Council debates fee increase for park fund

Kimberly Rubio

Assistant Editor

Uvalde City Councilman Rogelio Muñoz wants less talk and more action with regards to the city’s ongoing discussion concerning implementing a $1-2 fee on utility bills to fund a parks and recreation fund, a conversation that began in November of last year.

The funds will provide money to go towards parks and recreation projects, which have not yet been established by the city. With roughly 6,000 utility accounts, the city stands to generate an estimated $9,000 per month to benefit the parks and recreation project fund.

The item was once again listed as a discussion item on the city’s Tuesday, May 14 agenda at the request of councilmen Steve Balke and John Flores.

Balke requested a discussion on maintenance issues at Memorial Park, following pictures submitted by an unidentified resident displaying a variety of park issues. Councilman Flores requested a discussion on the proposed parks master plan and the possible fee for parks and recreation funding. A formal parks and recreation plan is required in order to access state grant money.

Park suggestions included additional trash cans along walking trail, walking trail repairs, signs to educate public about feeding wildlife, signs requiring dogs be on leashes, cleaning up basketball courts and staircases, cutting down dead trees, and better maintaining a wooden play area.

“Let’s implement this fee. We aren’t going anywhere without it…I’d like to see a draft ordinance and not talk about this again,” Muñoz said, nothing that he is not in favor of hosting a series of public hearings to generate public input on the matter.

“Let’s get an ordinance. Let’s get an ordinance,” Muñoz repeated.

“We will draft an ordinance,” noted city manager Vince DiPiazza.

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said he has heard nothing but positive feedback from citizens regarding the establishment of a parks and recreation fund.

“Get your butt to a council meeting and express yourself,” McLaughlin said, referring to people in opposition of the plan.

McLaughlin said more often than not, those complaining about council decisions do not address issues with council.

During the meeting, Uvalde resident Diana Karau opposed hiring a consultant.

“…Rather than spending $20,000 on a parks and recreation plan, the taxpayers would be best served by paying for a completely updated comprehensive plan, which will provide for parks and recreation project development,” Karau said. “More importantly, the council needs to make sure recommendations are seriously considered and developed and that the plan is updated on a regular schedule. To do any less is unfair to the taxpayers who foot the bill for these plans and who cannot afford higher property taxes and user fees added to their bill.”

With regards to a master plan, for which the city has previously discussed paying an estimated $20,000 to hire a consultant to prepare, the majority of council members were not in favor. Balke said staff should utilize that money to fix issues with existing parks. Councilman Lalo Zamora said he is also not in favor of hiring a consultant.

Muñoz believes a plan can be developed in-house and Councilman Chip King agreed.

“Muñoz and I don’t usually agree on things, but I’m standing next to him on this one,” King said.

According to the city, the consultant would solicit public input by way of public meetings, surveys and social media. Suggestions include a splash pad, additions to the existing walking trail, and new playground equipment., 830-278-3335.

(The story does not continue beyond this line.)

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