The Glen Rose City Council chamber was jammed full of residents Monday night who wanted to hear and speak about the proposed water park during the 4-B Tax Advisory Board meeting.
One father brought his daughters to the meeting so they could see politics and the democratic process in action. But with standing room only available and dozens more crowded in the hallway, his family didn’t see much of the show.
Chairman Connally Miller moved up the public discussion on the agenda to allow people a chance to speak.
Billie Flanery spoke first, concerned that the proposed site off Highway 67 behind Chicken Express would be a difficult worksite.
“That hill is solid rock,” Flanery said. “It would cost more money than the city could possibly raise to build a water park out there.”
Another audience member stated the builder had been working on the site for 10 years, preparing it specifically for a water park.
Other citizens, including Karen Richardson and Joan Taylor, voiced concern over who would maintain and operate the water park once it is up and running.
“Who is going to own this facility,” Taylor asked. “Who’s going to maintain it?”
Miller said the reins would be turned over to the city once the project was completed, but he wasn’t able to answer specific questions about operation costs.
“Without adopting it as a project, we’re not capable of going out and hiring an engineering firm to do that,” Miller said.
He said a feasibility study about the Glen Rose project specifically had not been done.
Laura Huber suggested the city find a management firm to run the park.
“The city’s not in the entertainment business,” Huber said.
Many residents also asked about the possibility of renovating Oakdale Park near Big Rocks Park.
“Why does ours have to be so much bigger and more expensive than Cleburne or Stephenville?” asked Trina Shank, adding the city should look into remodeling Oakdale.
Mario D’Angelo agreed, stating maybe there was a way to do both. Oakdale is a tradition in Glen Rose and should be maintained for resident use. He said Barnard Street couldn’t handle major traffic so a tourist-geared park on 67 wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Cherry Stephens agreed that local children need more to do.
“I’ve raised my kids here and there’s nothing here for the kids to do,” Stephens said. “I go out of town. I go to Granbury and Cleburne. We need something for our kids. We have a Dallas Cowboy, we need an Olympic swimmer.”
Others were concerned about the overall effects the park would have on Glen Rose.
Gary Sandlin questioned where the water to fill the park would come from.
A few residents were concerned the park would take away the small-town feel of Glen Rose and close in the open spaces the town is known for.
Chris Pauls said he loved the small community.
“I don’t want to see us end up like New Braunsfels,” said Pauls. “This isn’t and emergency. Nothing’s on fire.”
Pauls’ sentiment that the committee should slow down and think through the project was echoed by many.
Pat Condy questioned how the committee determined where the park would fit into the city’s comprehensive plan when the plan is not yet complete.
Mike Jones said he supported the cause, but wanted to make sure the city ended up with a total community recreational facility and not pieces of one scattered all over the county.
Bob Drake, who grew up in Borger, said residents must allow measured growth.
“People always want to keep things they way they are,” Drake said. “You have to grow, but you can control the growth. Make sure you have a firm handle on what you want.”
Former mayor David Pauley also weighed in on the issue, stating he was glad he didn’t have to make the decision.
“Glen Rose is a destination town,” Pauley said. “Any growth that’s going to happen in Glen Rose is going to help downtown.”
“I’ve never heard anybody say ‘I’m going to Stephenville and staying a week,’” Pauley added. “The community must always be the winner. This is a business venture; it’s nothing personal. You have to remember growth is inevitable.”
“I’m for a water park, but I feel this process should take longer,” added Mark Mills.
Mills said he would like to hear more from stakeholders such as the county water district and the school board. He was also concerned about going out for bonds to fund the project in the current economic market.
Carol Oldenburg also questioned the multi-million dollar budget.
“How are cost overruns handled?” she asked.
Miller said the 20 percent contingency fund, or $763,440, would help cover any additional costs.
The entire project is estimated at $4,580,640. If a contractor bids on the project after reviewing the plans and says they can build the facility as designed for the $4.5 million, then the contractor becomes responsible for cost overruns. If the contractor has underbid, then funds are drawn from the contingency fund, which is also their profit margin. If the contractor goes over the $4.5 million, the money comes from the contractor.
However, if there is a design flaw and additional funds are needed to correct the plans, the money would have to come from the city.
After an executive session, the committee decided to table the vote on the water park project until May 4. In the meantime, they will work to complete a feasibility study on the water park as well as renovating Oakdale Park.
Pat Barrow of the Somervell History Foundation addressed the committee about securing funds to help restore and repair Barnard’s Mill. She said the mill’s tourist numbers have tripled and students from area schools often travel to visit.
The main hurdle facing the mill is re-pointing mortar joints. The mortar has eroded so much in some areas that squirrels have been able to enter the building, causing significant damage to windows that will now have to be replaced. Estimated repairs will run approximately $76,000 for the entire building.
Barrow said the building is not only a tourist attraction, but it has great historical value as the first building of Glen Rose. Barrow said the building was built before Texas was Texas and the first city council meeting was held there.
The mill is on the National Historical Registry and has a Texas Historical Marker.
“We’re very proud of what we’ve done ourselves but we need a little help,” Barrow said.
Barrow said the mill needs more than $100,000 for all urgent repairs, including repainting, replacing windows, fixing a drainage problem and repairing overhangs.
“We would like to fit in the scheme taxpayers feel like they have to spend,” Barrow said. “If we can get all or part of this - every little bit is going to help.”
Miller said the committee would have to vote at a later meeting, giving him time to review the 4-B rules and verifying that the mill legally qualifies as a 4-B project.
“This is a gray area,” Miller said.