Parks Board considers hiring parks director, donates to sculpture festival

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By Madison McVan

The Parks & Recreation Board of Directors discussed the idea of hiring a parks director at their meeting Tuesday, but no decision was made on the topic.

City Administrator Greg Boatright brought up the issue during the Board’s budget review. He said the idea of hiring a parks director was brought to him by Tim Bargainer, a representative of Halff Associates that has been working with the city on updates to City Park and creating a Parks Master Improvement Plan.

Boatright suggested that the position be shared between the city and the parks board, and that he wants to present the new position to City Council to include in their budget.

“I really think that we’re in a position where we can do that,” Boatright said. “I feel like it might help us with the Foundation Board, to realize that our city is serious about the parks, serious about developing our parks and maintaining our parks. We need to make the move at some point.”

The salary for the proposed position would likely be about $60,000-$65,000, Boatright said. He suggested that the city and parks board split the salary, and the parks director would have some city administration duties in addition to their work with the parks.

“It’s a learning process,” Boatright said. “As we go through the year, we would learn what we have to budget for to cover it, and we’ll have to come back and do some amendments to our budget, and that’s okay.”

Board chair Mary Lyn Jones expressed support for the position to include event planning.

“I know in talking to Leander, their parks director just makes things run so much smoother,” she said.

Director Richard Marshall mentioned that the position could also benefit the youth leagues by helping schedule field maintenance, much of which is done by volunteers from the leagues.

“You’re talking about removing the burden on the volunteers who are out there doing it right now,” he said. “And you’re talking about making sure it happens, as opposed to hoping it happens with the volunteers.”

The board also voted to sponsor the 2017 Sculpture Garden Festival by setting aside $5,000, an increase of $3,000 from their donation last year.

“Last year on our budget, we tried to keep a very minimal budget,” Jones said. “It was around $15,000 and we didn’t have as many sculptors or vendors and things. So we’re really trying to improve that this year. That’s why the organization is asking for more funds this year.”

Jones also mentioned that the Oct. 7 event is planned to include activities downtown, and plans for this year’s event include an appreciation dinner and food trucks.

The decision followed City Council’s contribution of $10,000 on Monday. The Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors postponed their decision to sponsor until organizers answer some financial questions at their August meeting.

Organizer Susan Barnes, an art teacher at Liberty Hill Intermediate School, was in the audience and thanked the Board for the donation.

The Board passed a resolution to adopt the parks priority list compiled by Halff Associates to increase the chances of receiving a Texas Parks & Wildlife Grant, but only after some changes were made to the list.

The fifth item on the priority list was listed as “baseball fields,” but the board elected to change the item to the more general “athletic fields” instead. They also removed “softball fields” from the list.

“If baseball is going to be a line item, I think there are some other athletics that are bursting at the seams,” Marshall said.

There were some items on the list, such as an amphitheater, fishing area and canoe launch that were recently added to the list when the City acquired 43 acres of parkland in a development agreement with the Larkspur subdivision.

“If you want people to stay and spend money in Liberty Hill, give them something to do,” Vice Chair Mike Wilson said. “So anything you can come up with that will give them something to do will benefit the entire city.”

Charles Carpenter, Vice President of Baseball for the Liberty Hill Youth League, presented his plans for a $6,000 donation from the Parks Board. He stated that the money would first be used to provide shade for the bleachers at the tee-ball fields, and anything left over would go towards renovating the lighting at the 8U baseball field.

Director Debra Brown was absent from the meeting, so all decisions were made with a 2-0 vote. Secretary Janet Oliver was also absent, so City Planner Sally McFeron took notes.

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