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Lack of funding leaves Buda light upgrades in the dark

Questions on how to adequately fund outdoor LED lighting at the Buda Sportsplex baseball and soccer fields led city leaders Feb. 19 to postpone a contractual agreement for proposed upgrades. 

With $400,000 toward lighting improvements from the Buda Economic Development Corporation (EDC) still awaiting approval, Buda City Council members were hesitant to approve a contract without firm answers on how to fund it.    

Buda officials intend to contract with Musco Lighting, a company that specializes in the design and manufacturing of sports light standards and fixtures. The company’s quote included a 25-year warranty and a project cost of $598,000.

However, the item on the agenda only included lighting for the baseball fields. City council members voiced their desire for the project to include the soccer fields as well, which could be constructed at the same time for a slightly discounted price, based on economy of scale. 

“I think it’s worth evaluating,” said Councilmember Evan Ture. “We’re thinking about (installing the soccer field lights) in the near future anyway, so I think it worth thinking of that discount…I don’t want to hold things up, but I want to think about if it’s worth moving on both at the same time.” 

Council member Ray Bryant said he wanted to ensure the pricing would not fluctuate over time. This left city officials to conclude that funding lighting at both fields would be financially optimal. 

The $400,000 from the Buda EDC would leave the city with a $198,000 bill, which could then be funded by Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds. 

But the conversation turned cold when Buda City Attorney George Hyde told the council that the Buda EDC funding has not yet been approved. 

“If you are to consider this matter tonight, I would ask any approval is also conditioned on the authorization of the funding that is supposed to be contributed to the light from the EDC,” Hyde said.

Hyde said correspondance from the EDC has indicated that although the funding is budgeted, authorization of the funds have not been approved by the EDC board of directors. 

“But if we approve a contract and it’s not conditioned, we have authorized a binding agreement of which the other party should rely on,” Hyde said. “And I don’t want to make that representation unless we are confident we can fully fund and go forward with our contractual obligations.” 

Mayor George Haehn said council did not have a firm commitment on the $400,000. 

“And until that is in hand, I would be really afraid of authorizing any contract because what we are doing is executing prior to receiving funding,” the mayor said. 

The City Council ultimately voted to direct the EDC to identify how much funding will be allocated for the project, which may include soccer and baseball fields. 

If all else fails, the city could pull the trigger on just the baseball fields and continue its efforts to fund the soccer fields in the near future. 

The Buda EDC board could take up the matter during its March meeting. Meanwhile, Buda city leaders anticipate readdressing the funding situation for the light fixtures again in April.

A Musco official said the quote for the softballs fields would not be affected if a decision isn’t made until April.

If the city does not include the soccer fields as part of its plans in the near future, that quote may change based on market value and construction materials down the road. 

“Finding funding for the soccer field and baseball field is going to be difficult, I’ll be honest with you,” Williams said. “You have to look at some other sources of funding to do the entire project. You might have to look at other sources for just the baseball field because we don’t know what the EDC is going to do. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens there…”

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