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The parks part of the county bond package

The plans are more specific for the part of the bond package that’s easier to sell.

HarrisCounty

Commissioner Jack Morman thinks of the East Aldine residents waiting outside Crowley Park before dawn for workers to unlock the gates. Commissioner Steve Radack cites Easter weekend crowds of roughly 75,000 at Bear Creek Park. Commissioner El Franco Lee pictures the opening day parade of Little Leaguers at his eponymous park. Commissioner Jack Cagle riffs on the joy of encountering turtles, egrets, herons and bald eagles along his greenways, mere miles from neighborhoods.

Harris County officials said they are in locked in a steady struggle to keep pace providing plentiful green space amenities as the population of unincorporated Harris County continues to grow unabated. They’re asking voters to approve millions in improvements in four upcoming ballot measures that total $848 million.

The $60 million park bond will help fund land acquisition, as well as updates and improvements in the county’s 170 parks. If the voters approve it, the money will be split four ways and each commissioner has discretion to spend his pot on park projects of his choosing, pending approval of Commissioners Court. They don’t need to pin the money to any specific undertaking. Each commissioner takes a unique approach to doling out the funds.

Commissioners said they almost never request all of the money up front. It’s usually spent to supplement projects that are underway as the costs come up. Bill Jackson, the county budget director, said there isn’t a final deadline for cashing in on bond money. In some cases, if the need never materializes, the bond debt is not issued, as was the case of the bond for a family law center that never got built.

Constituent needs vary throughout the county and within each precinct: “What matters to somebody in the northeast might not matter to somebody in the southeast,” Morman said.

In his precinct, he said, “We err on the side of doing something the community would love. My personal tastes don’t come into it.”

You can read the rest for each commissioner’s detailed wish list. The sidebar reminds us of the other items in the bond package, the biggest part of which is $700 million for roads and bridges, though we don’t know what the particulars are for that. What are your thoughts on these bond proposals?

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3 Comments

  1. Chris Daniel says:

    I am for it. Parks tend to make the neighborhood and tie a community together (though not always). When done right, parks can be tertiary reasons for people to move to a particular area. Businesses also take into account “the area” as part of the total package for why to relocate to Harris County. Thanks to the park crews of all four commissioners, Harris County already has many fantastic parks.

    This bond makes possible for these same precincts to continue growth/ planning for this region. The explosion of growth in the unincorporated areas of Harris County warrants the need for growth in all the amenities that make Harris County great.

  2. Steve Houston says:

    Given county finances, the parks portion of the package is really not needed because they could do it out of pocket to save the fees. I disagree with the reasoning regarding the “Easter weekend crowds” for the simple fact that you don’t generally build capacity of a park for a once a year event, the park virtually empty most of the time. Such is the case with most parks and other public amenities, better coordination at Bear Creek park could have substantially eased the issue contrary to the comment made. Radack would spend most of the county budget on parks if allowed, his own comments from the article:
    “On the western side of the county, Radack has more of a big picture view on spending bond money. He had 10 parks in his precinct when he took office in 1989. He now oversees 62 parks. Radack views spending as dynamic because “you never finish a park.” “You’re always going to be over there planting new trees, mowing, digging out something that died. You have to fence something. It’s an ongoing, perpetual deal,” he said.”

    On the other issues, the county should have continued working with the city for a combined animal shelter, BARC just getting a major upgrade and now the county wanting $24 million to continue putting animals to sleep, merely waiting a little longer.

    The $64 million for flood control projects is not likely to make a big dent in the county wide problems but adding detention ponds and other related items makes sense. Too bad they didn’t make developers add them when it was continually suggested.

    The $700 million in roads and the like is tougher to gauge because they don’t tell you where the money will be spent or who they are going to enrich this time. The claim that almost ten percent of the funds will go to unnamed subdivisions is just a method to garner support, most of those voting should be told their subdivision is not on the plan. Just like the city, roads are falling apart all over the county from lack of maintenance, Judge Emmett trying to (laughably) get the city to do road work in the county per some of his recent speeches. My take is that if they aren’t willing to tell us which roads and bridges, we should deny the funds until they do so.

  3. Chris Newport says:

    I’m supportive of the roads, parks and flood control measures. Even if I won’t see a direct benefit as a CoH resident (roads/parks), it should make the region more attractive and improve infrastructure. More Flood Control infrastructure is needed. As you point out, the benefits of these haven’t been clearly articulated, which should have happened.

    I have real questions about the animal center measure. I don’t believe the County has articulated why this is needed, why they should spend millions more than the amount needed for the BARC facility (the bulk of which will be built via philanthropy), and why the City and County shouldn’t explore more coordination of efforts and current facilities BEFORE moving on this. I can be convinced, but pretty skeptical currently. I see the animal control activities of the City and County as a similar opportunity to the Joint Processing Center. I really think more work needs to be done here before asking taxpayers to fund a new facility. That said, there is no question that the current County facility is inadequate for the volume they see or for emerging thought on how an animal control facility should be organized to support the most efficient and humane operation. That number really ain’t $24M though. Maybe they are thinking of several whiz bang campuses?