Some residents are questioning why the city is going forward with plans to build a splash pad because Watauga is in debt for a project that hasn’t gotten off the ground.
However, others say it will bring in new businesses and more residents to the northeast Tarrant community.
Last week, the city council voted 5-0 to approve an agreement with the Watauga Economic Development Corporation to use sales tax funds to pay off debt for the splash pad which will be built in Capp Smith Park. The funds are designated for parks and other recreation projects.
Watauga issued certificates of obligation to pay for the entire splash pad project with an estimated cost of $1.45 million. The economic development corporation will pay $1.14 million of the debt with the city paying the remaining amount from its general fund.
Watauga applied twice for grants from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife to help offset costs, but the requests were denied because much of the grant funding went to east Texas and Houston, said city manager Andrea Gardner.
Gardner added that the agreement with the economic development corporation will help the city because money won’t have to come from the general fund and property taxes. Watauga issued certificates of obligation to pay for the splash pad project.
Cheneya Cruz, who attended the meeting last week, said she was a “huge supporter” of the project because she thought grants would help pay for it. But then she had second thoughts when she learned the city did not get the grants to pay for the project.
“We go to a neighboring city to go to a pool,” she said.
“To spend that kind of money on a splash pad, it’s unthinkable… It needs to be reconsidered by the council, we are so strapped as it is,” Cruz said.
But councilwoman Kim Irving, who made the motion to approve the agreement, said the splash pad will have benefits for the city.
According to a timeline on the city’s web site, work is scheduled to begin in September on drainage and other improvements for the splash pad site and completed in February of 2020. Construction on the splash pad should start in March and finish in May or June of next year.
Watauga is expected to pay $700,000 for the splash pad and anticipates spending $100,000 in amenities to the area including accessible play equipment for special needs children; about $40,000 for engineering and construction administration costs and about $610,000 for parking, drainage, irrigation and base preparation for splash pad area.
The splash pad includes five aqua arches, a water web, a fling bucket and a water sprout, among other amenities.
The web site also referred to a survey where 18 percent of residents said they wanted a splash pad or pool.
“We already have debt issued that we have to pay back. I think what everyone sitting out here is angry about and what I’m angry about is that we are paying stupid debt,” Councilman Scott Prescher said.
“The majority of people aren’t asking us to spend $1.4 million plus thousands of dollars for insurance (for the splash pad), we have to vote yes because we have to repay our debt,” Prescher said.