I generally drive by Flournoy Park on a daily basis. Recent rains are causing the park to green up nicely, but prior to the arrival of this much-needed moisture, the newly planted and cultivated grass was faring poorly, looking more like parched straw. The handling of Flournoy Park by the City of Beeville provides a snapshot of many of the deficits surrounding the city’s response to this community’s continuing water crisis.
This urgent concern was placed squarely before the city council in September 2009, when they received a comprehensive overview about water and wastewater issues. For reasons known only to the council, they waited more than two years before they finally hired HDR Engineering (December 2011). However, after HDR was on the job for more than a year, the council without explanation hired NorrisLeal, LLC, another water engineering firm, in spite of the fact that (a) the council had not received a final report from HDR, and (b) the city reportedly paid HDR fees approximating $90,000.
In January of this year, the NorrisLeal report was verbally submitted (in spite of the fact they had been on the job less than 30 days) and became the basis for the current $15.3 million bond election. Interestingly, Carl Crull, from HDR, was also in the audience that night. His presence was not even acknowledged by the council or staff, so I can only imagine that he walked into what was professionally an extremely awkward situation.
This brings me back to Flournoy Park. The work in that park and other parks was paid for with funding from the Beeville Economic Improvement Corporation, amounting to more than $4 million. Every penny spent on parks could have been used to fund water projects with a vote of the citizens. The City Council was urged to put water first and to deal with parks only when the water situation had been addressed. They point-blank refused to put water first. Even if you agree to the total package of $15.3 million which is on the ballot, that number could be around $11 million if the city had handled the available dollars responsibly.
Finally, and perhaps most concerning of all, is the lack of a cohesive plan with detailed specifications. The water bond election is centered around a generic proposition to authorize up to $15.3 million for unspecified projects – the ballot does not even mention desalination or reverse osmosis. Approval of the bond proposition, as worded, will deliver $15.3 million with very few strings attached. The fact that the city administration by-passed the cornerstone of virtually every bond election – the appointment of an independent citizens task force – should raise a bright red flag. Know what you are voting for or against – you could be authorizing a $15.3 million dollar blank check.
Very truly yours,
Tom Beasley, Beeville City Council 1983-1989