County seeks direction on $75 million park bond projects

By Sahar Chmais
The desire to improve Hays County parks is evident, after voters approved a $75 million bond in 2020 with 70% voters’ approval.
But county officials might wait a bit – until 2022 – with a chance to secure $30 million from a clean water fund.
Proposition A, which passed in November, would issue $75 million for the construction, improvement, renovation and acquisition of land, buildings and facilities for park and recreational purposes.
Commissioners Court has given direction to consultants and staff to prepare the issuance of the first round of bonds. Funds are expected in September. The amount requested is still unclear, as the court considers multiple avenues to receive the full $75 million, but it is clear that it will not ask for the full amount from private investors in the stock market.
Hays County has the opportunity, though, to get $30 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF); these funds can be used to support some of the projects the county had planned for its parks. Some advantages to this grant include below-market fixed interest rates, principal forgiveness for entities that qualify and it has a repayment period of up to 30 years.
The county will know if it is eligible for the revolving fund in 2022, as funds for 2021 have already run out. At this time, the county plans to apply for only part of the $75 million through the stock market and to apply for the rest through CWSRF. If the county cannot receive the revolving fund, it will go back to the stock market to get the rest of the money.
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra (D) pushed to begin securing funds as soon as possible due to the historically low interest rates which are as low as 2%.
While the county awaits CSWRF approval, it has shovel-ready projects to work on in the meantime, said Mark Kennedy, General Counsel for Hays County.
The county has proposed several parks to improve through this bond. The list in order from highest to lowest priority includes:
• Coleman’s Canyon Preserve
• Sentinel Peak Preserve
• SMRF San Marcos Recharge Lands
• Purgatory Clean Water Preserve
• Violet Crown Trail
• Rathgeber Natural Resources Park
• Cape Road Fishing Pond
• Old Fitzhugh Road Multi-Use Trail
• Kyle Fajita Fields
• Dripping Springs Skate Park
• John Knox Ranch
• Dripping Springs Town Center
• Patriots Hall
• Presa Grande Sink Creek Preserve
• Wimberley Nature Center
To find out more about the proposed bond projects, visit www.hayscountytx.com/departments/hays-county-parks-recreation/hays-2020-parks-bond-2/.

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Sahar Chmais holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been covering cities in Hays County for one year, touching on residents' struggles and successes, city issues, COVID-19 and more. Prior to reporting on the local spectrum, Sahar reported for a national news organization, covering gun violence. Sahar enjoys working as a local reporter because she gets to work with real people and their stories.

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