City Commissioner Randy Crowder wanted other commissioners to stop and take a breath at the costs of park improvements due to cost overruns in golf course renovations.
The commission opted to play through.
By a 6-1 vote, commissioners approved an improvements priority list for the city’s zoo at Hillcrest Park. The list of 15 priorities, totaling $627,940, will be completed as funding allows from the refinancing of a parks and recreation bond last summer.
In his opposition to the zoo renovations, Crowder said that renovations at the Colonial Park Golf Course — purchased for $2.81 million last summer with part of the bond money — were piling up. He noted a high-cost sprinkler replacement, a roofing job, a kitchen hood replacement, in addition to the standard maintenance jobs like fertilizing and reseeding.
“I’m just saying we found surprises, and we have to pay for the surprises,” said Crowder, who made a request to table the matter for 30 days. “I think we need to stop, take a deep breath and do a good accounting of where we’re at.”
Crowder said he’d recently done work on land he owns, and seed prices were “astronomical.”
City Finance Director Don Clifton said the city had about $420,000 available in the parks and recreation money for such matters — including $200,000 for the golf course, $120,000 in unencumbered bond money and $100,000 left in the parks and recreation account.
City Manager Joe Thomas noted that the commission had previously agreed to a parks and recreation budget that set aside $1 million for zoo and parking upgrades, and the commission had earlier in the meeting approved $366,814 for parking upgrades.
“This is not over budget,” Crowder said, “but we’re over budget in other areas. If we approve this, we go into the hole.”
District 2 Commissioner Fred Van Soelen said the action was not a commitment to the total $627,000 or all 15 upgrades.
“We can still approve this as a priority list without encumbering the entire amount of money,” Van Soelen said.
Juan Garza, District 1’s other commissioner, echoed Crowder’s sentiments.
“I’m not saying this is not a good plan; it is,” Garza said. “But what is it going to hurt waiting 30 days?”
Van Soelen countered that zoo upgrades would equal more visitors and revenue for the zoo, and the city would be better off starting the upgrades it can do immediately.
“Some of the (zoo upgrades) will have to suffer (if we don’t have the money),” Van Soelen said. “That’s what would happen anyway if we put it off 30 days.”
Crowder voted in dissent, while Garza, Van Soelen, Bobby Sandoval, Fidel Madrid and Chris Bryant voted for the priority list, which includes entryway upgrades, giraffe housing expansions, perimeter fencing and picnic area improvements.