'We want a park'
Fredericksburg citizens showed up in droves to let the council know the public wants a sports park during a special Fredericksburg City Council meeting held Monday at the Law Enforcement Center.
The public meeting was aimed to gather comments, ideas and opinions from the public about a potential Oak Crest sports park, the first plan of which was voted down in November.
Opinions and comments varied in the standing-room only conference room. Twenty-three individuals addressed the council.
The proposed $12.6 million dollar sports park plans fell short by 100 votes in the Nov. 7, 2017 bond election. The sports park has been a hot topic for those on both sides of the issue, and seemingly for some who are on the fence.
“We are not going to be talking about the past. That is over and done with. We are just going to move forward now,” Mayor Linda Langerhans said.
Most who spoke called for the city and county to band together to take action to make the sports park plans a reality.
Wants and needs
Representatives from Fredericksburg Little League, AYSO soccer, Fredericksburg Tennis Association and even Ultimate Frisbee were on hand to share the needs of each sport. More fields, better caretaking of them and parking were a few of the items that took the spotlight.
Matt Seidenberger, Little League treasurer, expressed the difficulty of scheduling games and practices, not having enough fields to accommodate the 380 kids on local teams and the safety and overuse of the fields.
“I’m not behind anything extravagant. I don’t think our kids need best of the best,” Seidenberger said. “They need something that they can play and practice on before 10 o’clock at night when they’re eight and nine years old. They need something they can practice on that’s going to be safe.”
Most who spoke added a multi-million dollar park is not exactly a necessity.
“Let’s get realistic. We don’t need a luxury item, honestly,” said Mo Saiidi, a local resident. “We can live with something a lot less than what is loaded into this package. If we can do those things, and get private and corporate sponsorship and donations along with this package, I think we can get the community to agree with this plan.”
One of the highest concerns for the evening was the financial aspect of the park. Many residents worry taxes will continue to rise if the sports park bond election passes.
A few speakers had ideas to avoid increased taxes, fundraising by organizations in the community and scaling down the plans to something more cost-effective instead of a more luxurious park.
Fredericksburg resident Spencer Neffendorf highlighted a few city and county budget numbers that gave the council and city officials something to think about.
“I know we can by vote use up to 25 percent of our local sales and use tax to pay for the bonds. Has that ever been researched at all?” Neffendorf asked.
Additionally, Neffendorf shared that the city collected $5.3 million in the sales and use tax in 2016 and the county collected $2.3 million.
If the city was to earmark 15 percent for the city and 7½ percent from the county, he said, it would leave about $975,000 for bond payments for the year.
He said this would not include an increase in tax rates to the citizens.
Calling on the county
The words of a few who spoke called on county officials to join the city in getting the sports park plans to follow through.
“It seems to me that what we miss with this is a large number of our participants are county, not Fredericksburg city, residents. We need to put those two together, the city and the county to make this and give this a real flavor,” Little League President Jim Riley said.
Jerry McCorkle directed most of his comments toward getting the county involved and the rising property tax burden.
“I think there’s a lot better ways of doing it and I didn’t hear the county jumping in and offering to go half with it,” McCorkle said.
He added the parks issue should be addressed in a different mode that will keep taxes from continuing to rise.
One Fredericksburg resident asked the community to get involved.
Scott Immel called for the community to be more proactive in the parks issue. He stressed time is of the essence and the longer the community waits and does not help to make the park happen, the more costly for all it could be in the end.
“So, now are we going to sit and haggle over numbers or are we going to move forward?” he asked.
“Let us find a way to work together and do these things, because we can do this. Don’t divide. Don’t let it be Kyle (Biedermann) versus this group or whatever it is. We are all together, we are citizens,” Immel said.
State Rep. Biedermann, who was associated with efforts opposing the sports park bond election, gave his thoughts on the matter.
“No one has said no about these sports fields. No one has said no about them during the bond issue,” Biedermann said. “I think we heard tonight what the real problem was. Doing it smart, doing it better, but mostly doing it together.”
Dave Campbell, Biedermann’s opponent in the Republican primary, was the last person to speak. Campbell explained the reasoning behind increased property taxes and his willingness to help.
“I am running for Kyle’s place as state rep… One of the issues for property taxes is that school taxes are getting higher as the state is enforcing more of these burdens for financing schools onto property taxes. That is why your property taxes are really driving up, and I hope to fix that,” Campbell said. “If I can go in the state and do things to support this community, I am going to be doing it. But, I’m not going to get involved in the middle of local politics.”
Council members encouraged the public to attend the city meetings. The council asked the public to sign up to speak and be vocal about their opinions and ideas.
The next regular meeting of the Fredericksburg City Council will be on Monday, Jan. 15 at 5 p.m. at the Law Enforcement Center.