Following recommendations from the Parks and Recreation Board, the Devine City Council voted to fund close to $20,000 in minor repairs and upkeep for Briscoe Park and Curcio Park in the Regular meeting held last Tuesday, March 20.
The big ticket project is painting the exterior and interior of the restrooms at Briscoe Park, as well as taking care of the pavilion, and repairing the wooden bench around an oak tree near the playground equipment.
Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez told Council that Public Works is tied up on various projects around town, including landscape cleanup, road patching, and asbestos abatement, and that it would be some time before they were able to get to the park project. Consequently, Rodriguez recommended contracting with an outside company, and provided Council with bids of $11,000, $8,350, and $8,000.
City liability issues and the variable quality of work made suggestions of citizen volunteers unappealing.
“If we’re going to do it, I’m saying let’s do it right and contract with somebody that that’s what they do,” Rodriguez said. “They know what they’re doing.”
Councilman David Espinosa agreed.
“The City’s already got enough to be doing themselves,” Espinosa said, “and you never know what’s going to be unexpected arise. You get a contractor, that’s what they’re responsible for. He’s going to get paid once he’s done completely to our satisfaction.”
An Espinosa-Steve Lopez motion to accept the $8,000 bid and amend the budget as such passed 3-2, with David Valdez voting for it and Kathy Wilkins and Cory Thompson voting against it.
Council approved and amended the budget for other park projects that Public Works will be handling, including replacing a broken concrete picnic table at Briscoe Park with a metal table and adding two new metal picnic tables to Curcio Park – approximately $2,300; replenishing worn out synthetic mulch under playground equipment at both parks – $4,651.75; replacing the water fountain at Briscoe Park – $744; placing two LED flood lights at Briscoe Park – $2,428; and placing one light at Curcio Park, $1,626.
Additionally, Public Works is testing a grass spur-eradicating chemical called Prowl H2O on small patches of park grass to make sure it doesn’t harm the grass before spraying it more broadly.
The total cost of the projects is approximately $19,750. The parks budget for the current fiscal year is $15,185, with just over $8,000 earmarked for payroll expenses.
Rodriguez told Council that they are going to have to recommend what the parks budget should be when work begins on the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 budget.
“Y’all are going to have to let us know the amount that we need to start putting in these parks,” Rodriguez said. “Because we need to. We have a Parks Board, that’s why we have them, so we’re going to have to be spending money in that.”
In addition to the projects approved at this meeting, Council approved the Parks Board’s split recommendation to reclaim the pool from Fred Morales at the Jan. 30 City Council meeting.
Repairs and improvements necessary to bring the pool into a usable and ADA-compliant condition were estimated by aquatic engineer C.T. Brannon to cost between $145,000 and $185,000.
Morales offered to give the pool back to the City for free in the summer of 2017. Morales’s offer was initially only good for a limited amount of time, but Council’s decision was made with the understanding that Morales was still going to give the City the pool for free.
At the Parks Board meeting on March 6, Rodriguez said that she called Morales the night of the Jan. 30 City Council meeting to let him know that Council had voted to accept his offer to give the pool back to the City free of charge.
Herring informed those present at the March 20 Council meeting that on March 7, Morales’s mother-in-law Mary Jane Balderrama called him and said that Morales is still working on getting some of his fellow investors in the pool to sign off on giving it to the City for free. Balderrama was in attendance at the March 20 meeting.
A story by Kayleen Holder that appeared in the August 16, 2017 edition of The Devine News stated that Morales “verified that he and the other owners of the pool have all agreed they would love to grant the pool to the city.”
“I have visited with each of my owners and they unanimously agreed to grant the pool to the city if they will open it as a public pool,” Morales was quoted at the time. “We are all taxpayers in this community, and they would all like to see it happen. We would love to give it to them…”
City Attorney Tom Cate is currently conducting a title search on the pool property while the City waits for news from Morales.
Council voted unanimously to remove some of the stop signs and speed bumps that were recently installed along Coker Ave.
Council voted 4-0 (Thompson absent) at the Nov. 21, 2017 meeting to install three stop signs each at the intersections of Coker Ave. and Lee Dr. and Coker and Jefferson Dr., two stop signs at the Coker and Libold Dr. intersection, as well as speed bumps on Coker halfway between N. Windy Knoll Dr. and Lee Dr. and east of the Washington Dr. intersection, and between the intersection of Libold and Coker and the intersection of Coker and Hwy. 132.
A resident of N. Sayers Dr., which intersects with Coker, initially asked for the stop signs and speed bumps at the Oct. 17, 2017 meeting.
Wilkins, who represents the district where the streets are located, said that she had received numerous complaints since the stop signs and speed bumps were installed.
“People feel like it’s overkill,” Wilkins said.
Devine Police Chief Kandy Benavides and Lt. Chris Andrews re-surveyed the area and recommended removing the east/west stop signs at the intersection of Coker and Devine Dr., Coker and Jefferson, and Coker and Lee, and to remove the speed bumps closest to N. Windy Knoll.
Benavides and Andrews recommended leaving the other stop signs and speed bumps in place.
“I know a lot of people would rather not have any speed bumps at all, but we need to do something right in that area to slow that traffic down, because they come flying over that hill,” Wilkins said. “They can’t see what’s on the other side of the hill, so in the summertime, if there’s kids riding bicycles or walking or whatever, anybody, they don’t have a chance.”
Council voted 5-0 on an Espinosa-Thompson recommendation to follow the recommendations from Benavides and Andrews.
The stop signs that were removed will be used to replace other stop signs throughout the city that have faded.
District 4 Councilwoman Wilkins is being challenged by Parks Board Chairman Jennifer Schott.
Only residents of District 4 can vote in the election, which is set for Saturday, May 5.
Elections for the District 1 and District 3 positions were canceled because incumbents Valdez and Espinosa were unopposed. Both will be sworn in for new two-year terms after the election.
More from the March 20 Council meeting will appear in a later edition of The Devine News.
By Marly Davis
Editor’s note: This article was edited to correct Jennifer Schott’s name, which was printed erroneously in the March 28, 2018 print edition.