EDITORIAL: Community swimming upstream
A number of years ago the City of Liberty Hill reached out to the community to find out which outdoor amenities residents wanted.
A community pool was near the top of the list, and favored by a majority.
The Parks Board developed a Master Parks Plan that included a swim center.
The City Council approved a swim center on three different votes. The funds were set aside. A groundbreaking was held.
Thirteen months later, Liberty Hill residents are no closer to taking a dip in a community pool than they were before a ceremonial tossing of dirt in June 2019 signaled the beginning of construction.
This swim center is what the community wanted, it was discussed and engineered for three years, budgeted for and the funds were set aside well over a year ago. It needs to be built. Or, Mayor Rick Hall and the City Council need to explain to the residents of Liberty Hill why their priority then is not a priority today.
There have been a few understandable contributors to the hold up – the award of a $500,000 grant and the decision to not have construction at City Park during the 2019 Independence Day festival – but it appears part of the hold up now is it is just not a priority.
The price tag has changed dramatically without explanation, and twice Mayor Rick Hall has brought a plan to the City Council to trim the cost and scope of the project. He has not talked about how to come up with the funds to cover the cost of the project the community wants either time. He has only talked about the need to do less of what was already approved.
The first time it was brought to the Council in October to be changed, the Council said no. If at first you don’t succeed, you just bring the plan back nine months later with a higher new price tag and news that the City just can’t afford it.
Where did the money go?
Why did the price increase dramatically?
Perhaps there are savings to be found in the project, but with so many planned projects put aside or altered dramatically to suit a new vision, it is not unreasonable to wonder if this project will sink or swim.
In the time between this project being approved and today, the City has spent an untold amount on new security devices, it has purchased property from the County with plans to build a community center and is now looking at making an offer on Lions Foundation Park.
If funds are limited, how does a pool fit in with new projects that were not budgeted for in the first place?
If residents can’t count on a pool now, how can they count on being heard in the future?