Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
April 5, 2006Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 5th day of April, 2006, 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, Committee Chairman
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas (Absent)
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- 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
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER PARKER: First order of business, the approval of the previous Committee meeting minutes, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So moved.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Motion by Peter Holt. Second by Commissioner Phil.
Mr. Chairman, Committee Item 1, Land and Water Plan update. Mr. Cook, will you please make your presentation?
MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just a couple of bullets right quick. Our Infrastructure Division and you are going to hear from Steve on this as we go along. But Infrastructure will manage the expenditures of about 3.1 or $3.2 million on repairs at our various parks, wildlife management areas and that kind of thing, in anticipation of the $2.3 million reimbursement from FEMA for Hurricane Rita repairs at our State Parks, and at the Jasper Fish Hatchery. The Texas Public — we have heard just this last week, the Texas Public Finance Authority and Bond Review Board approved a request for financing of the 18.1 million in new general obligation bonds for statewide repairs during this biennium, as appropriated by the Legislature. So we have got that approval, and we are moving ahead with that. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Thank you. Is there any discussion by the Commission of Mr. Cook's presentation? If not, is there any other business that needs to be brought forth before the Committee? I think we have some business here with Mr. Steve Whiston.
MR. WHISTON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Who is the director of our Infrastructure section.
MR. WHISTON: Thank you, Chairman Parker, Chairman Fitzsimons, and Commissioners. Again for the record, my name is Steve Whiston. I am the director of the Infrastructure Division. I would like to begin the update this afternoon with our General Obligation Bond Program.
If you recall, we set a goal for ourselves last September to expend at least $20 million in capital funds by the end of this fiscal year. I am honestly very pleased to report that as an Agency, we have done extremely well.
Our target for the end of March was $10.9 million. Our actual total expenditures for the end of March slightly exceeded 15 million. So we have exceeded our goal by a little over $4 million.
Certainly we ask why the variance, and we came up with a lot of good reasons other than just saying we did a good job. As an Agency, I think we have done exceptionally well. To quote my Chief Budget Officer this morning, he just said we just revved it up a lot this last quarter, and got a lot of projects spent.
Actually, I think the reality is that a lot of the projects that we hadn't anticipated, that was going to be in construction over this last quarter, are under construction now. And it is during that phase of work that we tend to spend a lot more money, as opposed to the earlier design and planning stages.
We do, though, anticipate that expenditures for the time that remains between now and the end of the calendar year are going to tend to level off. But we are still confident that we will exceed or spend at least $20 million or better before the end of the fiscal year. So I think we are still pretty much on target, or will remain on target for the balance of the year.
We are steadily making good progress on our completion of our FY '03 issue of Prop 8 general obligation bond funds. Most of the original 118 projects that were funded with that $36.68 million we received in January of '03, most of those projects have been completed. With the savings that we have incurred or accumulated with the completion of all those projects, we have been able to fund an additional 19 projects for a new total of about 137 projects accomplished with those monies.
We have expended to date a little over $28 million of the total issue. As Mr. Cook explained, last November, this Commission approved a new bond resolution, and directed us to request the financing of the new $18.1 million of general obligation bonds. If you remember, the debt service for this issue was appropriated by the last session.
And I am pleased to announce that we have been successful in getting approval of Texas Public Finance authority, and the Bond Review Board. And those funds, the first increment of those funds were issued yesterday. This $18 million as we draw down this money from TPFA through commercial paper will fund a total of 37 projects.
Eight of those projects will be major repair and renovations at water and wastewater systems at parks and wildlife management areas. Seventeen of those projects will be facility repairs, roof replacements, electrical repairs, at our facilities across the state. Eleven projects, as again, as Mr. Cook pointed out, will be dedicated to the recovery and repair of damage that we sustained as a result of Hurricane Rita. And then one large project will be directed toward ADA, to bring a site more in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act.
This first issue that we received yesterday will allow us to begin immediately planning and getting into the design of the first series of Rita repair projects. I would like to share a little bit more in detail with you now. A little brief update on our recovery program.
We submitted to FEMA a total amount of claims, a series of claims, totaling $5.2 million for the recovery of costs and damage that resulted from the hurricanes last fall. Of that total 5.2 million, 2.1 million of that amount are claims to recover the cost of responding to the emergency in both Louisiana and Texas. That is the cost for our staff. The staff hours, the equipment, the housing and the gasoline costs; the overhead costs for our Agency to respond to those disasters.
Those claims, if approved, will be eligible for 100 percent reimbursement from FEMA. The balance, or the remaining 3.1 million of the claims we filed were submitted to FEMA for infrastructure facility repairs at seven state parks, three wildlife management areas and one fish hatchery.
To date, as this slide indicates, FEMA has approved eight of those eleven projects. When all these repairs are completed, we will be eligible at a 75 percent rate for about 2.3 million of reimbursement against the money we would spend for those projects.
Just as a note, I have got two projects asterisked there, about two thirds of the way down. To our surprise, two projects most recently approved by FEMA were approved at a significantly lower amount, a substantially lower amount than what we had requested.
And so we are in the process now of appealing that decision and trying to better understand how they saw that repair differently than we did. And we hope to be successful in getting a little bit more eligibility out of those, in terms of reimbursements from that Agency.
Finally, in regard to our bond program update, this slide summarizes our Prop 8 funding history, and the remaining authority. You have seen this slide before. We feel it is important to keep it in front of you, so you guys are aware of where we stand, and where we are headed in terms of the remaining authority of Prop 8.
If you recall, the 77th Legislature started this all off with about $100 million authority granted to Parks and Wildlife for statewide repairs and park development. In FY '02-'03, we got the first authorization, the first appropriation of debt service, the 36.68 million which I shared with you a moment ago. In '04-'05, as the chart illustrates, and as you recall, we got no additional debt service appropriation from the Legislature. And so we were unable to issue any additional bonds during that biennium.
In '06-'07, we were fortunate to receive an additional 18.1 million for statewide repairs, which we are prepared now to start spending. Our remaining authority illustrated there in that pink or magenta column for FY '08-'09 is $46.03 million. That is what remains in authority for our Agency.
None of this money is appropriated to us. We do not have appropriation authority to spend. We just have authority to request. The allocation of that 46 million in that column is an indication of what we originally, the Legislature originally intended for those — to spend that money against those projects. So that is what is proposed. That is what we will be considering.
Certainly, that list is subject to change. And it is subject certainly to your approval, once we get into developing our LAR and our proposal for this next biennium.
The second part of my briefing this afternoon is to give you an update on several important capital projects. Excuse me. I would like to start off with Government Canyon. And construction of our two new residences at Government Canyon State Park or Natural Area.
As you know, the 79th Legislature provided us the authority to construct two much needed residences at Government Canyon. However, at the same time, they limited us on the amount of revenue we could spend against the construction of those projects, of those two houses. To our aid, and to our great fortune, Commissioner Parker stepped up for us, and he arranged for the donation of a major portion of the materials and labor to build these houses, through the San Antonio Homebuilders Association and the Corpus Christi Homebuilders Association.
This first is the first cabin that arrived. This is a 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom log home. This home was donated by the San Antonio Homebuilders Association. It was first constructed in the Alamodome on October 28 and 29 for the Home Show there. After which it was promptly dismantled, put on a truck and delivered to Government Canyon in early November.
The prime donors for this residence is Olympus Log Homes, who donated the logs for this residence out of Washington State, Robare Construction out of San Antonio is the contractor that stepped up and did a large part or most of the construction of the home. Erecting the logs and helping to complete the roof and most of the interior spaces, and Foxworth-Galbraith of San Antonio, should be noted, was a great contributor to this project, donating decking material, interior wall framing, all the doors, all the windows to construct this residence.
Other donations that the Homebuilders Association, through Mr. Parker's efforts, we secured, was the entire concrete foundation for this house. The roofing, the cabinet work, all the plumbing fixtures. The HVAC system, and all the interior and exterior lighting. This particular slide is of the interior fireplace, the native stone fireplace that our force account crew in our Division built for this residence.
Pretty handsome. As soon as we get some more complete shots of this, we would be happy to share them with you. We expect to complete this residence by midsummer. And we hope we'll be able to move one of the managers of Government Canyon into it.
The second residence, again, thanks to Commissioner Parker's great effort here, was constructed and donated, as I mentioned, by the Corpus Christi Homebuilders Association. This home is a 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom residence that was constructed over four days, a four-day period in late February, at the Home and Garden Show in Corpus Christi.
At the close of that show, the house was lifted onto a truck and moved to the park on February 28. All the interior finishes, all the cabinets, as reflected in this slide were expertly done. We are really proud and pleased with the finished product of this house.
We are currently responding to a list of over 30 contributors, 30 major contributors who provided most of the material to make this project happen. Primary donors of this project, the building contractor was Elegant Homes out of Corpus Christi, and Zarsky Building Materials, out of that same city.
With that, I would like to just pause just a moment and ask Mark or Andra to cue up a little video that was produced by or taken by our Communications Division that documents the move of that home from Corpus Christi to Government Canyon.
(A videotape is played.)
MR. WHISTON: I think I am supposed to talk over this. I will try to narrate it a little bit. You can pick up some of the conversation in the background. This was, in fact, a big house. This house was over limits. This was 28 by 54 feet long.
We transported it about 200 miles, at times, cross-country, from downtown Corpus Christi to Government Canyon. It was actually too big to even to fit into our front gates. So we had to kind of bypass and take some fence down to get access to the site.
We are really pleased with the donation. This is the process of dismantling the house from its support beams that was used to transport it. This is the concrete grade beam that we poured. Once the house was backed in and over this concrete grade beam, we came in and set concrete block stem walls or foundation walls to support the house.
This home mover was incredible. You will pick up a little voice over in a minute. He backed this thing in one time and was off three-eighths of an inch in getting it placed correctly. So he is pretty impressive. Pretty impressive work.
Again, I would like to thank, because this is the conclusion of this. I would like to thank the Texas Association of Homebuilders who really stepped up to make this all possible. The San Antonio Homebuilders Association, the Corpus Christi Homebuilders Association, and Expo Limited.
This was the firm that was contracted and actually helped sponsor and produce these two home shows, and were in fact responsible for really obtaining most of the donations and securing, and making contacts with the donors to make this all possible. And certainly, last but not least, to Commissioner Parker for his hard work and help in making this happen.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, gentlemen. That place wouldn't be open if we didn't have those two houses. Good job.
MR. WHISTON: Next, San Jacinto Monument. I wanted to bring you up to date on our efforts there. If you recall, we were appropriated $2.1 million of emergency general revenue in the summer of '04 for the repair, the fire safety repair of the San Jacinto Monument. There had been really no substantial improvements to the interior of this space, to the interior of this structure since it was built in the late 1930's.
The scope of our project was to install new sprinkler systems, new fire alarm systems, and make safety upgrades to the elevators. And probably most important, to install fireproof or fire-rated walls that separated the first through fourth floors and the observation tower from the rest of the elevator shaft to fire harden or to protect those public access spaces. The majority of that work is nearly complete.
What remains is additional, or the additional work and completion of repairs to the elevator. We expect that work to be completed by mid- to late July of this summer, at which time we will be able to reopen the observation deck and be able to operate the elevator again for public use. And I know it is going to be very much welcomed.
Next the San Jacinto Visitor Center Project. Since we last met, I am happy to report to you that we have now successfully negotiated and executed our contract with TxDOT that will fund the construction of this new Visitor Center at the San Jacinto Battleground. I would like to point it out to you. This is a schematic design of the site plan for the San Jacinto Battleground, and the new Visitor Center is this structure that is placed right about in here.
And we think it is really appropriately sited, because it will remain on the axis between the Battleship and the San Jacinto Monument. This is the site of the proposed new Visitor Center at San Jacinto. This is a little over $5 million construction project.
It is funded out of a 3.4 million TxDOT ISTEA grant, money from park development bonds, old Connally bonds, and substantial contributions from the San Jacinto Museum Association and the Battleship Texas Foundation. This is going to be about an 8,700-square-foot facility with visitor services, lobby, exhibit space, administrative spaces, offices, public restrooms and a park store.
We have recently completed our solicitation of designers, qualified design firms for the design of this project. We have now reduced that list or brought that list to a short list of five qualified designers. Proposals from each of those firms are due to us by May 10. And we expect or intend to make a selection and start the design of this new Visitor Center in early June of this summer. So we are pleased with the direction this one is taking, finally.
Battleship Texas. Honestly a site that is growing more near and dear to my heart. We have quickly come to realize that Battleship Texas project is going to be, I think without any doubt, going to be the most complex and the most challenging project at least we have been involved in, in my career here at Parks and Wildlife.
In the last session, if you recall, the Legislature in Rider 8 of our appropriation bill authorized TxDOT to consider a $16.1 million grant from a new highway federal enhancement program of federal funds to pay for the repair and improvements of the Battleship Texas. These monies were authorized in lieu of the Prop 8 that we requested of the Legislature, the general obligation bonds.
Working side-by-side with Parks Division and as well, TxDOT and the Battleship Texas Foundation, we have almost completed our application for this $16.1 million. The goal of this project is still to construct a permanent dry berth on site that will ultimately take this ship out of water, and we believe a more appropriate, a more viable long-term preservation decision or solution for this ship. Our dilemma however, is trying to shoehorn what was originally about a 27- to $30 million project into a $16.1 million budget.
This slide illustrates what was originally the design solution that came out of the feasibility study that we engaged in with Orion Engineers a couple of summers ago. Based on this preliminary engineering plan that the Orion Engineering firm provided us, the original plan was to first deepen by dredging and widening the existing slip where the Battleship Texas now resides.
The Battleship Texas currently sits about in this same location. The current slip is about half of what is illustrated in this particular site plan. What was being proposed in this design solution is to widen and deepen the berth to enable us to shift and scoot the Battleship over, to make room within that berth, to construct this new cofferdam, this shoebox that would become a graving dock, which would become the dry berth for the ship.
The plan was then to complete three walls of the sheet pile cofferdam, pour the concrete foundation and footings, which I will describe to you in a little more detail in a minute. Float the ship back into the dry berth, and then construct or seal the shoebox, evacuate the water, and allow the ship to settle down on its cradle. The original plan that was proposed by the engineer.
Our difficulty is that we couldn't make the numbers work. We couldn't come up with a compromise, or a way to shrink that plan down into $16.1 million, which is all we have available at this point in time for the ship. Particularly because based on the estimates that came out of the engineering studies just to widen the berth and dredge that material out, to allow the ship to float over for that period of time necessary to construct the dry berth would have cost us in excess of $6 million. We didn't feel like we could support that or justify that.
So we put our heads together, and have come up with what we believe to be another viable strategy that we think will work and produce us in effect the same kind of ultimate goal in creating a dry berth for the ship. This particular plan has one downside. It will require the ship to be removed and towed from its existing berth at the monument site.
Our plan or proposal is to tow the ship. First to secure the ship. Take whatever necessary artifacts and make whatever, take whatever steps are necessary to protect and ensure the safety of what remains on the ship. Pull the ship out. And temporarily moor it somewhere in the Houston Ship Channel.
We are hoping to secure a port site in the nearby ship channel to park the ship for about a 12-month period. It will remain for that period out of service. It will be protected with a new security system, mothballed if you will. And held out of service while we have an opportunity to go back into the slip and make the necessary repairs.
Having done that, our plan is to, our proposal that we are going to pitch to TxDOT is then to take advantage of the existing sheet piling cofferdam that now exists around the ship, and create a new cofferdam, a new cradling site for this ship, and tie it into the existing sheet piling that is there. One of the nice advantages we feel of this particular solution is we will be installing sloped concrete aprons from this existing sheet piling down to the concrete floor of this dry berth foundation where the ship will sit.
This, we think, is going to provide some really nice interpretive opportunities, and some nice, from the perspective of visitors, and a lot better view, and appreciation of the ship, instead of looking down and over into a shoebox. It will give them some distance. And really to illustrate that, a really nice drawing to share with you, a cross-section of what this will look like.
Again, this is the existing sheet piling, this and this area over here. This is the wall of new sheet piling, the cofferdam that will be constructed. This is the sloped concrete apron. We will be available, or have an opportunity to develop and create some opportunities for visitation and viewing of the ship, not only from this perspective, as well down underneath and get views of all sides and angles of the hull.
Interesting as we got into the mechanics and engineering of this, just to give you some perspective of the magnitude and the scale of which we are trying to accommodate here, the concrete foundation necessary to support this ship is going to be a four- to five-foot-deep concrete slab, that are going to be supported by 18-inch square concrete pilings, driven 75 feet in the ground in a ten-foot grid for the length and the breadth of the ship. That is what is going to be necessary in terms of the engineering to support this ship on the cradle, to support it out of water.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Steve, if I remember, last time we visited about this, one of your problems is, your hull is not in good shape now. So how do you take this ship that is not shipshape and move it out into the Houston Ship Channel down somewhere, and do that all safely and without this — I remember Ned Holmes thinking, I can see this thing sinking in the middle of the ship channel.
MR. WHISTON: Excellent question, and I apologize for leaving or not mentioning, the very first step that we are going to take, once the monies are made available to us, the first set of engineering studies that we are going to have to be required to make is taking these revenues and doing a very extensive engineering appraisal.
We are going to be ultrasounding and reevaluating the structural integrity of the ship. We believe, based on the condition of this ship and our experience, both within my Division and onsite in Parks Division. We believe the ship is towable at this point. We would not venture or recommend taking it into open water. We would not recommend or support the idea of taking it a long distance.
But we think the ship, though it does continue to spring some leaks from time to time which are problems, we think it is, with the proper engineering studies and the proper fixes, we think it is towable to a nearby location. But all that will have to be vetted. All that will have to be proved out by an initial engineering study to make sure that it is capable of doing that.
MR. COOK: And there is a possibility, Commissioner Holt, that it may have to have you are hearing from the room, the battleship —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Right.
MR. COOK: It may have to have some internal support, some beams.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, inside.
MR. COOK: To shore up the strength. That is all part of this study.
MR. WHISTON: That is the first step.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We'll let Ned be in charge of it.
(All talking at once.)
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: The Houston Commissioners are going to be responsible.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Exactly.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I think [inaudible] ought to be in charge. Couldn't we vote you in?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, I think Ned. Don't you?
MR. WHISTON: But I think once completed, this is going to be quite an impressive and very worthwhile project. Provide opportunities for the public to really see the ship in a totally different way. And in the long run, ensure its longtime preservation. And so we won't be facing this cyclical kind of repair in the future. All we will be facing is, the occasional need to paint and patch, we hope.
MR. COOK: Steve, back up one please.
MR. WHISTON: Sure.
MR. COOK: — explain why not just use the cofferdam that it is there. What is the purpose of having that water on the side, there? There are several that have already thought of that.
MR. WHISTON: Good question. Much of the upper deck repairs that we are going to continue to have to accomplish to repair the gunneries or to repair the towers, and I am not going to be able to. I am not an expert either, to identify the parts and pieces that are going to require shipboard or barge pointed cranes.
Those kinds of equipment to be able to allow us to access the upper reaches of this ship are more readily available on a barge. So we have some advantage of having an adjacent body of water so we can move those pieces of equipment in to be able to access repairs.
Also interpretively, we feel like there is some advantage, too. That from the perspective of the other side of this ship it will give the visitor some sense of what that ship looks like underwater. You know, from a distance, you can see the water, and you can see the ship beyond it, still at its height.
MR. COOK: I had the exact same question, and Commissioner Ramos was asking about it. To get a crane, to get a facility, to get the equipment in there that would be needed to work from one side of that thing to the other, to the top of it, there is no way to do it by land.
MR. WHISTON: Correct.
MR. COOK: You can't get it there. But with that water there, we can bring it in on a barge, which again, that equipment is available in the Houston Ship Channel. And it can slide right in there beside it and do that work from that water on the right-hand side of this.
MR. WHISTON: Correct. Next, again I won't repeat, you have seen this schedule. Just as a reminder, the project milestones for getting this done. It is an extended lengthy process through TxDOT.
Our application for the $16 million funding is due April 28, and we have sent as of today the first preliminary draft of that application to TxDOT for their review. We expect to get approval, notification that this project has been accepted and approved by TxDOT sometime early fall, September this year, 2006. We'll then engage in executing a contract, or an advanced funding agreement with TxDOT which will take us until about March of 2007 to work through the negotiations and legalities of executing that contract.
Hope to start design in October of '07. And again, as you look through, we are not looking at a completion date of this project at this point in time until sometime midsummer 2011. So there is still time a time off, and a lot of work to do between now and then to make this happen. Any other questions about the Battleship before I move on?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, Steve.
MR. WHISTON: Sure.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Is there any federal funds or products available for a project like this? I mean presumably, there are other old battleships and historic military artifacts around the country?
MR. WHISTON: Other than what might be appropriated, Mr. Chairman, through federal Department of Defense, federal Department of Transportation, we are unaware of any kind of funding, federal funding sources. We are still looking for those.
And Barry Ward is doing, you know, the ship manager is doing an incredible job. And he is probably the most familiar, and our strongest support in getting that done. We are fortunately, we understand, though we have not seen documentation yet, but it has been reported that this project has received a $1.5 million federal appropriation that was issued to the Battleship Texas Foundation for the start-up costs of this project that came out of this last appropriation year, out of the Department of Defense.
I think it will be incumbent upon us to continue to seek other federal support because we had certainly recognized this site as of federal or national importance, historical importance, as it is state. And so we feel like it is important that they do their share. So we are going to continue to pursue that.
Otherwise, moving on. I have got two or three other projects just to briefly bring you up to speed on. This is our new proposed Visitor Center at Caprock Canyons. Very much welcomed project.
These are, in fact, photographs of a model that we recently constructed to illustrate what this building is going to look like on the ground. So we kind of dropped it over some photographs, so it is not really at the actual site. You are really not going to see trees behind it, because this is going to be sited you know, at the canyon, and it will be perched at that canyon and have great vistas of the open canyon there at Caprock.
The design is intended for this structure to try to lend itself to the natural surroundings. We have chosen some split-faced concrete block in pigmented colors, to try to blend this building into its natural environment out there, and to make it become more a part of its surroundings.
Spaces for this new facility are going to include new headquarters building, which is this structure here. A new 24-hour public restroom. This is going to be a new open air pavilion for meeting space or classroom space at the Visitor Center. Parking lot for this new facility is going to be constructed out of our TxDOT MOA program.
This project is in its final stages of design now. We expect to start construction this summer, in July 2006. And we anticipate being substantially complete with the construction of this building in November or sometime this fall, 2006. And we will be pleased to have it available.
Next is the Gus Engeling Education Center. We are also pleased to report that we are making great progress with the construction of this new education center at Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area in Palestine. This is a $526,000 project. We started construction of this Education Center in February of this year. And we expect to be finished this summer, some time midsummer.
This building is going to be about a 2,800-square-foot facility. That will include about a 1,500-square-foot classroom or conference room space. New restroom, public restrooms and lobbies with exhibit halls and vending space. This is a great example we feel of the effort of Parks and Wildlife to continue to provide more outdoor educational opportunities for school children. And this is the point and the object and the goal for this project.
The credit for this project, I think it needs to be stated — it needs to go to Nathan Garner, the Wildlife Regional Director and Hayden Hauke, the Gus Engeling site manager. Those two guys are probably the most determined managers I have ever encountered in this Agency.
This project has been met with many obstacles from funding to approvals along the way, and has been in the works for a long time. But those guys stuck with it. I have never seen anybody more determined to make a project happen. They never flinched. And to their credit, it is finally getting constructed, and I know they are going to take great advantage of it.
Last but not least is the new Fisheries Conservation Center at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. This project is being managed primarily by Inland Fisheries Division. And to Phil Durocher, and Gary Saul, and their staff's credit, this is going to be a tremendous asset, in our opinion, to the Fisheries Center, and to the entire community out there. This is a $2 million project that has been privately funded, and will be constructed by CenTex Builders.
This new facility will provide opportunities for conferences, conservation education, and a new Texas Game Warden Museum. Spaces inside this building are going to include classroom and meeting space, offices, library, public restrooms, and a catering kitchen. As best as I can probably help translate, this new Game Warden Museum is this portion of this wing of the facility.
This is the conference center here, with classroom space. This is the public restrooms. This is the catering kitchen that is going to be constructed. Obviously, new parking lot. It is sited in a great place. Those ponds currently exist. Again, they are going to be a great asset to the facility.
Thanks to everybody's hard work and Inland Fisheries' hard work, this project is anticipated to get under construction by the end of this month. And we anticipate completion of this new facility by December 2006, the close of this calendar year. With that, I conclude my presentation and be available to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: You said this project was privately funded?
MR. WHISTON: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Who did the fund-raising?
MR. DUROCHER: I am Phil Durocher, for the record. We had a friend-to-friends group in Athens. We got together under the leadership of Mr. Dick Hart. We put together a group.
And then we had fundraisers in Dallas, several fundraisers. But the big hit we made was Johnny Morris, the father of Bass Pro, gave us a matching grant of $650,000 to get the project going.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Handwritten on a napkin.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I was there, the night we got the bank written. And that — he is pretty amazing.
MR. DUROCHER: Yes. We were brought along with about 400,000 in the bank. And we knew we needed 2 million. And he just came to us one night and says, if you all can get it raised by next year, I will match up to 650,000.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Did you save the napkin so we can auction that off?
MR. DUROCHER: It is in a safe deposit box.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It is?
MR. DUROCHER: We have already got the check, though. And I think we all want a photo by it.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Can you hang it and frame it here?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It is going to be in the center.
MR. WHISTON: We are very much pleased with all of these projects. And I hope it goes without saying, I am particularly pleased and grateful to the hard work of my staff. I am impressed every day with their ability to juggle as many projects as they take on, and seeing these projects accomplished is a good feeling for all of us.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is there any other business to come before this Committee? Thank you for your presentation.
MR. WHISTON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I don't believe any action is required by the Commission at this point. I'll pass the gavel.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Thank you very much, John. And thanks again for your leadership on the Government Canyon housing, because that was what was keeping us from opening up there, and that made all the difference. That is why it wasn't open. Next up is Finance Committee.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Ad Hoc Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: April 5, 2006
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 32, 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.