Work to start on park for Shadow Creek Ranch
Funding issues mean some planned features are on hold; MUDs may help with infrastructure costs
Amenities to be included in this first phase of construction of the facility, to be built at Shadow Creek Parkway west of Kingsley Drive, are three softball fields, four Little League baseball fields, a soccer field and a pavilion with restrooms and a concession area.
Pearland City Council approved a $6.6 million construction contract with Cain Group LLC of Pearland in July, using money approved in a 2007 bond package.
Left out for now in hope of future phases were a maintenance building, sand volleyball courts, a fourth lighted softball field, scoreboards for the softball fields, a lawn amphitheater, a playground and a crushed granite trail. Cost for these additional amenities is estimated at $1.65 million.
"I am disappointed it has taken so long to get to this point. I am disappointed that promised amenities have been left out. It is not a good feeling to have to pull components out which were approved by the voters," City Councilman Scott Sherman said.
City officials blamed the seven-year delay on lack of funds due to the recent recession and the city's rapid growth.
"Our city has grown so rapidly it is hard to do everything we want to do with the financial base we have available," Mayor Tom Reid said. "For dang sure we want to have the ballfields to start. I think we are putting in the essentials. Some of the other things can be added as we get our financial status in a little better shape."
He previously said that the city's growth put past councils and city staff in the position of having to prioritize infrastructure development. As new residents moved in, the priority was to provide water, sewer and street infrastructure to accommodate them, he said.
Voters approved $8.36 million for the project in the 2007 bond election.
There is a chance that much of the costs for the extra amenities might be funded through a partnership with Brazoria County Municipal Utility District 26 and Brazoria-Fort Bend County Municipal Utility District No. 1, which serve the Shadow Creek Ranch community.
MUD No. 26 president Michael Parks told City Council that he and his board are eager to help the city get the park done because residents are expressing strong sentiments in favor of it.
"The MUD board is not leading the charge. We are listening to the voice of our residents," he said.
In a July 23 letter to the city, Lynne Humphries, attorney for the districts, wrote that the districts' boards propose to cover cost of water, sewer and drainage infrastructure.
Pearson said funds from the districts, about $1.37 million, could help offset the $1.65 million cost for the future amenities. State law forbids the districts from directly funding those amenities, but their contributions for infrastructure would allow the city to shift funds it would have spent on that work.
The MUD boards conducted a community meeting last month that drew 211 residents. Of 85 response cards submitted at the meeting, 57 indicated support for the funding, with 14 saying no and 14 wanting more information.
The districts also must get permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to fund their part of park costs.
A memo prepared by City Engineer Trent Epperson states it could take six to eight months for the the commission to decide.
City officials believe there is a good chance for commission approval.
Councilman Keith Ordenauex lauded the MUDs' proposal but wanted to see a formal vote by their boards to ensure a hard commitment.
Parks said his board was motivated to chip in because the Shadow Creek Ranch area has numerous families with children who have few facilities for informal play. Organizations such as football associations or soccer teams lack facilities as well, he said.
Also, Parks believes the park amenities would favorably affect property values because they can positively influence families' decision whether to move to the area.
Pearland Parks Department has applied for a $400,000 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that could go toward funding some of the postponed amenities.
"There is a high demand for this park in the Shadow Creek Ranch area. That area lacks athletic fields in general," Parks Director Michelle Graham said.
She said first-phase construction is expected to take around 12 months.