not just us, but other projects that are waiting… so I hope you will consider that while you debate allocating these funds,” he told commissioners.


The football fields for the DSYSA have been lost due to restructuring of the school districts fields, and the DSYSA have said they need funding by the end of November to ensure that activities can resume in the spring.


After a debate last week, Ford promised to contact the commission. Reporting back on that, she said the committee “was kind enough to listen to a description of the DSYSA and agreed that there was a worthwhile project, that there was a need and urgency but they did not have a scoring mechanism in hand.”


Essentially, the court asked the committee to look beyond the moratorium and had decided not to consider it at that time.


Despite that, Ford said, “I still contend that there is out of the ordinary need for this particular case.”


Earlier in the year, Ford was the lone opponent to the Police Athletic League proposal, which also circumvented CPAT to gain $1.6 million from the county to go toward infrastructure for a new set of athletic fields.


Barton said his concerns were not so much about this project, citing its widespread support. Instead, he cautioned against the procedure used to arrive at the decision. While he said it “seems likely to win CPAT’s support if we get a new scoring in place,” he cautioned against the court having explicitly told its citizens that there was a moratorium and then proceeding with the funding.


Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe told the court, “I struggle with that also. I know we certainly want to hold true to what we put in place, on the other hand I do appreciate taking an extra week going to CPAT…” She went on to say that there was a need for this project and that people are anticipating it. “Our decision today, I’m sure will be frustrating to some, but I do believe that it is a worthwhile project.”

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