By Joshua Winata
Killeen Daily Herald
LAMPASAS – The Lampasas City Council faced internal opposition Monday to a budget amendment that would allow repairs to flood damage at Hancock Park Municipal Golf Course.
Councilman Jerry Grayson expressed reluctance to approve an affidavit declaring a "grave public necessity" exists and that also would authorize a budget amendment to transfer $380,000 from the city's general fund into the golf course capital fund.
At the July 9 meeting, the council agreed to prioritize the golf course in pursuing a $350,000 grant from the Office of Rural Community Affairs. However, after speaking with ORCA representatives, City Manager Michael Stoldt said projects such as debris removal would make a stronger application and stand a better chance for consideration.
The grant application was modified to reflect the new priorities, but funding for golf course repairs fell to the city.
Funding golf course repairs from the city budget requires an amendment in excess of 2.5 percent of the original budget, which is permitted in the City Charter, Section 6.04 during "cases of grave public necessity."
"Certainly a flood creates a grave public necessity, and not only is it a recreational facility that this will be used for–this will help safety hazards out there that must be addressed," Stoldt said.
While Grayson agreed golf course repairs are a priority, he said he would rather look for alternative ways to fund them.
"I've got a problem with us going this route based on what the city charter said," Grayson said. "There may not be any other way to get the money. That may be the case, but I'm just not comfortable signing an affidavit saying that it's a grave' event. I guess I missed something, but I don't see that it fits the criteria."
The mayor and the rest of the council were supportive of the ordinance, citing the negative effect the golf course closure has had on business development.
According to the assessment by City Attorney Jo-Christy Brown, the use of facilities and alternative golf course routes in close proximity to hazardous roads posed a significant threat to public safety and qualifies under the charter provision.
"While that doesn't sound maybe like a grave concern, I assure you if someone's injured taking that route, it will feel grave to them and grave to the community," Faulkner said. "I think one way we can think about this is if these kinds of circumstances – harsh weather that does damage to the community – doesn't enable the council to take this kind of action, then what would?"
One of Grayson's primary concerns was the potential public backlash in labeling the golf course conditions as "grave," especially since the council has opted to keep most of the course open to the public.
"Do we need to be open if this is indeed that serious?" Grayson said. "I think the minute that this passes, the public is going to come in here wanting some pretty good answers."
Grayson suggested holding a public hearing to discuss the budget amendment. Mayor Judith Hetherly proposed a compromise by placing the decision to amend the budget as an item for discussion at the next council meeting to allow for public input instead of listing it on the consent agenda.
The council also faced a decision on whether to reopen Naruna Road, which was closed for 45 days at the May 29 meeting due to the loss of two bridges along Sulphur Creek. The construction of new bridges, which was approved by the council subject to the budget amendment approval, will not be complete for another 60 to 90 days.
The council members said they have received many requests from the public to open the road and would like to permit full access to the remaining areas of the golf course but they are also concerned about safety.
Recommendations were made to develop a plan combining limited closures and signage to allow golf carts and vehicles to use the road.
Liability issues were discussed with the city attorney during a closed executive session.
Contact Joshua Winata at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-6481