City, county clash over park
By LPR Staff
After months of negotiations between the City of Lockhart, Caldwell County and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), discussions about the joint operation of a wetlands mitigation park site north of Lockhart may soon come to an end.
Since TxDOT announced early this year that the wetlands mitigation site for SH-
130 construction would be in Caldwell County along Plum Creek., city and county officials have been considering joint ownership and management of the “park.” However, in recent weeks, differences of opinion as to the scope and nature of the site have caused some friction between the two groups.
“There is a feeling on the Commissioner”s Court that the way things work in these “joint projects” is the city writes the budget and makes the decisions and then sends the county a bill,” said Commissioner Tom Bonn during the Lockhart City Council”s regular meeting on Tuesday. Although Bonn supports the joint effort, he noted that other members of the Court did not share his view and were prepared to back out of the partnership.
To date, TxDOT has committed $400,000 in “seed money” to the project, most of which, if city officials have their way, will be spent on amenities and improvements to the site.
“What the county would like to do, if this is going to be a joint venture, is take a portion of that money and keep it for maintenance costs,” said Commissioner Joe Roland. The Commissioners also noted that the county does not have a parks department, and the budget is already stretched tight.
“We feel that the only way we can justify the expense to our taxpayers is if we build a working park out there,” said Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram. “If we”re going to be doing maintenance out there anyway, it needs to be something the people can use.”
The council split on the issue, with some council members feeling that the park should move forward, while others expressed grave concern about the county pulling out of the project.
In the end, after much discussion, City Manager Clovia English offered a compromise.
“We should give the county the opportunity to make a proposal as to what they want,” English said. “That”s something that we haven”t heard yet. The plan we”re working with right now is what we want – but not necessarily what the county wants.”
In the near future, the two entities will meet to discuss the matter further.
In other business, the council had a brief discussion and public hearings regarding the city”s budget and proposed tax rate for the coming fiscal year.
The budget includes spending for the second phase of the “emergency services pay plan,” and a 2-percent cost of living adjustment for employees. It also includes an increase in employee insurance spending to allow for decreased copayments, and an increase in taxes (approximately 2 cents per $100) and utility rates.
The council will hold their final budget workshops and vote on the budget and tax rate during a special meeting on Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
In brief news:
The council opted to bow out of the Carrizo-Wilcox Underground Water Supply Group. Involvement in the group has cost the city what assistant city manager Vance Rodgers calls “risk funds,” meaning that despite the city”s spending, no gain in water supply is ever guaranteed to come from the project.
The Lockhart Fire Department will apply for a grant that may earn the department a digital imaging camera under a Homeland Security Grant Program. The city is not required to pay matching funds if the department wins the grant.
The city approved contracts for auditing services and installation of 2,250 feet of pipe near the incoming Serta factory, as well as a bank depository contract.
The Lockhart City Council traditionally meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month in the Glosserman Conference Room of Lockhart City Hall at 7:30 p.m. Meetings are also televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.