The Rosenberg City Council agreed Tuesday to hire a company to build the Travis Park splash pad, even though the city has received a petition calling for the project to be halted.
The council voted 6-0 to award the $570,150 contract to Water & Play Expressions.
Approving the contract were council members Susan Euton, Isaac Davila, Tim Anders, Mayor Kevin Raines, and Mayor Pro Tem Marc Morales. Councilmember Tim Krugh, who dislikes the project and who helped circulate the petition calling for the project to be abandoned, did not vote on the agenda item but warned the council that the city could be in hot water if someone dies at the splash pad.
The council is scheduled to take up the petition at its Dec. 7 meeting.
At that time, the council will have the option to adopt the petition and its accompanying ordinance (calling for the city to abandon the project) or call another election on the issue.
Citizens voted on the issue in May 2020 and approved the project. On Tuesday, the council was offered two options: Option A, which called for a splash pad costing $570,150 and Option B, which called for a splash pad costing $583,830. Option B included “train” features to capture the community’s railroad past.
The six council members who voted for Option A said they did so because of the additional expense involved with Option A, even if they did like the train design features. Travis Tanner, executive director of community development, said Option B, even though more expensive, was still within the $585,000 budgeted for the project.
Option A, though less expensive, offered five more water features, which council members said they liked.
“This has been a long time coming and I’m glad to see it coming to fruition,” said Davila, who has pushed for the project since its inception. Despite the petition, Casias said the city needs to move forward on the project.
“This was put on the ballot and approved by the citizens of Rosenberg, which was over 5,000 individuals who voted for this splash pad,” she said. “So I think we all need to take that into consideration (when considering the petitions).”
She reminded her colleagues that the former council that placed the issue on the May 2020 ballot said, “Leave it up to the people.”
Morales agreed the people have spoken, but he said voters may have been misled. He said the figures used to convince the council to put the issue before voters were “miscalculated.”
“I believe that the decision to put it before the city to approve or disapprove was miscalculated, in my opinion, back in the day, and we shouldn’t be going through all this process now because of the politics that were involved,” he explained.
Yet, Morales added, he would vote for Option A because “that’s what voters wanted.” Morales asked Krugh: “What do you want to do, tell them no, you were wrong and we were right?” he asked. “That’s wrong.”
Krugh, who was not on the council when it was approved by voters, and who has never approved of the splash pad, asked city attorney Grady Randle what will happen at the Dec. 7 council meeting.
“So with the petition, you say it doesn’t stop anything tonight?” Krugh asked Randle.
Randle said the council will either adopt the ordinance attached to the petition or call an election (to give voters the opportunity to approve or disapprove of the splash pad a second time).
The Dec. 7 decision would not derail the project immediately, Randle explained. Krugh told his colleagues that a lot has happened since the May 2020 election and “things have changed a little bit.” F
or instance, he said, two kids have died at splash pads in the state of Texas.
“That’s a fact, and both those cities are under wrongful death lawsuits right now,” he added. “That needs to be taken into consideration. This is a safety issue, in my opinion and in the opinion of 350 people that signed this petition, and (we) could have gotten more if we didn’t have time constraints.”
Based on that, he said he wanted to “put the pause on this thing and consider (the safety issues), and if you don’t, I don’t even want to be part of this thing.”
Both Euton and Anders said they would like to see the city at a later date recapture the water for re-use on the park’s ballfields and grounds.
“We can’t preach water recycling and conservation while we’re just letting the (splash pad water) run down the sewer,” Anders said.