Marble Falls parks department narrowly misses out on $50,000 grant for Westside improvements

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — In the end, a single point was the difference between getting $50,000.

Marble Falls Parks and Recreation Director Robert Moss told commissioners the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department denied the city a $50,000 grant during the board’s regular meeting June 3.

“The bottom line is,” chairman Dave Rhodes said, “we didn’t get it this time.”

Moss said there’s a group of people who get the written requests and use a point system to decide which projects receive money. Those people are not parks and wildlife employees, he said.

The grant would have been used for the hike-and-bike trail and for finishing the back nine of the disc golf course at Westside Park.

Commissioner Mark McCary asked if there are guidelines in place to ensure projects that have already received money don’t get considered the next time.

“My point is if they’re not giving funds to new projects,” he asked, “who’s receiving funds at a different time?”

Moss said special bills exist for some projects in the Houston and Dallas areas. And people making the decision seem to pay attention to where the requests come from, he said, simply because the applications require a list of all the local legislators.

That’s when Rhodes spoke up.

“Would it be to some advantage to us to note that data as a group?” he said. “Should the commissioners send a letter to our political (representatives)?”

Moss compared doing that to operating a bank account in which people have to pay attention to deposits and withdrawals.

“Every time you do something like that, you make a withdrawal on it,” he said. “You have to pick and choose your political ties for it. You’ve got to really be careful.”

The director added Texas Parks and Wildlife is giving money, about $500,000, to projects in which people are building trails for ATVs, motorcycles and other off-road vehicles.

“They’re trying to get people out of river beds and places (off-road vehicles) don’t need to be,” he said.

Moss noted Texas Parks and Wildlife has staff members who will take a look at the application and help the Marble Falls staff improve their request for the next process.

“They want to give funds to everybody,” he said. “The next go-around, we’ll know what to do to increase our points.”

The commission also had another informational discussion on the city cemetery, which is considered non-perpetual. That means there isn’t a private endowment or fund set up to maintain it.

Moss told the commissioners in addition to the cost of maintaining the cemetery, which he estimated to be $41,440 annually during May’s meeting, people who research their family members contact the department and want to know where they are buried. The average number of requests is about six a week.

The department personally handles the inquiries because the cemetery map isn’t online.

“We have a list on a spreadsheet that has all the plots,” he said.

Manley offered a solution that requires the help of a local citizen who enjoys that kind of task and is willing to take it over.

“Maybe, there’s a historical-minded person,” he said.

In all, the cemetery brings in $14,300 in plots, niches for urns and donations.

In May, McCary was asked to research the ramifications if the city choses to sell the cemetery to a private company.

“I don’t see any barriers,” he said.

Manley wanted to make a motion that the commission recommend to the city council it sell the cemetery to a private company.

City Manager Ralph Hendricks and Moss told the commissioners they couldn’t do that because it wasn’t an action item.

And McCary noted that commissioners Leta Stevenson-Smith, Robert Fallis and Seth Mayfield weren’t in attendance to cast their votes.

The commissioners also:

• heard that using treated waste water in Johnson Park is going well. In addition, the treated water that will be used in a section of south Main Street that goes into Lakeside Park is on schedule. Once that part is complete, the city will put the rest of the piping in Johnson Park.

• were told the Capital Improvements Project committee will meet June 13 at 6 p.m. at the council chamber, 800 Third St., to prioritize projects before making a presentation to the council.

• heard that a hire was made to build the hike-and-bike trail at Westside Park, 1610 Second St., and create a trestle that will connect Johnson and Westside parks.

• the city pool opened for daily use and now includes an adult swim time of 11:30 a.m.-noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The pool can be rented for private parties 10 a.m.-noon Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and 6:30-8:30 p.m. daily. For more, go to www.ci.marble-falls.tx.us/swimming_pool.html.

jfierro@thepicayune.com