Devine City Council forms Parks Advisory Board, postpones action on pool

The new Parks Advisory Board will study the financial costs of reopening a public pool before making a recommendation to the Devine City Council.

A Parks Advisory Board was approved and a decision on reclaiming the former public pool from the Devine Swim Club, Inc. was postponed at the Regular meeting of the Devine City Council last Tuesday, August 15.
Issues regarding City parks will first be reviewed by the Parks Board, which will make recommendations to Council. As with the Airport Board, Library Board, and the Planning and Zoning Commission, Council has the final decision on all matters, and can choose to accept or reject recommendations.
Like the other advisory boards, the Parks Board must publicly post its meeting agendas at least 72 hours prior to the meetings themselves. The meetings will be held at City Hall (the Library Board meets at the Driscoll Public Library), and Public Works Director Ismael Carrillo and Public Works Superintendent Rob Flores will liaise with the Board, though they will not have any decision-making power. Another City employee will also be present to record the meeting and take minutes, which will then be posted on the City’s website.
Because the City has four parks in three different voting districts throughout town, the Parks Board will consist of five representatives, one from each district. Each Council member will nominate a representative from their district, and the entire Council will vote on whether to approve the nominee. Those approved for the Parks Board will take an oath of office, and the Board itself will select a Chairman and Secretary.
District 5 resident Mary Jane Balderrama expressed confusion over the selection of Parks Board members to the Council and Mayor Bill Herring.
“How about the people?” Balderrama asked. “Have you ever heard of the referendum vote? Don’t we get to vote to see who might be a great candidate to be on this board? How come you guys get to make the decision?”
Herring explained that there will be representatives from each district on the Parks Board.
“But we don’t, at least I don’t, want you guys to pick them out,” Balderrama said.
Devine, like both the state and the nation as a whole, is an indirect democracy, where constituents elect officials to make decisions on their behalf.
District 5 resident Kevin Hicks questioned whether the board positions have term limits, and Herring explained that board members are appointed or reappointed every two years.
“And of course if someone has a complaint about someone, come down here and voice it, and Council will consider it and may not renew them,” Herring said. “We’ve had that happen, where people are upset with the Airport Manager, and he or she was voted off and replaced.”
District 5 resident Ernest Munoz asked what would happen if a Council member was unable to find a nominee from his or her district to be on the Parks Board.
“It seems just by looking at the audience that we have an overload of one district,” Munoz said.
Herring pointed out that City Council members were elected at large before the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) raised concerns over the fairness of that practice, and the City was divided into five voting districts, with one Council member elected from each district.
“If we can’t make this work with a person from each district, we can’t have the advisory board,” Herring said.
District 5 Councilman Cory Thompson said he thought a Parks Board was a great idea, pointing out that Parks Boards exist in many towns, and that it would give Council more feedback on issues before making decisions.
After a motion by District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Wilkins and District 1 Councilman Steve Lopez to approve the formation of a Parks Board passed 5-0, Herring pointed out that Council could not consider taking the pool back from the Swim Club until the matter first went before the Parks Board for a recommendation. He explained that the members of the Parks Board would be given budget information from the years the City owned the pool, the cost to make the pool and the surrounding area ADA-compliant, and projections of the cost going forward.
District 4 resident Jennifer Schott, who suggested the formation of a Parks Board at a previous meeting, thanked Council for approving it. She read aloud portions of a letter written by Fred Morales on behalf of the Swim Club that stated that the Club had agreed to grant the pool, “…in its entirety, to include the real estate fixtures and equipment, should the City of Devine and its Council choose to accept it.”
The letter stated the offer was good for 60 days, though Morales has previously made multiple offers to sell or give the pool back to the City.
Schott asked Council to be open-minded when considering the issue, adding that, “All I need from you guys is to feel like you are going to put the effort in and that you equally want to provide this service for your community.”
District 5 resident Cindy Esquibel said her passion for the public pool came from wanting to give teenagers something to do, and that Council members appeared serious and “very intimidating.”
Sandy Lawler, who lives outside City limits, recommended that Council and the Parks Board speak to a Level 4 or Level 5 aquatics director on matters pertaining to public pools, while Hicks urged “work[ing] through the process” and making a good decision based on data.
“Let’s see what actually is going to be the numbers, and come up with a decision, not from our hearts, but from our heads,” Hicks said.
A motion by District 2 Councilman David Valdez and District 3 Councilman David Espinosa to postpone a decision on the pool pending a recommendation from the Parks Advisory Board passed 4-1, Thompson dissenting.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer