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    Graham City Manager Brandon Anderson speaks with a crowd at a public hearing regarding the submission of a grant application to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and expanded upon the proposed three-phase plan for the project. The city is attempting to obtain TPWD matching grants for park improvements. (Leader photo by Thomas Wallner)

City hosts public hearing on TPWD grants

The Graham City Council hosted a public hearing Monday regarding the submission of a grant application to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and expanded upon the proposed three-phase plan for the project. The city is attempting to obtain TPWD matching grants to allow for more improvements to the local parks.

The city of Graham received $1.3 million from the Brazos River Authority for parks improvement projects in June 2018. The money was received for the Salt Creek Park project to turn the floodplain along Salt Creek into a park for the city with a waiver of liability to the BRA.

“I know this whole project, I’m going to guess it has been about 20 years in the planning and works, but shortly after my arrival here we did reach out to Washington and talked to Neugebauer’s office and before he got out he kind of got the ball rolling to get this project defunded,” City Manager Brandon Anderson said. “What that meant was basically get it away from the Corps of Engineers, so we did get away from the Corps of Engineers, but it still was about a year and a half process before we could get closer to that finalization agreement which we got with the BRA.”

The 2018 Parks Master Plan was created and polling was done on social media to gauge interest in different aspects of the park project and to help build information for the application process to TWPD.
“The parks board took that information and kind of went back and forth with an engineering firm we are working with Jacob & Martin engineering out of Weatherford,” he said. “And kind of best case scenario is we take that million dollars we have got and are able to use that for seed money with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Texas Parks and Wildlife has 50-50 matching grants and so we can apply for up to $500,000 a year for two of those and then they also have an 80-20 split on trails grants which are available in the Spring.”

Since then, the parks board has been working to get numbers they can submit to TPWD in order to obtain matching grants for their suggested improvement projects, Anderson said.

The council approved the 2019 Park Improvement Study Executive Summary prepared by the engineering company Jacob Martin, LLC, and authorized the Graham Parks and Recreation board to give the engineering company the authority to apply for grants with TPWD in October.

The city is attempting to apply for their first application to TPWD, which Anderson said will cover the first phase of the potential project. He said the max the city can apply for is $500,000 per year and city are only eligible for that funding twice.

“Essentially we will be applying for phase one money through Texas Parks and Wildlife and so this is the portion of the projects that would be funded in phase one,” he said. “Phase two would be another half a million dollar application. Obviously, in between the two half a million dollar applications we would have the trails grant which we would apply for which would be 80-20 in terms of split.”

Anderson said the city set aside $1.2 million which the city hopes to use on the first two phases of the project. He said the phases are meant to get the most out of the funding from the BRA.

“I think we all know that we want a new park,” he said. “We want to be able to maximize the million dollars that we got and get the best bang for our buck out there that we’ve got, so we have about a three and a half million dollar parks plan set aside, but that only works if this first step in process falls into place. And our hope is because of what we have done with the master plan and because of what we have done with the three phase study that Jacob & Martin has done for us, is that Texas Parks and Wildlife will see the value and stay on hook for us for a couple of years and we can tap that resource to double our money.”

The city council was presented a three-phase plan in October which detailed how the project could potentially proceed.

“Phase 1, is at a cost of a $1,112,000, Phase 2 is at a million,” Anderson said in an October council meeting. “Parks and Wildlife have two matching grants that are available for $500,000 a piece and they would issue $500,000 and we would have to match that, so Phase 1 and Phase 2 I think we can get done with the money that we have set aside. Phase 3, is a $411,000 price tag and I am hoping by the time we get to this and can get this plan moved out to the public, we can get a little public support and possibly some public donations that would help finish up Phase 3.”

According to the engineering summary, the three-phase process was chosen due to constraints and scheduling which would come with the TPWD local parks grant program or recreational trails program which are run on a yearly cycle.

Anderson said comments or questions can be addressed to the City Manager’s office regarding the project.

“I know this hasn’t happened as quick as some would like it to be, but we want to be able to maximize our dollar and so best case scenario we get the application in, it gets to (Texas) Parks and Wildlife, they see the value of hitting us two years in a row and we can get those 80-20 trail grants as well and I think we are off and running,” he said. “Worst case scenario, Parks and Wildlife says to us sorry you didn’t get awarded and then that really sends us back to the drawing board because we have to take our million dollars and figure out what we want to do and I think there are some projects that would come to fruition because there is enough involvement. Like for instance the disc golf. The group that is interested in that I think we could find the seed money locally to help assist with that from what I have been told.”

Anderson said if the city received the funding they will make sure the public is informed at each stage as the project moves forward.

“If we find out we are funded by Parks and Wildlife our plan is to take this then and have a public meeting or two with some mockups of what the plan is,” he said. “What I really don’t want to do is get way in front and say this is what it is going to be and then come back and say, ‘Sorry, you didn’t get it,’ then we’ve got to say, ‘Well okay, this playground equipment looks really good, but we are only going to get this third of it.’”

For the full story, see the Saturday, Dec. 7 edition of The Graham Leader.

 

 

The Graham Leader

GRAHAM OFFICE
620 Oak Street
P.O. Box 600
Graham, Texas 76450
Phone: (940) 549-7800
Fax: (940) 228-0589