Skate Park returns to forefront of council talks
By LPR Staff
Some of Lockhart’s youth may soon have a place to display their athleticism and skill without worry of interference by police.
Plans for a Lockhart Skate Park, which have seemed on perpetual hold for more than a year, received a big push forward on Tuesday evening as the Lockhart City Council decided to re-obligate $6
0,000 in funds toward the construction of the park.
Karron DeGraffenreid and Mike Laird, the president and vice president of On-A-Roll, the citizen group spearheading efforts toward the construction of the park, approached the council with an impassioned plea after the City de-obligated the funds last month.
The $60,000, funds earmarked toward parks projects, were pledged to the organization more than a year ago, but the pledge was rescinded after repeated obstacles impeded progress on the park’s construction. Among those obstacles, a $25,000 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority had to be returned because of a lack of significant progress on the project.
“A vision without progress is a dream,” DeGraffenreid told the council and a crowd of interested parties, including several teenage skaters on Tuesday. “And we’ve been working consistently toward this vision the whole time. Our application [for a non-profit 501(c)3 status] is in the hands of the IRS, and as soon as we have that back, we can go to the larger organizations for the larger donations.”
She reminded the council that On-A-Roll, through fundraisers and business donations, has raised more than $13,000 toward the project. They also have decided to work on the project in phases, rather than targeting the entire construction of a 15,000-square foot, $400,000 facility, all at once.
Most councilmembers voiced a variety of concerns, including the apparent lack of progress in the past – objections which were strengthened when DeGraffenreid cited several personal obligations that have detracted from the time she is able to spend on the project.
“A committee of one is not a committee,” Councilmember Lew White said. “And if you’re the only person working on this, it’s never going to get done.”
She assured the council that On-A-Roll has a strong team, including Laird, himself an avid skater, on the project and she was confident the council would see progress in the near future.
“I can’t promise you that we can get it done in a year like you want us to,” she said. “But I can say that you’ll see significant forward motion, and these funds are going to go a long way to help in that.”
One citizen spoke in regards to the planned skate park, suggesting the community would have more support for the skaters if the skaters showed more respect to the community.
“We’ve asked them nicely and we’ve told them firmly,” she said. “But the reason there seems to be hostility between the community and the skaters is because of the disrespect the kids show to private and public property. We realize they don’t have anywhere else to skate right now, but that doesn’t make it okay for them to skate at the library and tear up that building, or on private property and damage those buildings. What I’d like to hear is these kids, these skaters that this park is for, give us some assurance that if we spend our tax dollars to build this thing, they aren’t going to destroy it, like we’ve seen them do with other property around town.”
DeGraffenreid and Laird acknowledged that destruction of property has been a problem in the past, but reiterated that the teens would gravitate toward the park if it was built, and stop using public space for their activities.
“The kids that skate are going to skate,” Laird said. “And from what I understand, it’s illegal right now to skateboard anywhere in Lockhart. You’ll see that those things stop happening. Also, the skate park is built specifically for these activities, and will be able to withstand skating without being damaged.”
DeGraffenreid added that On-A-Roll would continue to support the skate park after its construction, both through continued fundraising efforts to contribute to maintenance and improvements to the park, as well as through volunteer efforts to maintain the facility.
After lengthy and sometimes heated discussion, which included councilmembers acknowledging that other organizations had come forward asking for a portion of the $60,000 after the funds were de-obligated, the council voted to re-obligate the funds.
They did, however, require that On-A-Roll show significant progress toward completion of plans and construction of the park, within a year plus 10 weeks, or the organization would risk having the earmark once again rescinded.
District 4 Councilmember Richard Banks stood against the measure, instead asking that the council be given the opportunity to hear from the other organizations vying for the funds before making the decision.
Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram, who has long been a supporter of the skate park, issued an admonishment to the teens in attendance.
“Stop tearing up your town,” he said. “Know that we’re supporting your sport, and we’re trying to get this thing done, and know that by tearing up the town, you’re making the sport look bad.”
On-A-Roll will give periodic reports to the council over the course of the next year to keep the community posted on their progress.
In other business, the council issued a moratorium on the construction of billboards and off-premise signs within the Lockhart City Limits and extraterritorial jurisdiction until December.
The moratorium was suggested as an offshoot of a proposal brought by Bertram at the last council meeting, suggesting the route of State Highway 130 through Lockhart be designated a “scenic route,” where billboard advertising is not permitted.
While the council opted not to move on the designation until their regular meeting on Dec. 16, Bertram suggested the moratorium to alleviate the chance of billboard companies applying for signage permits before the final decision is made. Any signs applied for prior to the decision would be grandfathered in and allowed along the route.
To date, only one such permit has been requested, but City Planner Dan Gibson warned that, as the Texas Department of Transportation calls for billboard owners to move current signs, more requests could come in.
Two business owners, Kent and Terry Black, along with property owner Lucille Barth and Lockhart Chamber of Commerce President Wayne Bock asked the council to reconsider the measure, claiming that prohibiting off-premise signs on SH130 would negatively impact both local businesses that could benefit from advertising on the major highway, and the property owners that might profit from the construction of those signs.
Despite the fact that no citizen has spoken publicly in support of the measure thus far, the council agreed to issue the moratorium.
In brief news:
Bertram read a proclamation declaring October “National Domestic Violence Awareness Month” in Lockhart.
They approved a Certificate of Obligation in the amount of $2.5 million to be used on a water and wastewater project to provide service to properties expected to be on the route of SH130. Certificates of obligation, unlike general obligation bonds, are not required to be approved by voters through referendum. However, according to Finance Manager Jeff Hinson, if citizens object to the issuance of a certificate of obligation, they can petition for the subject to be brought to a voter referendum.
The Library Advisory Board presented the Long Range Plan for the Dr. Eugene Clark Library, which includes a variety of goals and objectives intended to increase the usefulness and appeal of the library. Among projects included in the plan are completion of a renovation of the second and third floors of the Masonic Building, to expand the library’s useable space. To that end, the council approved a professional services agreement with an architectural firm to provide initial designs and probable costs associated with the renovation.
They approved a resolution drafted by Banks enacting an Animal Shelter Ad Hoc Committee, which will help the council address issues regarding the suggested construction of a new animal shelter on Case Street.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Room at Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public and are available for digital cable customers’ viewing on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.