The 4B Tax Advisory Board voted against pursuing a city owned and operated water park after a lengthy discussion during Monday night’s meeting.
At the conclusion of last month’s meeting, board members tabled the vote and decided to look into feasibility studies for the water park and purchasing Oakdale Park. But after some preliminary research, the idea of a feasibility study was abandoned.
“A true feasibility study is hard to do,” said Board President Connally Miller. “What we did was look at a few parks in the area. Everybody I’ve found has lost money.”
Information compiled by Miller’s wife Jennifer showed Cleburne’s Splash Station and Dallas’ Bahama Beach lost money annually. Cleburne’s year-round park lost $362,763 during the fiscal year of 2007-08. However, the park did earn income in the summer months.
Dallas’ seasonal park lost approximately $344,000 in employee costs alone. But because the park’s revenues are combined with the city’s 21 other parks, true dollar amounts are hard to determine.
With those numbers in hand and knowing that a feasibility study can cost thousands of dollars and take up to nine months to complete, Connally said a study simply wasn’t warranted.
When the board took a vote, Anthony Roffino and Glenn Wilson voted to move forward with the water park idea and to evaluate the costs. Miller, Pam Miller, Ronald Bruce and Chris Bryant voted against with Ricky Villa abstaining.
Connally Miller said the vote did not mean that the board could not revisit the idea of a water park in the future if conditions changed.
The board moved on to discuss the possible purchase of Oakdale Park.
Pam and Connally Miller said that Scott Mays, who owns the park, is breaking even and keeps the RV lots booked.
The city and county have seen increased demand for RV parking and Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Billy Huckaby said there is a real need for more spots, Connally Miller said.
Dr. Pat Condy said the Dinosaur Valley State Park, owned and operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife, books their RV spots out eight to 12 months in advance. Sue Oldenburg confirmed the information, saying she worked in the park’s store at one point.
County Judge Walter Maynard said the Expo Center put in six RV spots because people were setting up in the parking lot with their campers, trailers and generators. Eventually, the county purchased more land and put in 24 more spots.
Connally Miller suggested that the board adopt a resolution for $3.5 million in bond money, with $1 million designated to purchase and design Oakdale and a maximum of $2.5 million to renovate. He said the dollar amount was set high because it costs $50,000-$75,000 each time a bond is issued. This way, the funds were already available if needed, but the money not spent could be put into debt service and used to pay off the bonds or draw interest.
Some board members were concerned with the high dollar amount and lack of vision for the park. Councilman and board member Chris Bryant said the resolution still has to be approved by the council and encouraged everyone to attend the upcoming city council meeting on May 11 at 5:30 p.m.
A few questions were also raised about how the park would fit into and work with the city’s comprehensive plan. In February, the planning committee solicited public input and has been working to use the information to help complete the plan. The vision statement was completed on April 30 and the committee tentatively expects to present the completed plan to the city council in October.
The resolution was adopted by a 4-3 vote. Connally Miller, Pam, Ronald Bruce and Bryant voted in favor with Villa, Roffino and Wilson voting against.
E.K. Hufstedler made a presentation to the board on behalf of the Somervell History Foundation regarding maintenance and restoration efforts at Barnard’s Mill.
Last month, Par Barrow approached the board about helping fund the efforts but the issue was tabled so that board members could determine if the mill legally qualified for 4-B funds.
Hufstedler said, based on the foundation’s research, 4-B could legally commit funds under the boards Articles of Incorporation.
No vote was taken and the information provided by Hufstedler was taken into consideration.