Con: City should first maintain what it has

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Dec. 9, 2012 at 6:09 a.m.
Updated Dec. 10, 2012 at 6:10 a.m.

Riverside Park boasts 565 acres - a rose garden, children's park, 27-hole golf course, baseball fields, duck pond, picnic areas and grills, a boat ramp, basketball court, walking trails, an RV park, volleyball courts - and even the Texas Zoo.

It's the largest park in the city's system.

On Nov. 30, elected officials voted to expand it near the Red River Street entrance, despite already having a list of 30 park improvement projects totaling $13.8 million.

While those officials say it was a rare opportunity for future generations, some of their constituents say it was hardly prudent.

The final deal cost $530,000 for 21.72 acres and a building in the floodplain adjacent to the park at 1407 W. Red River St.

Jackie Parks, a Victoria real estate agent, called the city's expansion a flat-out "bad investment."

"I think the city acquires way too much property and takes it off the tax rolls," said Parks, who has lived in the city since 1960. "I'm personally sick of it."

To put the purchase in perspective, the estimated cost to repair one mile of Navarro Street from Bottom Road to Goodwin Avenue with curb, gutter and streetlights is $524,956, according to the city's master street plan.

The property purchase itself is the cheap part but maintaining it is where taxpayers lose, Parks said.

He said the spending issue is entrenched through all levels of government, from school boards to the Congress.

"The only thing the city needs to spend money on is what we've got to have: maintaining streets, water and sewer," Parks said. "Besides, why would you put offices where buildings flood?"

Victoria Planning and Development Services Deputy Director Dan McGinn confirmed most of Riverside Park is in the floodplain, including the entire tract of land for the expansion.

"It's not in the floodway - that would be a little bit closer to the river; you're very limited on what you can do in the floodway," McGinn said.

While the building on the addition is grandfathered in, McGinn said, the site has elevation requirements that any new improvements would need to be above 64 feet. The at-grade elevation is 61 feet.

"There's definitely some additional costs," McGinn said.

Parks said the money spent on the Riverside expansion would better serve the public if left in the bank.

"A politician is a politician: As long as we keep giving it to them, they'll keep spending it," he said. "But just because you got it doesn't mean you have to spend it."

The city council has no formal plan for the land or building and no formal estimate of what repairs to the building or long-term maintenance would cost.

In the past 10 years, updates and maintenance to the city's parks have cost $13.1 million.

Rob Austin, who owns Austin's Termite and Pest Control, said he would rather see the money go to a project that brings people in from out of town - another quality-of-life project.

He said when he first heard of the purchase it smelled "fishy" and the final price seemed too high.

"We have enough parks and most aren't being utilized," Austin said. "Put something here that the people will get something out of."

Related story:

PRO: Park expansion is an investment in the future click HERE



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