Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee Meeting

March 31, 2010

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 31st day of March 2010, 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:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:

P R O C E E D I N G S

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes, sir. Thank you. First, do I have a motion to approve the minutes of the previous meeting which have already been distributed?

COMMISSIONER FALCON: So moved.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. First and second. Any opposed?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. The minutes have been approved.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Does he know what you are going to do?

MR. SMITH: Yes. He does.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Committee Item 4 are Construction Issues Regarding the Parker Fish Hatchery which are to be discussed in Executive Session.

So pursuant to Chapter 551 of the Government Code, also known as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act, and seeking legal advice from General Counsel under 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act. We will now recess for that Executive Session.

(Whereupon, at 12:27, the Commission recessed into Executive Session.)

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: At this time, we will reconvene the regular session of the Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee. And I do want to report that there is no further action required on Item 4, the construction issue regarding Parker Fish Hatchery, as to which we received legal advice.

I do want to say that, for the record, I misspoke when I stated we were going into Executive Session to deliberate real estate matters. That was a misstatement on my part. We did not deliberate real estate matters.

Okay. At this time, I would like to call on Walt Dabney, on Item 3, Repairs at Galveston Island State Park.

MR. DABNEY: Chairman, Commissioners, Walt Dabney, State Parks Director. Great to be with you this afternoon and present a little story here for you.

I am going to do a short introduction, and then I am going to turn it over to our friend Don Ware here of the Friends of Galveston Island State Park. And Justin Rhodes, our Region 4 Director, who is here to tell us a really great story.

Back in September of 2008, as you know, Hurricane Ike really ripped into Texas and as you have seen and know, really devastated two of our parks, and injured several others. Sea Rim and Galveston Island were destroyed pretty entirely. In talking to Justin and some of the staff down there, we are taking a park that was generating us a million dollars a year in revenue, which is a huge hit, and it is instantly out of the revenue generation business.

And in talking to Justin and Tom Linton, who you will meet in a little bit as well, I think, and Don, we were talking about four or five years before we would have Galveston Island back on line. And their reaction was, that would be totally unacceptable for us as a Friends group, and the people of Galveston and for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

And so the story that Don and Justin are going to tell you is truly a partnership that when people decide they are going to do something and not just ‑‑ play the cards they are dealt and not whine about it, you can do big time stuff. And so with that, I would like to introduce Don Ware of the Friends of Galveston Island, and have Justin come up here and take my place. Because they have got a great story to tell you this afternoon.

Thank you. And thanks for moving this up. They have got a long trip back.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure. No. Glad to.

MR. RHODES: Thanks for having us today. I am Justin Rhodes, State Parks Division Region 4 Director. And I will let Don take it from here.

MR. WARE: Well, thank you folks. I appreciate you letting us have a few minutes of your time today. And I promise that we will make it relatively easy for you, at least pleasant. We don't have to have any hard decisions too much here. I want to talk to you a lot about Galveston Island State Park, a little bit about the Friends group that supports the park, and really mostly what you won't see much of in the presentation.

My point here today is to tell you also about some of your employees, some very special people that help make all of this happen, and they are Parks and Wildlife people. This event that occurred in Texas, as you look at ‑‑ I guess your screens have what I am seeing up here.

We are going to talk about Galveston Island State Park, a little bit about the Hurricane Ike recovery. A little bit about the Friends group.

The Friends group is an all volunteer organization. It is a dues-paying organization. We are a corporation that has a contract effectively with Parks and Wildlife to support the park and enhance the public's experience at the park.

In that, we will move on and talk a little bit more about the park itself. Galveston Island State Park is quite a unique location for a park. And it is a unique park, in that it is totally on Galveston Island, the northernmost of our barrier islands. But more importantly, the park is located within about an hour's drive of something like 5 million people, from the most densely populated region in the State of Texas, all of the Greater Houston area.

The park is also very important to the Island in other ways. Galveston Island State Park has traditionally been about the third busiest park in visitors, in revenue, as Walt, I think one of them said. The park generally produces something in excess of a million a year in revenue. We will have up in the quarter million, 300,000 visitors.

Those people and that income helps support some of the smaller, lesser parks. I mean, there is a lot of profit for the state in that. But even more importantly, it is also very important to the Island.

A study by a Dr. Crompton from Texas A & M back in 2004 showed that Galveston Island State Park was generating about $6 million a year to the Galveston area economy. It was producing 110 jobs in the area. It produced over $30,000 in just sales tax revenue.

So the park from many standpoints is an important part of the community. And if you look at the park, the park is unique in also in that it totally straddles the Island. It runs from the Gulf of Mexico in the southeast over to West Bay on the north. You can see a highway cutting through the park. That is FM 3005. It divides the park.

And as we talk today, we always kind of treat the park as two halves. We have what we call the bay side is north of 3005, the Gulf side or the beach side is south of 3005. The park consists of about 2,000 acres total, up coming in from West Bay. You will see that there is a lot of coves and bayous.

It is a very natural estuary for our marine wildlife. And there is a little bit of camping way up in the northeast corner up there. There is a two camping rings. We will talk a little bit more about that later.

There is a small little place down in the middle; not much a picture of here. That is called the nature center. It was originally the first headquarters when the park was first opened. South of 3005, towards the beach, you will see that was the revenue generator. That is what people came to see. We have about a little over a mile and a quarter of uninterrupted sandy beach down there.

To the left of your screen, there is three outstanding areas. Each of those were large camping loops. Those loops each had 50 campsites with full electric water, hookups. Each had a full bathroom facility with hot and cold showers, indoor showers for men and women, and then outdoor showers as people came up from the beach.

Further, moving over almost to the right side of the picture, there is another light-colored area here. That was where the headquarters is. Either side of that was day use areas, again with covered screen, covered sun shade shelters, each shelter with a picnic table, and with charcoal cookers and so forth.

So the park, as you came into Galveston Island State Park, we had our traditional trapezoid with the big hole in it. And that is carried through. There is the headquarters building. As the guests came to the park and saw the headquarters ‑‑ and I am going to go through this fairly quickly, because it is history.

And, it is ‑‑ I think probably many of you know about it. It is also a rather informal presentation, if someone has a question, and wants to stop me for some reason, please go ahead. I won't lose my place very well.

The headquarters building had a lot of wide open areas for family things. These are the day use shelters, not screen, sun shelters with their picnic table walkovers to the beach. They were located in large grassy areas where family groups could come in of all different sizes. A good place for old friends to sit and swap some stories. Further on down where those camping loops were that you saw, was are the areas for the campers ‑‑ those would accommodate each of those 50 sites would accommodate up to the largest motor homes, fifth wheels, travel trailers, popups, tenters. A very, very popular area.

As we moved over to the bay side now, the north side of the park, we had some screened in shelters for campers, and then a little further on down, we had ‑‑ well, each of those screened in shelter areas, again had a bathroom, had a facility with restroom, showers and so forth for those people.

At that point, we had our most unwelcome visitor to the Island. So on September 13, Hurricane Ike came screaming ashore, and obviously did a tremendous amount of damage to the Island. If you will look at that, you will see that was the beach picture. That was the picture looking at that area of the park, the morning after.

We lost about 75 yards, 225 feet of beach were gone, the dunes were gone, all of the sand was moved back. This entire area of the park that you can see there was under, anywhere from three to six feet of water. Rough, wind-driven waves, water, beating it up.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Did it wash all the way across?

MR. WARE: All the way across.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I thought it had, yes.

MR. WARE: In fact, if you see that little ‑‑ that sub, that area with houses next to it, right about in the middle where that channel ends, there is a house of mine. The high water mark at my house was 76 inches on the one remaining wall standing downstairs. And all that was ‑‑ that whole thing was under a lot of water.

And it was very rough, because a lot of it came in from the west bay, and the back side of the wind in it, seemed to wind up fighting itself. After the storm, this is that headquarters that you saw. You can see the original film down in the corner. This was the site that broke some of the walls down.

And the most devastating thing, this is looking at the back of the headquarters, or from the beach. It is technically the front, I guess. It literally tore it apart. It took off; that is the inside, the offices were to the right, excuse me. The office was to the left, the meeting rooms to the right, and so forth. It literally destroyed it.

This is the shelters that you saw. Those day use areas, as you go along. I say the beach moved up. It moved up far enough to overtake a good number of those that were the closest down to the shore.

And in the camping areas where the utilities were, you can see the damage was done there. These are the bathrooms and the shelters. These were modular bathroom units that have been brought in, only about a year and a half before the storm.

They came in as three-piece modules. They were set on concrete slabs. I mean, it was a well done job. It was undermined so badly that you can see, they came apart. That area I showed you mentioned the Nature Center. This was an area primarily handled by the Friends group. We staffed it, and kept our displays in there. And it was used a great deal for the school kids. There was a lot of young people's activities went on and came in there, to the Nature Center.

That happened to be the utility room there, at the Nature Center. Some more of the displays and what. And you will notice, way off on the right, you can just barely see a couple of doors that go into some offices. I will tell you a little more about that in a bit.

This, way down on the back, on the bay side was the fish-cleaning area. That was in a house, before it started, or in a building. This is that bathroom area you saw where the shelters were. That is the kind of damage it did to buildings.

In fact, that Nature Center building that we talked about is the only building in the park that wound up standing afterwards. We had no structural damage to the Nature Center, but this is ‑‑ you could see the cement blocks and how all of this stuff was just totally knocked down.

The end result of this was that the park obviously, by Texas Parks and Wildlife had to be closed. And they announced, as was mentioned, that closure would be a minimum of three years, more likely four to five, maybe as much as seven.

Other things happened at the time. With the park closed, our efficient staff for the park, we had a good staff of the Director and so forth, those people were all dispersed out through other parks and assigned away from the park. We obviously ‑‑ there was nothing there for them.

The only thing that ‑‑ the only staff that they left at the park were two of the peace officers, certified peace officers. By name, they were Hans Haglund and Jeff Winchester. They became the two remaining people there at the park.

I will also say while we are looking at that sign, that sign was very temporary, and they in a short while put up a little nicer sign. It was more aesthetically pleasant. Unfortunately, it said the same thing. The park was still closed, and would be closed for quite a while.

Also about this time, and this was within about three weeks or so after the storm. This was all fairly close in. We in the Friends group got together. And although we had our own problems with our own places, this idea of that park being closed for that length of time was just ‑‑ just didn't make sense. We didn't see that that had to be.

Obviously, the devastation you saw earlier on the beach side, we couldn't do a thing about. But the north side, that was doable. So we got together, and we decided, well, maybe there is a way we can get part of this park open, just so there is something going on here. And it just happened, our President at that time, a very neat lady, Shirley Foster and her Treasurer were at the park, assessing our stuff at the Nature Center when Justin and Carter happened to come to the park. Mr. Smith; I guess I shouldn't just say Carter.

MR. SMITH: Call me whatever you want.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

MR. WARE: They came to the park. And our folks broached the subject with them of, well, what about if we just wanted to reopen and work on this north side of the park. To their credit, without any haggling or any hanging around, they said that is a great idea.

But you know, they kind of did the bureaucrat thing. Why don't you write up something, tell us what you are going to do. And I rather quickly wrote up what we called a Galveston Park Recovery Plan. It entailed, I don't know, about three or four pages in it.

Pretty much detailed what we thought needed to be done and how we could do it and when we would do it. And for the Reader's Digest version for you folks, it basically said we had to clean all of the debris out of the areas of the north park where the public would go, for their safety. And we had to restore what was the Nature Center.

We were going to rename it the Welcome Center, and it would become the new park headquarters. And we would open the park. We would staff the Nature Center or the Welcome Center as it was going to be called. We found we couldn't live with that name. We turned it back to the Nature Center because none of us could remember which name it was supposed to be.

And we would staff that on weekends from 9:00 to 5:00. The park would open at dawn, at dawn on sunrise on the weekend and be closed at sunset, which Hans and Jeff were going to take care of for us. So that began the process of restoring this park.

And bless their hearts, the first thing that happened, this outfit called Galveston Bay Foundation, they had an event that went on every fall. It was Bike Around the Bay. It was really a big deal. Well, in fall of 2008, nobody was biking around anything on the Island.

And instead of just canceling it, they working with us said, well, what if we ‑‑ we will come and we will clean up the park. Okay. So that is why it will say Clean Around the Bay. They just changed their name from Bike Around to Clean Around.

But ladies and gentlemen, notice, on October 18, the 19th, five weeks after the storm, they showed up with 200 people came to the park that weekend. And they began hauling debris out of the fields and wherever it was. And that started a flood of volunteers and people coming in. This was a little later on.

And by this time, in fact, early in November, now we only had the two rangers still. And we had all of these people coming. And remember, those rangers when we had Hans and Jeff there, their job was to keep people out of the park. That is what they were told to do.

Well, and we dumped a couple of hundred on them, and said here you go. You guys kind of make sure they are safe and watch out for them here in the park. Shortly, about the first of November, they brought another, a third ranger back; Karen Montgomery. And that became our staff for a good long, for the next, really, nine months.

But pretty soon, those buses, St. Agnes school, that was a school southwest of Houston, that was an all girls school ‑‑ there were all teenage girls. I don't know how many girls exactly were on those buses they came in.

And those kids went out and hauled stuff out of those fields like you would not believe. But the job came, and I think this will go back one. That ranger standing there, by the way, that is Hans Haglund; he is one of the fellows that is here. The job that these guys picked up was to also look out for the park, in the Parks and Wildlife interest, as we had all of these people in the park.

So and they did a remarkable job. And you can see there, some of them walked down the roads. The debris that was in the fields, theirs was a scoot ‑‑ unfortunately, we didn't have a ‑‑ they carried that out of the fields. That wasn't a tractor. They carried them out.

We had internet from the rest of the country. Doane College. Doane College in Nebraska took their spring break and sent kids down here. And they spent, they were there, I think, almost two weeks if I remember correctly.

And here is some of the young people and the cleanup that was going on. There is a girl on crutches out there. And the stuff they were hauling out of the park.

Now here, we are looking at, this is what was hauled out of the Nature Center, all of the debris that we had. And as this was going on, we and the Friends group were able to undertake more of the redoing of that building. We had all of the sheetrock, the typical, taking that out. We only had three feet of water in the Nature Center. And so we had the sheetrock cut away. We did the bleaching. Ultimately, we redid all ‑‑ we put the sheetrock back up.

But that, I mention there is a couple of doors. We took those two doors out. We removed a wall there. And we opened what was two offices up into one larger meeting room. Remember, this was the only standing building left in the park. And so we now had a meeting room.

We actually wound up with a big TV on one end. And we kind of loosely call it the media room now. But these are some of the people doing the work, cleaning that place up. And we were getting ready. Now, over about February sometime, as we were marching on towards our goal of getting this north side open, the cleanup on the beach side started.

So we are kind of going to move across the road now. And you can see the infrastructure of the beach side that was being pulled out. All of the pipes and the wires and the buildings and the concrete, a gigantic mess.

Now this was undertaken, and this was done primarily again, almost an interagency deal. TxDOT was largely responsible for a lot of this cleanup, and did this work on the beach. And my understanding is, and I am not into the financial end of a lot of this. I think FEMA is supposed to be paying for it. I think I have also heard that they probably haven't yet. But that is probably not a shock. So ‑‑ but what they found, is they started doing that, the original plan was, we are going to clean this side. Everything on this, south of the road, we are going to take out of there.

But they found, there was quite a row of those sun shelters. And I have to stop at that one every now and then. Because my wife and I have dubbed those for many years, we always called them Flintstone huts. And so every time I get to that word, I want to just call them Flintstone huts. But they found a bunch of them there. And they said, well, you know, that could be salvaged. And I think what happened is, Justin saw what we were doing on the north side of the park. And so you know, the public wants this. They are here, they are working. They are helping. Maybe we shouldn't tear all of that stuff out of there. So they left though. They found 36 that they could save out of what was 210 if you count the day use areas. But we say there was 36. That was also two of the bathrooms weren't destroyed. They looked like they could be salvaged also.

This process was going on over there. They came in and they removed all of the debris. Then they picked up all of the sand. They began sifting all of the sand. The sand was all sorted out, cleaned, and put back. And they also piled it, and they rebuilt dunes. You can just kind of see the shape of the dunes there. The dunes were rebuilt. Then a little later on, it came along.

And here you have got some of our people. I think that is Karen, that top slide. And then the Parks and Wildlife people salvage some of the dune grasses, the beach grasses. I believe a lot of that, some of that came, most of it, out of Sea Rim. Andy Sipocz, the resource manager, and Walt Bailey brought a lot of that stuff back. We had volunteers came in, and we planted all of that. The dunes are growing. You will see there is a sand fence along between the beach and the dunes. Now again was a lot of Parks and Wildlife effort. In fact, Justin ran the auger, dig a lot of the holes for those posts when we were first putting those things in, and doing that job. And they moved in a portable building that was going to become the headquarters for the beach side. They built platforms around it, and so on. I am going to move through here quickly.

Now we are in March, March of 2009. This is the bay side. That is the Nature Center I talked about. The flags were raised. We had our opening ceremony. We reopened the park March 21, 2009, six months and one week after Hurricane Ike.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Fantastic.

MR. WARE: And here you will see Scott. I think I saw him come in; Scott Boruff. He is somewhere. He is here, Justin is here. Tom is the guy in the blue hat down the line. Shirley Foster was our President at that time. And so there was a good group.

We had probably about 100 folks there that day. We had refreshments and all. The Nature Center was open. We had rebuilt the displays and the sand tables and so forth. And Justin gave us some words of wisdom.

We also, project we had been on, before Ike, we had the foundations only poured for a demonstration-type renewable energy system we wanted to put in, we had had a grant for. And with the storm and all of the problems, well, we probably ought to just back off on that thing.

But Justin was encouraging. We said, well, he said, no, go ahead, finish it. It is a good attraction for the park. And it will help support the electricity for the Nature Center. So we did, went ahead and got that finished. I think we opened that, actually turned that thing on in June. It says, I think the picture was taken in June.

We turned it on in May. But we got that thing running. And it has been an interesting lesson for us. We find out a lot about renewable energy. When you look at the investment and the return, it raises some questions as to how valuable that really is.

But as the year went on, one of the functions we always held at the park in the summer was what is called Camp Wild. It is for the Galveston Island grammar school kids. And it is a weeklong program that we run. And it is a lot of outdoor activities, kayaking, fishing, arts and crafts, some beach studies and so forth.

And June of 2009, about eight months after the storm, we had Camp Wild there at the park. We had 65 inner-city school kids out there, and about 40 volunteers taking care of them every day. And it was a very successful camp.

In January, we hosted a fun run at the park, a Five K fun run, using the parks trails. By that time now, the beach side was open; they had ‑‑ the office was in. The campsites were there. The day use area didn't have the shade, the shelters with the shade anymore. But we had a good-sized area for them. A lot of use by people.

The dunes are back. Excuse me. And the camping areas are, even in the colder months, were very well used. We had a lot of attention. Here is a very interesting group. This was in February. I went over there one day in February. And it was about 50 degrees and kind of chilly and damp. And here is this bus from Minnesota. And all of these guys sitting around with their shorts. It was a rugby team down here for some match. I think they were playing U of H or somebody. And they won their match, and they moved on to Dallas, I think, afterwards. But they had a ball at that park and used our facilities. Thank you.

As I say, the Nature Center now is open. We have got all of our display. Everything is back. That room now has our aquariums in it. Our most colorful visitors, the roseate spoonbills are there. The fishing and kayaking is going. The kayak trails are open. So the park to a large extent is working.

But what we really wanted to talk to you about today is this. We had, if you will excuse me just for a moment. We had dozens and dozens of organizations, scout groups, churches, schools, all kinds of people as you saw, volunteers. Probably thousands of volunteers came in. We had the Friends groups, the Master Naturalists.

We all did a lot of things to bring this park back. But ladies and gentlemen, all of us, all of the thousand people, the dozens and dozens of organizations couldn't have put Humpty Dumpty back together again without just a few little handful of staff at Galveston Island State Park.

The burdens that fell upon, particularly, Hans about in the middle, Jeff over on the right side, and Karen just to the left of Hans on your screens, those were the three rangers. And realize, those people, they live there on the Island too. They had their problems. In fact, Karen lost her house. And yet they were there every day putting this park back together, or helping us.

And their roles became what ‑‑ you couldn't write in a job description what those folks were asked to do in those few months. And it really was incredible. And praising just those three does not take away from what the management of Justin and his maintenance manager, Jimmy Watson, and his maintenance magicians that came out there and did all of the things that they did.

But those people, they didn't live there, and they were out there doing their jobs. These three in particular were so special that we in the Friends group wanted you people on the Commission and their superiors, their Directors here in Austin, to know what really special people you had out there in the field at that park.

And we appreciate the friendship, the cooperation, the unbelievable efforts that those folks have made for us. So with that, we say thank you to them. And thank you very much for your time and your attention.

Justin, do you want to do your slide, or whatever. Or do you want to do some, this other thing?

We do have a little presentation I would like to make to those, if we can. Can I have you three come? And we want to at some point get your picture with Carter and them. But we have had a little plaque made for you, to show you our appreciation. We really ‑‑

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.

(Whereupon, photos were taken.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful. Congratulations.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you for your help. Tell all of the Friends, thank you. Absolutely.

MR. RHODES: I want to take up just another minute of your time to give you a quick update of where we stand in the overall recovery effort. As you guys know, in June of 2009, we were appropriated funds and approved by the Commission to begin the master plan and design process of the park, where to initiate that, we sent out a Request for Qualifications.

And we are in the final stages of that process to bring on a design firm. And hopefully, that will be in place within the next few weeks. And moving forward from there, we hope to have a plan in place by February or March of 2011.

And with that plan in hand, go back to the next legislative session and request appropriations for the actual construction. Assuming that is approved, we could begin construction as soon as the summer of 2011, and extend the project out until completion.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Do we have money for this?

MR. SMITH: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It went through. How did we get the okay?

MR. SMITH: We have got the money for the design.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, for the design.

MR. SMITH: Yes. So once we finish the design, then we will go back with an estimate to the Legislature this session.

MR. RHODES: Exactly. Thank you, Carter.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: One question. Were you ‑‑ were the utilities that serve this area above or below ground before Ike?

MR. RHODES: We had overhead mains coming in. But all of the utilities running through the camping loop and to the headquarters were underground.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So was that all ‑‑

MR. RHODES: Yes, sir. They were all taken out of the ground by the surge, and the erosion.

One thing that Don mentioned earlier, and I will stress, Galveston Island is one of the most popular parks in the state. Revenue-wise, I believe it was sitting at about number 3. And we took a heavy blow there.

But we are, I am happy to say right now, in our interim operation, with a limited staff, we are projecting right at a half a million dollars in revenue this year, with the park back on line. So it is an accomplishment for the staff, and a lot of hard work, bringing the park back from where it was to where it is now.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Are you continuing to be able to do some things to keep improving?

MR. RHODES: Yes, sir. We have a few more plans on the books for this interim phase. We are looking at one, equestrian use, to reach out to another user group. And then what we consider our off season, that would be November through February. And we are also looking at putting in some shelters with amenities.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

MR. RHODES: See, again looking at it, we are still a few years out before we can implement the new plan.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, I am not talking about the new plan. I mean, kind of ‑‑ how to ask it the right way. You have gotten it to a certain point. Can you continue tweaking it? Let's use that term, ongoing. And then daily ‑‑

MR. RHODES: Yes. There is still several opportunities there to make improvements with limited funding.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. That is what I meant. Not the full plan.

MR. RHODES: Yes, sir. And again, the equestrian use, and the shelters with amenities. Those are in the works right now.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good, wonderful. Okay. Well, congratulations to all of you. And the Friends, too. Obviously without the volunteers, you would still be sitting there in a pile of rubbish probably.

MR. RHODES: Yes. I think it is a great example of how a government agency can work with privates and non-partner groups and have a really successful story.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right.

MR. RHODES: A really successful result.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations. And thank you. And thank you to all of your Friends.

MR. WARE: Thank you, guys. Thanks for your time.

MR. RHODES: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It is impressive. Okay, let's go back to Committee Item 1, Update on the Progress in Implementing the Land and Water Resource Plan. Mr. Smith.

MR. SMITH: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We have got one action item that I want to report on, vis-a-vis the implementation of the Land and Water Plan. And then just two quick items of interest.

And I want to talk about one, within the context of the plan there was an effort to highlight the importance of making sure we were doing all we could, not only with our natural environment, on exemplifying conservation, but also the built environment. And so we had set out a goal of having at least 15 sites around our system integrate new solar arrays to help capture that energy technology, and to put into place there on site. I am very pleased with the work. Particularly, of Andy Chamberlain and our infrastructure team that was able to go out and secure almost a $4 million grant from the state Energy Conservation Office, that will allow us to put photovoltaic solar panels at 14 sites in the next couple of years. And 12 of those, I think are state parks. I think we have got two fisheries sites that are going to have that. So we should be able to meet that goal that we are trying to accomplish by December of 2011. So good news on that grant recently. And we really appreciate Andy's leadership in that regard.

Two quick things. When you all were at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area in the fall, and I see Donnie Frels is out there, our team leader there. The Lee and Ramona Bass Conference Center was nearing completion. It is now officially done.

It just looks extraordinary. Donnie and his team working with infrastructure, I think just came up with a really extraordinary facility that the Basses made possible for us. We will have a formal dedication event this summer.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: The Kerr.

MR. SMITH: Yes. The Kerr.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: They were building on it, remember.

MR. SMITH: Yes. And it is really just top notch. And I think that is going to be a great focal area for partners and landowners and others to come. And we are really proud of that. And I know Donnie and his team are just ecstatic to have that onsite.

Also, just a quick reminder, speaking of new centers and new facilities, May 12 is our formal dedication of the new Game Warden Training Center in Hamilton. And so I hope that all of you can make it there to see that site as well. Again, it just really transformed that landscape, for those of you that have a chance to visit the site early on. And we are excited for you to be able to see it.

It really looks good. And you will also get to see another class. It is the second class of cadets who are going through the Academy right now that will graduate from that facility. In this case, they have a chance to use the new facilities on site. So with that, Mr. Chairman, that concludes my report.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you. Okay. Committee Item 2, Update of the Capital Program. Rich McMonagle.

MR. MCMONAGLE: Good afternoon, Chairman Duggins, Chairman Holt, Commissioners. My name is Rich McMonagle, and I am the Director of the Infrastructure Division. This afternoon, I am going to talk about our Capital Construction portfolio. Providing you an update. And I'll also talk about the Capital Construction UB. On slide 3, I will review very quickly our project delivery model.

Across the top are the six phases for our projects. Below that is a notional time line. It is kind of an optimistic time line, as you will see, when I talk about what has happened thus far. But I would like to try to stick to that time line.

Down the left are the hoops we need to jump through for funding, which is what really affects that time line. And then on the lower half is our expenditure curve. Just as a reminder. It takes us a while to spend money, as you often hear about, due to the way construction works. So about the last 80 percent of the cost of a project happens in the last 18 to 24 months of that project.

The white dotted line is our encumbrance. We encumber money whenever we write a contract. So ten to 15 percent is encumbered early, when we contract for a designer. And then about two years in is when we contract for a general contractor. And that is when we encumber the majority of the money thereafter. And we will talk about this later when we come to the UB.

So on slide 4, talking about our current portfolio. 142 projects, a little over $163 million. As you can see in the upper right, when you go by budget, 58 percent of that is in State Parks. And that is only going to increase as we ‑‑ as I will talk about in the future. The bottom half is the graph showing our general obligation bond program, encumbrances and expenditures.

As you may recall, our '03 bond program, we long ago expended that. And the last year, the State came back to us and say, hey, you earned $600,000 worth of interest. And they were nice enough to let us spend that money. So during this fiscal year, we will expend all of that money. But it was nice to get that $600,000 which we have used for projects here in the headquarters.

Our '06, '07 bonds, which expire at the end of this fiscal year. As you can see, were 99 percent encumbered and expended. And we should have no problem completing that program by the end of this fiscal year.

And then in the next two slides, I will talk about our remaining bond programs. So on slide 5, I will talk about our '08, '09 general obligation bond program. As you can see, $69 million in bonds. $25 million of that was for the dry berthing of the Battleship Texas. And then the remaining $44 million of that went for state park repairs, and only repairs at state parks.

As many of you will recall, this was a big test of a new model, in that three-quarters of that $44 million we used to bundle these projects into regional packages. And when you see up top, where it says, where we are today, we are in construction. That is talking about those regional packages. So we have finally gone to construction in those regional packages. Actually did it earlier this month.

In the last slide, I showed that we were 29 percent encumbered for this bond program. We still have $17 million worth of construction contracts to write in April. And when we do that, we will be at 68 percent encumbered and expended. So we are well on our way; we are finally getting to show that expenditure and encumbrance of money. COMMISSIONER HOLT: You are probably not there yet. But I mean, as you look at the regional strategy, do you still think it is the right way to go?

MR. MCMONAGLE: Yes, sir. In fact, as I will show in the next slide, we are about to start our planning for the '10-'11 program. And we are going to continue. There are some tweaks that we need to make.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. I would assume so. Because it was fairly new for the agency to go that route.

MR. MCMONAGLE: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I have seen that. Okay. So you think ‑‑ yes. So document it, and then we will ‑‑ you know, hindsight is always 20/20. Okay.

MR. MCMONAGLE: Yes, sir. So the main parts of it worked.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good.

MR. MCMONAGLE: There are some little tweaks that are going to make it even better.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

MR. MCMONAGLE: So moving on to slide 6 is the '10‑'11 program. My little startup there says today, it is really tomorrow. Tomorrow, we can take our first draw‑up money, because last week, the Bond Review Board approved our $38 million in bond funding. As you may recall, most of that is in statewide capital repairs. And that is not just state parks. It is all divisions, all sites.

And then there was $10 million in weather‑related damages, directed by the Legislature for three places. Government Canyon State Natural Area, and Palo Duro Canyon, and Mother Neff state parks.

As you can see, when we look at this program by the budget, 75 percent of those are in the state parks. And that comes out because of those weather‑related repairs, that extra $10 million that we are giving to state parks.

Moving on to Hurricane Ike. I just want to cover rather quickly where we are in the rest of Hurricane Ike recovery, since you just heard about Galveston Island. The last Legislature provided us a supplemental appropriation of $14 million.

That appropriation, as Justin talked about, has a two‑year life span. Signed into law June of '09. So June of '11, it expires. Of that $14 million, $2 million of it was specifically directed for Sea Rim. Now in the past, I have talked about Sea Rim and Galveston Island State Park. So on slide 9, I will talk about kind of the rest of the 14 other projects that are involved. As you can see, there is significantly less money. Most of those are the eleven projects at the WMAs for $4-1/2 million. Of those 14 projects, two have been completed. And the remaining 12 are in various stages from planning to almost completed.

Moving on to slide number 10, here is the definition of UB from our General Appropriations Act. And what this really says, the U is ‑‑ they call unexpended. But really the U is unexpended and unencumbered.

The difference being, encumbered is where we obligate the State. In most other financial systems, you would call it obligate. For us, it is by writing a contract. And then expended is when we actually, we pay the bill.

So what UB really is, is that unencumbered and unexpended balance on an appropriation. And what the Legislature pays attention to is what we transfer, not just from one fiscal year to another, but from one biennium to the next. And I will get to it on the next slide.

So on slide 11, you know, we go back to our project time line. And you can see that it is a year before we contract a designer. And then really, at the two-year point, where we contract for the construction. And again, that time line is optimistic.

For example, for '10-'11 bonds, it took us eight months into the fiscal year before we actually got the bond money. Well, when you ‑‑ on slide 12, when you lay that against the Legislature's time line. You can see, they kind of think in two-year increments. And we think in five years; for the life of the bond money.

So after the Legislature adjourns, the first biennium, all we are accomplishing is that contracting. And at about the two-year time is when we are going to contract for the construction. Remember, that is about 80 percent of the money. So sometimes, it may fall in that first biennium. Sometimes it falls in the second biennium.

And that is kind of where the UB issue comes in. So probably, the lessons of this, is we design in the first biennium, after the Legislature gives us appropriation. But we really do the construction in the second biennium. And there can be ‑‑ people can forget about that and think, oh, you have got plenty of money.

But if we don't get money, if you don't keep putting into the pipeline, it is two or three years down the line. Well, all of a sudden, you realize, hey, we have got no money to do construction and everything. It kind of comes to a grinding halt.

So moving on to slide 14. Here is what our UB looked like, coming into ‑‑ going into '09 and '10 and what we have projected for '11 and '12. And the next couple of slides, I will break these out. But in general terms, this is really a snapshot in time.

It is at the end of the fiscal year, into the next fiscal year of what that UB actually look like. So you can see, going into 2009, it was $23 million. And then going into 2010, it was $93 million, which certainly got the attention of a lot of people. So I will talk about that, and how that was sort of the rat eaten by a snake, and now it is taking time for that rat to move through the snake.

Breaking it into the components, slide number 15 is our bond money, minus the bond money we got for the Battleship. Coming into 2009, it was quite small. But in 2009, we got $44 million in bond money towards the end of the fiscal year. So nearly all of that transferred into 2010.

Now during 2010, we are going to expend and encumber about $40 million in construction money. But at the same time, we just received $38 million from the '10-'11 bonds. So really, only a net change of $2 million.

It is really in 2011 where we are going to make up that money by encumbering the majority of the '10-'11 bond money. Now, that is my ambitious goal. We will see if we can accomplish that.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Man, you can't get it done any sooner.

MR. MCMONAGLE: No, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: You know the issue.

MR. MCMONAGLE: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Going into that Legislature. What are they claiming, they are going to ‑‑ I hear every number in the book. Now I hear $14 billion in the hole.

I mean, if you don't have it encumbered, remember then what they can do. They don't say take it, and spend it on something else. But they hold it. And then they can reduce deficit.

Sleight of hand type of stuff here. But everything gets stopped. We can't spend it either. Okay, and to be fair, I mean that is why we went to the regional route. I mean, trying to figure everything we can to speed up this process.

MR. MCMONAGLE: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: What drives you crazy is, what I have learned, and I assume most of you are starting to learn, or have, is that it takes as much to build a bathroom as it does to build a $100 million highway. It takes all of the exact same processes for a $25,000 ‑‑ anything over what, $25,000, isn't it? I can't remember what the number used to be.

MR. MCMONAGLE: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: You can't build a bathroom for $25,000 anymore. So anyway, sorry, I just want to make sure everybody is aware of the issues that could get created. Because we have all done a good job.

And I appreciate everybody's help around this table. And a lot of the staff. Everybody in the working last two Legislatures, to finally get some bucks in the door here. Because if you even take out the 25 or whatever it is for the Battleship, I mean, we have gotten a lot of money in here to really be able to improve the parks and all of the other things that we want to do.

And so I just hate to get it caught in a hole. There is not a lot I can do about it; none of us control the economy or, you know, the overall needs of the state of Texas.

MR. MCMONAGLE: Yes, sir. Chairman, you are about three slides ahead of me.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sorry. I apologize. No, it is interesting. Because to me, this Committee the first time, kind of seeing this, in this form. And it really jumped out at me. Gosh, we have been working on this, well, ever since I have been on the Commission, which is 2003, trying to get the dollars in the pipeline.

MR. MCMONAGLE: Yes, sir. And you see what happens when we do.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And we have gotten there. And now the key is, can we get them out the other end before they disappear somehow, or get put on hold, or all of the above. Okay.

MR. MCMONAGLE: So slide 16 will show you where we are not going to make a whole lot of ground. And that is the Battleship Texas. And we received $25 million in funding. And we are also ‑‑ I am also including in here the donations from the Battleship Texas Foundation.

So in 2009, we got $25 million, plus their $2 million donation. We are going to encumber about $2 million for the design. But at the same time, the Battleship Texas Foundation is going to give us another $2 million.

So we are going to kind of stay right where we are. And it is going to be a number of years before we go to construction. So that number is going to stay around the $25 million for a considerable amount of time.

Moving on to slide 17 is General Revenue. Normally, we get very little in General Revenue for capital construction. In 2009, they gave us the $14 million in supplemental appropriation. So just more money for us to spend. We will, during 2010, we will encumber most of that with the small residue that we'll take care of in 2011.

And finally, the other category is kind of a ‑‑ well, it is a compilation of all the other things. It is like federal money; it is General Revenue dedicated, like Fund 9, fish stamp money. All kinds of stamp money. I put that all together, because it generally stays pretty consistent. Each of the categories may change a little bit. But over time, they all stay pretty much consistent. So slide 19, when I throw it all back together, you can see how in 2010, we had the perfect storm. Where just as the Chairman was saying, everybody was giving us lots of money, between the Battleship, $44 million in bond money, as well as the $14 million for Ike repair.

So I think the lessons are in slide 20. 2010 generosity of the Legislature gave us lots of money to spend, and that is why that UB was so large. Construction over this biennium that we are in right now, '10 and '11, we are going to do about $30 million worth of construction, which will bring it down from the 93 to 78.

The big one that the Legislature looks at, is what we are UB-ing into 2012. By then, we will be down to $38 million with $25 million, two-thirds of that coming out of the Battleship. And I think that kind of explains where the math is.

Ultimately, for me, the bottom line is, we still need to continue to get funding so that we can keep this process going. Or two to three years down the line, we are going to come to a grinding halt again. And with that, that completes my presentation, subject to your questions.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions or comments?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Have you figured out how we are going to keep it going?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: A challenge.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It is going to be a challenge, isn't it? Fantastic, though. I mean, it has been exciting. You know. You can see the difference in some of the parks already. And you know, it is just ‑‑ as Walt knows, it has been a heck of a battle.

We started at zero, remember. If anything, they were taking stuff away. They were mad at us. They were mad at the Parks. We didn't have much credibility. And Walt and you know, lots of Commissioners doing a lot of work, and everybody and the staff.

You know, we really built the credibility back up on the Parks side, where a lot of these dollars are needed to be. You know, anyway, I am glad you are aboard too. We needed help there.

MR. MCMONAGLE: Thank you, Chairman.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, Rich.

MR. MCMONAGLE: Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Chairman Holt, this Committee has completed its business.

(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded at 3:06 p.m.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: March 31, 2010

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 44, 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.

4/01/09
(Transcriber) (Date)
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


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