It’s great to have plans. Plans are a blueprint, an outline, a map for getting from the beginning to the end. But plans without a vision of what that end result should be are just words and marks on paper. A map without a destination is just a bunch of trails that go off in different directions. Do we turn right or left? Take the modern highway or a primitive backroad?
A few months ago the big concern was the lack of a plan and a physical map for Oakdale Park. Now there are plenty of plans, each one aimed at putting certain pieces of the puzzle in place. But what’s the big picture supposed to look like?
Is Oakdale Park going to be a preserved heritage tourist park? Is it a nostalgic but rather ironic getaway for RVers with big, modern rigs who want to run their air conditioners, TVs, computers and have WiFi with their morning coffee while they enjoy some retro ambiance?
Is it part eclectic, funky park for tourists, part community park for locals, part events venue for everybody?
All of the above?
I’m still confused and I’m not the only one.
Hiring preservation architect Eugene Brode to come up with a plan for the cabins and historic structures certainly was a good move, and the recent hiring of Brian Schaeffer, director of the Texas Association of Campground Owners, for a fee of $5,500, to take a look at the RV part of the park addressed another area.
But aside from throwing a couple of thousand dollars or more here or there for more plans, what’s still lacking is a clearly stated vision. Fill in the blank: “We want Oakdale Park to be _________________.”
When someone on the Glen Rose City Council tries to show some leadership on this question, he or she often gets slapped down by those who try to make everybody happy and avoid any dissent lest voters not look on them too kindly at next May’s election. But a wise person once told me that trying to please everyone is a wonderful recipe for mediocrity.
That’s what we’ve got right now at Oakdale Park. What should be a great asset for Glen Rose is, a year later, certainly cleaner than it was, with a couple of cabins and the skating rink fixed up and the area around the pool repainted, but not much else to show for the time and effort. It’s half-asset.
The park is not making any money. But, until recently when work slowed down, it was consuming a bunch of it, courtesy of taxpayers. What’s worse is that things that taxpayer money bought eventually may have to be redone to meet preservation guidelines or even city code. For example, the restrooms in the former skating rink don’t even meet city code because the counters and stall doors are made of wood. I imagine if a knowledgeable inspector walked around the park, his or her notepad would be full of notations about code violations and accidents waiting to happen.
The way the city government handles expenses for Oakdale also could use an overhaul. Some council members were taken aback at last week’s meeting when City Secretary Peggy Busch requested approval to move $100,000 from certificates of obligation to cash to cover the cost of converting the park from natural gas to all electric. There were so many leaks that the gas has been turned off at Oakdale, thank goodness.
But it turned out, upon questioning, that only about half of the $100,000 was for repair costs. The rest of the money was needed to pay electricity, phone and other bills and compensation for employees.
“We’ve been through this before — this is not itemized,” Councilman Chris Bryant said.
“Where is this money going?” he asked, adding that any expenses of $10,000 or more are supposed to be brought to the council for approval.”
The council approved giving Busch $10,000 to pay salaries, but requested that an itemized list be presented to them in the future.
The process of determining a job description for a park manager has been pretty, uh, interesting to watch, too. The latest development is that after first posting a barebones job description for a contract worker with no benefits, the job has morphed into a full-time, full-benefits position and the description has grown from several lines to three pages of specifics.
The review committee charged with interviewing applicants and screening applications came up with 20 “essential responsibilities” for the position. That’s all well and good. Trouble is, as Councilman Tom Osborn asked last week, why is this position description being used when the council approved something different?
Good question. Answer: Because some of those involved in the process of setting up the parameters and salary structure of the job — like the former mayor — decided to keep it simple and vague. Too many specifics would knock out too many people who want to apply for the job.
By the way, for those who still may be interested in applying, the job pays an annual salary of $31,200 (exempt), offers standard benefits and involves supervising a staff of one to three people, one to two park hosts and 20-plus seasonal and/or event volunteers, according to the latest position description.
The most difficult item on the application, to my mind is No. 2 on the list of essential responsibilities: “Lead the operations and development of Oakdale Park according to the approved vision and plan of the City Council.”
I still don’t know what that is. Do they? Maybe that should be No. 1 on the council’s agenda before any more money goes out the door. It could save money and a lot of trouble down the line. Fill in the blank.