Board hears park water use concerns from sports groups

By SHELLY WILKISON

Members of the City’s Parks and Recreation Board listened to the concerns of two youth sports organizations Tuesday before voting to send their contracts for use of City Park back to the Mayor for revisions.

Representatives of Liberty Hill Youth Soccer Association and Liberty Hill Youth Football & Cheer told Parks Board members and Mayor Jamie Williamson that overall, the City’s proposed revisions to their contracts were acceptable. However, there were some concerns about the rates the City will charge the groups for use of water to irrigate playing fields, and what improvements to the park would constitute a fair exchange for water usage.

Board member Liz Branigan, now a candidate for City Council,  said she believed the football organization had a large investment in turf and proposed they should be able to water as necessary to keep the turf alive. She said the organization had been conservative with its water use to date. However, she advocated a different standard for the soccer fields.

“When City water (customers) are restricted (from outdoor watering), soccer should be restricted,” she said, adding that she had grown up playing sports on dirt fields.

City water customers have been prohibited from outdoor watering for more than one year.

LHYSA President Richard Marshall said the proposal was not fair, adding that the soccer fields had not been watered since 2011 when the City locked the water meter on the park well demanding the non-profit organizations pay for water use. He said soccer fields have suffered and games have been cancelled at the end of the season because the fields become too dangerous.

Michael Wilson, a Parks Board member who also serves as President of LHYFC, said the contract should clarify the rate the City will charge for water use.

While the contract includes 50,000 gallons of water per association per year without charge, Wilson said it will likely take more water to keep the football field in good condition.

Both organizations disagreed with contract language that required them to provide the City each year  with a list of proposed improvements to the Park. Wilson asked the contract be clear as to why the information was requested.

“The reason is that’s what you’ve used to combat (paying for) water,” said Utility Superintendent Brian Kirk.

Marshall also expressed opposition to the notion because he said LHYSA does not have records of all of the improvements made to the park over the past 13 years.

“We don’t get any credit for that,” he said.

The Parks Board will see the revisions of the two contracts at its April meeting and will vote whether to recommend City Council approval.

Also Tuesday, the Board voted to recommend the Council approve spending $3,374 for picnic tables that will be secured to the pavilion, as well as funds for permanent trash receptacles.

Board Chairman Gregg Evans said wheelchair ramps for access to the park pavilion are also needed. He volunteered to seek estimates for the work.

Mayor Williamson told the Board that plans to connect the restroom to city sewer had been thwarted by the majority of the City Council who now wanted to install a septic system at the park. She said they believed it would be less expensive and she said she had tried to convince them otherwise.

“It will boil down to what those three want, and it won’t matter what is in the best interest of the park,” she said, adding that the Council members and the Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors “did not read that information” submitted by Evans regarding his concerns about a septic system.

Kirk said installing a septic system at the park would take out one soccer field.

A previous council allocated $60,000 from EDC funds to connect the restrooms to the city sewer system — funds that the current EDC Board and some members of Council say would be better spent to hire a city manager and help grow the local economy.

Mayor Williamson has consistently argued against a septic system and presented information from a number of sources to support her view.