Hays County kicks off parks bond outreach

Staff report

HAYS COUNTY – Hays County voters who want to learn about the 2020 Parks and Open Spaces Bond that will be on the Nov. 3 ballot will soon see more information. An outreach and education effort to provide details of the proposed bond will be underway in the coming weeks.

Voters will determine whether the county will fund roughly $75 million for new parks, trails and open spaces over the next several years. That bond would help provide funding for projects submitted by groups, organizations and municipalities earlier this year. Hays County submitted two proposals to be included in the bond; Sentinel Peak and Cape’s Pond.

The Parks and Open Spaces Commission (POSAC), with appointees by each member of Commissioners Court, reviewed 19 submitted projects and recommended funding of 16 over several budget cycles.

Through an outreach initiative, the county aims to provide voters details about the projects that would be funded including any benefits to the environment, water quality, flood mitigation and connectivity, as well as public access on that land. The outreach will include a dedicated website, videos, social media posts, story maps and lawn signs.

“We want voters to understand what the bond is about and help them be more informed about what they are voting on,” said Alexandra Thompson, the county’s Natural Resources coordinator. “By the time early voting begins on Oct. 13, we want voters to feel they understand the proposition and can make a decision at the voting booth that comes from a place of being well informed.”

Saying yes to the proposition would not immediately obligate the county to issue any bonds. Due to concerns by expressed by some residents during the public comment period at commissioners court, the coronavirus pandemic was cited as a reason to hold off on the bond.

General Counsel Mark Kennedy told the court that while the current situation and possible financial downturn was a consideration, saying yes to the bond would not mean the county would begin spending money right away.

“If the bond is approved, the Hays County Commissioners Court will have the opportunity to decide when the time is right to actually issue the bonds,” he said. “A majority affirmative vote of the bond proposition is just the mechanism that allows the sale of bonds to occur, after which Hays County would have a reasonable time to fulfill its contract with the voters. Because that is a relatively long timeline, Hays County can take the time it needs to gauge economic growth before it actually issues authorized bonds.”

Court members also expressed their viewpoints that with the 2020 election, more voters would have the opportunity to have a say in this proposition.

“With an item of this significance,” Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra said, “let’s allow the voters to decide if they want us to fund the bond.”

Look for the outreach effort to begin soon. Visit www.Hays2020ParksBond.com beginning September 21. Information will also be available on the County’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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