GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — A review of city assets has delayed until spring a decision about whether to repair the storm-damaged Seawolf Park pavilion or demolish and rebuild it.
The Galveston County Daily News reports the pavilion at Seawolf Park has sat in disrepair since Hurricane Ike struck in 2008.
After years of negotiating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for financial assistance, the Galveston Park Board of Trustees now has two options: take $1.4 million from FEMA and repair the structure as it is, or demolish the building and replace it using park board funds.
But the park board, which governs the city’s tourism efforts, voted in April to defer to the City Council on making a decision. The City Council instead suggested the park board form a task force on the issue, park board project manager Sheryl Rozier said.
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Talks have been further pushed back because of a review that is expected to last into the spring. The city is in the middle of a review of its assets, and discussions on Seawolf Park should pick up once the review is complete, City Manager Brian Maxwell said.
Although the park board manages Seawolf Park, which is a popular fishing spot on Pelican Island, the city owns the land.
“We’re still waiting on the completion of the asset review so we can come to the park board all at one time with any changes if there’s going to be any at all,” Maxwell said.
The asset review will assess the status of properties managed by the city, park board and Port of Galveston. City officials are looking at any agreements between the park board and city; subleases and agreements with third parties; and operating plans and financial records.
The review also is supposed to look at the condition of physical assets and property, according to a city report.
Park board trustee and City Councilman Craig Brown, of District 2, said he’s certain Seawolf Park will come up in the asset review.
Ideally, “when staff brings back recommendations from the asset review, they’ll have some recommendations concerning Seawolf Park,” Brown said.
The park board has had trouble reaching a consensus of late on what to do with the pavilion.
Tourism officials tried for years to convince the Federal Emergency Management Agency that the pavilion was more than 50 percent destroyed by Hurricane Ike, a rule that would have let the board rebuild the structure with FEMA money. Those petitions have failed multiple times, and the agency has instead offered the park board $1.4 million for the repair of the structure.
Neither plan has incited full support from the board. Demolishing and rebuilding the pavilion entirely would take additional park board funding, which the board has not identified, park board Vice Chairman Spencer Priest said. Repairing the building as it is also has its drawbacks, because some trustees would have preferred to make the pavilion bigger and more appealing to tourists and people hosting special events, he said.
The park board voted to defer its decision to the City Council, in part because of a requirement that the City Council approves maintenance or repairs exceeding $125,000 on city property. Priest said he expected the City Council to at least have some suggestions on the matter.
“I thought they would give us a little more input — just some direction,” he said.
The decision to defer to the City Council was right at the time because City Council members weren’t aware of the situation, Brown said.
“Council needed to be educated,” Brown said.
Eventually, FEMA will tell the park board it has to make a decision on the $1.4 million, Rozier said.
“This has taken a long time, but there’s going to come a time where they’re not going to wait for us to make a decision anymore,” Rozier said. “They have said that it’s going to become more and more important to move things along.”
Even getting the process started has been difficult because the park board has no clear idea what it’s going to do with the pavilion, Rozier said.
“Because we haven’t been able to get any true direction, whether it be through the trustees or council, it’s hard for me to approach FEMA,” Rozier said. “Because we don’t have any kind of determination, it’s hard for me to negotiate.”
Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, http://www.galvnews.com