Some council members are balking at a landscape architectural firm’s $93,000 asking price to design plans for a 5-kilometer loop track at Hometown Heroes Park.

“It seems a bit much,” Councilman Greg Gripon said, adding that he has worked on similar projects in his landscape business.

The designs would cost about as much as it would cost to build the track, council members said.

The city council in June will consider whether the planning part of the project could be done in-house to save money instead of paying $93,000 to Houston-based TBG Partners.

In 2017, the council approved a budget that included $110,000 to hire a grant writer for the Parks Department. The grant writer would also be a park planner and a landscape architect, city officials said during the budget talks.

“The reason I voted to include that was very much so that projects like this could be done in-house and we wouldn’t have to go and spend this amount of money,” Councilman Nick Long said.

The city hired the grant writer and landscape architect in early 2018 with a salary of $68,435.

City Manager John Baumgartner is concerned about overloading staff members with in-house projects, he said.

“We are staffed to try and manage projects and keep projects moving through the use of consultants,” Baumgartner said. “What we’ve discovered in the past is we get focused on a relatively small project for us, and then we lose sight of the bigger things.”

If the grant writer spends time designing plans for a 5K track, then he isn’t working on grants for other projects, Baumgartner said.

However, Baumgartner and other city administrators will look at how to do more of the design in-house and balance the workloads of employees.

The city also is applying for a $200,000 Texas Parks and Wildlife grant for the 5K track, Parks and Recreation Director Chien Wei said. The grant is due Feb. 1, 2019.

The city wanted to use TBG Partners as design consultants because the proposed 5K track project would include lighting, signage, trailhead and irrigation, Wei said.

The 5K track would be the only decomposed granite loop trail in the city and would be a potential venue for organized official run events, rather than city streets, Wei said.

Valerie Wells: 409-683-5246; valerie.wells@galvnews.com



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