Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
May 25, 2005Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 25th day of May, 2005, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas, Chairman
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas (Absent)
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas (Absent)
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Chairman, this brings us to our Infrastructure Committee part. First order of business will be approval of minutes of the last meeting.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Mr. Holmes made the motion. Mr. Ramos seconded. Are there any questions?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: All in favor say, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Opposed.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Hearing none, we will continue. Committee item number one, Chairman's charges.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. I'm glad to report to you on three items. Government Canyon State Natural Area, the development of the new state natural area there at the edge of San Antonio is moving along fine, is anticipated to be substantially complete early this summer.
We have had some trouble with our contractors, as some of you know. But we're going to get there, and it's going to be done right. The grand opening date which we have not reset — probably sometime early this fall — will be after we get all the trails completed, exhibits and remote site features in place.
As Commissioner Henry mentioned the Sheldon Lake Environmental Learning Center, the first phase of that project is going to a close with final inspection scheduled to begin in June '05. New facilities include outdoor classrooms and pond environments, entry plaza with restrooms and observation deck, developed trails, prairie and wetland habitat restoration, natural wastewater wetland and alternative energy demonstrations.
And as we've discussed Sheldon Lake will provide a much needed outdoor opportunity for schoolchildren in the urban Houston area to get outdoors. Life is better. World Birding Center. The construction of the Llano Grande facility at Weslaco is nearing completion.
The development of those facilities as part of the World Birding Center site is expected to be completed in June '05, with trails, boardwalks completed in the summer of '05. Grand opening anticipated late summer, early fall of '05.
So there's three major projects that Steve and his guys and Walt and his staff and the wildlife guys all have been very involved in now for a couple of three years. At least we're getting that phase completed, and we'll be opening those facilities to the public.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Very good. We'll go to item two, which is the capital bond program. Mr. Steve Whiston, make that presentation.
MR. WHISTON: Thank you, Chairman Parker, Chairman Fitzsimons, Commissioners. For the record my name is Steve Whiston. I'm the Director of Infrastructure Division. I'm sure you noticed, I don't know if it's a matter of being last on the agenda or the subject matter, but Infrastructure seems to clear the room.
I'm excited about this stuff though. Hope you will be as well. The purpose of my briefing this afternoon is to give you, as Chairman Parker indicated, an update on our current capital bond program. If you recall I shared with you in our last committee meeting in January that we had fully expended our $60 million revenue bond program that was issued to us over four years, ending in fiscal year 2001.
We are right now engaged with the Texas Public Finance Authority to certify the completion and the full expenditure of those funds, so that they can close that bond issue with the IRS and we can put that behind us. So we'll have that as a feather in our cap.
Including all the interest earned on those bonds we invested $64.4 million of revenue bonds towards the repair and renovation of our facilities statewide over that period of time and made good use of those funds. And we appreciate your support in that effort.
With the help of all our customer divisions we continue to make good progress in completing the 115 projects that are currently funded, with the first installment of our general obligation, our Prop 8 Bond Program.
We've expended to date $15.6 million of that first installment and have encumbered or obligated against a design or construction contract another $6.7 million. As the pie chart illustrates we've completed now 53 projects. There's an additional 20 projects that are currently in design and another 29 projects that are in construction.
We began this fiscal year — and you probably all had an opportunity to see this slide before — this past September with 232 active projects budgeted at a little over $35.5 million — slightly lower than we've had as a project load in previous years.
At that time at the beginning of the year we set for ourselves a goal to expend $22.7 million this fiscal year. Our target as of the end of April was $15.7 million, and our actual expenditure at that date was $15.6 million.
So I'm confident we are well on track to meeting our goal and hopefully exceeding that goal by the end of the fiscal year for total expenditure. Looking ahead we are really pleased — as Mr. Cook summarized for us earlier — with the prospect of additional Proposition 8 or general bond program funds for this next biennium.
We're really grateful to you, too, in providing your support, the time you invested, the energy you invested in helping us hopefully to get a favorable approval for Prop 8 funds for next year, which will enable us to go forward with this program and provide us opportunities to continue making these vital and critical repairs to our facilities.
This slide details the original funding strategy for our General Obligation bond program. If you'll recall back in 2001 Texas voters approved Proposition 8 for $101.5 million in General Obligation bond revenue for our Agency.
As I mentioned we were issued in January our over [indiscernible] '02-'03 biennium $36.68 million, which we are working to spend down now. Because of budget shortfalls in '04-'05 the 78th Legislature was unable to appropriate us debt service to enable us to issue additional bond proceeds for that biennium.
Our original strategy going into '06-'07 was to request $46.5 million in bonds to continue our statewide repair program and to complete the four projects listed in the slide — renovation and development projects in parks. That left a little over $18.4 million of unauthorized or unappropriated revenues which would carry over into '08-'09, hopefully toward our repair program for that upcoming biennium.
By the time we got into the session our actual legislative appropriation request for capital projects for '06-'07 totaled $57,250,000. This is a kind of side-by-side comparison of what capital appropriations were requested and what is being currently recommended for approval by the Legislature.
Mr. Cook again provided you this morning a good summary of those appropriations being considered in his legislative update, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time going through the detail. But a couple projects worthy of note — first again the $18.1 million was our number one priority request to provide us Prop 8 funds.
And we're very pleased that is included in the legislation, the appropriation being considered downtown. Funds for Admiral Nimitz unfortunately are not being recommended for funding. This is $750,000 that we had requested to complete the renovation of the Admiral Nimitz Hotel and ballroom restoration there at the Nimitz site in Fredericksburg.
Some promising news regarding the Battleship Texas, we are working very closely and working with the office of U.S. Congressman Gene Green and Congressman Ted Poe. They are sponsoring — I'm sure you know — federal legislation to appropriate $20 million through the Department of Defense toward the repair of the Battleship Texas.
So we've got our fingers crossed and look optimistically toward favorable approval for some additional federal funds to complement the money we hope to get for the battleship repair this next biennium.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Steve, that would be on top of the $16 million.
MR. WHISTON: On top of the $16 million. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Which allows possibly to do the —
MR. WHISTON: Correct. Do more than just dry dock repair. Allows us to really get into a more permanent dry dock solution for the ship.
MR. COOK: Dry berth.
MR. WHISTON: Dry berth. Yes.
MR. COOK: That's a solution that would be much longer term.
MR. WHISTON: Correct. Regrettably Levi Jordan didn't make the cut this time. We had requesting $3.8 million, which would have allowed us to complete the renovation of that new historic site, the Levi Jordan Plantation in Brazoria County.
As well the San Jacinto Battleground Project is not being recommended for funding. That was a little under $1.4 million request to complete the renovation of the historic battleground at San Jacinto. Good news, as Mr. Cook pointed out, is that we were successful in getting appropriation for the monument fire safety repair.
Interesting that appropriation was included in HB 10, which is an emergency legislation that when enacted or signed by the Governor, as Ms. Hixon pointed out, will make those monies available to us almost immediately this summer, so that we can get immediately engaged in that repair.
We have Kellogg, Brown & Root under contract. The design for those repairs is nearing completion. And so with this additional funding that we actually anticipate getting in the next week or two, will enable us to jump right into construction right away this summer. And we hope we have this facility open to the public as soon as we're able.
I'd like to conclude my briefing this morning with you, just sharing with you a little bit about the progress of some of our major projects. Pleased to report, as Mr. Cook indicated, we're very close to completing our second World Birding Center site in the Valley, in Weslaco.
This is the Resaca de la Palma State Park, a $3 million development project well under way to completion. Couple slides of some of the finished product. This is a view of the new entrance to our new visitors center there in Weslaco.
A slide of the rainwater storage tank that will collect rainwater from the metal roof that we'll be using for [indiscernible] irrigation for our landscape. An interior shot of one of the spaces inside the new facility. This is the park volunteer area or space. It has a multipurpose room with a small kitchen.
In addition to the visitors service areas provided in this new building, we'll have new classroom space, a small gift shop, restrooms, staff offices. And as you see this slide, a really well-designed open deck that overlooks the resaca or the wetlands there, so birders can get right on top of that wetland and have a lot better opportunity to view wildlife and the birding that's so prevalent down there.
I'm proud and pleased to announced we just completed the completion of a new regional office for inland fisheries in Tyler. This new building, if you recall, replaces a former regional office that in 2001 we lost due to fire because of hurricane and lightning damage that set that building on fire, and we lost it.
This building was finally accepted by our Division and the contractor this week. So we expect to begin moving furniture in and occupying this facility here in the very near future. It's about a 2,600-square-foot new facility there in Tyler.
Couple views of the outside or exterior. This is a partial view of the interior exhibit space and conference room with that facility. We're proud to have it completed. Last but not least share a couple slides with you about Government Canyon.
As Mr. Cook indicated, we are really pleased that we're finally turning the corner on completing the development of this new state natural area, Government Canyon, outside San Antonio, in spite of all the delays we've had with this project and with our contractor, which were largely due to bad weather, weather delays and material delays.
We're really excited about the finished product and the facility, and we're anxious to show it off to you. This is about $5.7 million development project. This is a view a few weeks back of the new headquarters interpretative center.
This facility was designed to include indoor and outdoor classrooms, a gift shop, offices, restrooms and a really unique outdoor exhibit gallery or exhibit hall. Couple closeups of the building exteriors, all with covered porches.
A little detail of our water collection storage system, water tanks there at the project. This is the new group pavilion, kind of a multipurpose, open air facility with a big, large native stone fireplace that I'm sure going to be real popular to visitors.
One of many new campsites, low impact campsites, that are developed there at the site at Government Canyon. One of three of our composting toilets that we've built at Government Canyon in the day use and camping areas.
And last but not least our new maintenance facility, metal structure that I'm sure is going to be of great value and benefit to the park. That concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Thank you, Steve.
Any questions? How many acres is Government Canyon?
MR. BORUFF: 12,000.
MR. DABNEY: Counting ours and the city's. Ours is —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: 12,000 acres 30 minutes from downtown San Antonio's pretty impressive.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: With developments encircling it as we speak.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you for doing that work that you're doing with the homebuilders down there and helping us.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: We haven't got it done yet.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, but you're working on it.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Just cross your fingers. Mr. Cook, do you have any —
MR. COOK: I believe that's it, sir. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: That's the end of business to be brought before this Committee.
(Whereupon the meeting was adjourned at 3:00 p.m.)
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 25, 2005
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 14, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731