Board remains divided on future of Lions Foundation Park

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By SHELLY WILKISON

A tie vote Tuesday on recommended appointees to the Liberty Hill Development Foundation’s Board of Directors may reflect a division in thinking when it comes to the future of the privately-owned Lions Foundation Park.

A committe of the Board consisting of Larry Nicholson and Larry Floyd, which was formed to recommend new appointments and officer positions, recommended the addition of Kim Sanders and Lisa Harlow. The Nominations Committee also recommended Gary Spivey remain Board President, Floyd remain Secretary, and Sanders be appointed Treasurer as she was being recommended to replace the current treasurer, Bryan Gilbert. Gilbert did not want to serve another term because of time constraints. Harlow was recommended as a replacement for Marion Tulley, who the Committee said resigned unexpectedly hours before the meeting.

In a rollcall vote, the Board split 4-4 on the appointments and Spivey announced the current Board would stay in place until a future meeting when another vote would be held.

Board member Mary Lyn Jones requested that nominations from the floor be considered. Spivey said no, adding that only recommendations made by the Nominations Committee would be considered.

Jones said she wanted to nominate Susan Barnes, an art teacher at Liberty Hill Intermediate School who played a key role in organizing the Sculpture Celebration in October and the Downtown Art Exhibit in June.

The split vote on the leadership came on the heels of a heated exchange between Spivey and Jones, and other members of the Board regarding the process followed at the Board’s Nov. 7 meeting on a proposal to include Lions Foundation Park in the City of Liberty Hill Parks Master Plan, which is currently being developed by a consulting firm hired by the City.

On Nov. 7, Jones brought the matter to the Board in Spivey’s absence and a motion was approved to include the park in the City’s plan.

Spivey, who was in Dallas undergoing cancer treatment that day, was offended that the issue was raised in his absence.

“I thought it was cold to put it on the agenda when one of the founding members was not here because I was in Dallas for cancer treatment,” Spivey said this week.

He said a vote to include Foundation Park in the City’s Master Park Plan meant handing over control of the park and its assetts to the City. He said Jones had not been honest with the Board members last month about its interpretation.

Jones also serves as Chair of the City’s Parks & Recreation Board, and has long advocated for the transfer of ownership of the park to the City suggesting the City has the resources to make improvements and better maintain it.

Nicholson, who walked out of the meeting last month just before that vote leaving the Board without a quorum, said he asked Jones at the time whether inclusion in the City plan could be interpreted as a transfer of ownership.

“She would not say no,” Nicholson said, at which time he left the meeting.

Although a vote was taken Nov. 7 and passed with an email showing absent member Angela Palmer’s support, Spivey said the vote was invalid because the quorum was lost when Nicholson left. He added that Palmer’s email was not an official proxy.

Although the vote was not official, the Minutes show those who supported it were Jimmy Oliver, Darwin Wiggers, David Polson, Gilbert, and Jones. Larry Floyd voted no. However, because the Minutes reported that Nicholson “abstained” from voting as opposed to him leaving the meeting before a vote, a motion to accept them died for lack of a second. Floyd said he would revise them and bring them back for consideration in January.

City Administrator Greg Boatright told The Independent Wednesday that including the privately-owned park in the City’s Master Parks Plan would not mean “automatic ownership” of the property by the City.

“We draw lines on maps all the time that haven’t come to be yet,” Boatright said. “If we chose to include it, that would mean at some point — when there is cooperation between the two parties — we wouldn’t have to go back and amend a plan if we took it over. It would already be in there, and we wouldn’t have to resubmit to (Texas) Parks & Wildlife.”

Boatright said if the Foundation Park is included in the City’s Master Parks Plan, it could help the Foundation secure grants for improvements.

“But they’re not a willing participant. So, it doesn’t benefit them as far as their ownership and us having it in our master plan because there is no cooperation between the two right now,” he added.

Lions Foundation Park is owned by the Development Foundation, but was maintained for years by the City. The Foundation Board and the City spent more than a year and a half trying to negotiate an arrangement whereby the City would take ownership of the park. The parties agreed in principle to a plan that included provisions for the Foundation Board to retain ownership of the sculptures as well as two acres of the 19-acre park that would be used to house the sculptures.

The City paid almost $10,000 to obtain an appraisal to determine the value of the sculptures, and paid almost $24,000 for the development of a website, www.lhsculptures.com, and for consulting on a sculpture park design. The sculpture park design became obsolete after school district officials said they wanted to keep some of the art pieces on the campus of the Intermediate School. The Foundation Board then decided it needed more than two acres to build a museum that would double as a classroom or work area for artists.

Negotiations ceased in March 2016 and Boatright informed the Foundation Board that the City would cease maintenance operations at the park and instead direct city funds to make improvements to city-owned properties.

Jones said that on Nov. 7, after the vote was taken to include the park in the City’s Master Parks Plan, there was discussion about revisiting the City’s 2015 offer and possibly reopening negotiations.

But because the item was not on the Nov. 7 meeting agenda, no official records were kept of the discussion.

The Liberty Hill Development Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable organization and is structured and governed by its bylaws.

Jones and others requested that the agenda be amended Tuesday to allow for the discussion of including the park in the City’s Master Parks Plan. Gilbert requested the Board discuss revisiting the negotiations with the City.

Spivey wouldn’t permit either discussion item as they were not part of the posted agenda. He added that “it would be premature to vote on any actions until there is a written agreement in place before the actions are discussed.”

As Board President, Spivey controls the meeting agendas.

Board member Jimmy Oliver urged Spivey to review Roberts Rules of Order as well as the Foundation Board’s Bylaws, suggesting some meeting and administrative procedures were not being followed.

The Foundation Board meets at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at Over the Hill Gang.

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