Approximately 25 Texas State students stood in the lobby of City Hall Tuesday night trying to sway the votes of council members to approve construction of a nature center on Purgatory Road.
Last month San Marcos City Council voted in a 3-3 split decision on whether to spend $1.6 million on the center.and Councilmembers Kim Porterfield and Fred Terry agreed on the projected cost. However, Councilmembers Ryan Thomason, Chris Jones and Shane Scott voted against it. Councilmember Jude Prather abstained.
Four members from the student organization Human Environment Animal Team asked council members to vote in approval of the construction of the San Marcos Nature Center on Purgatory Road despite the cost.
Ian Smith, communication studies junior, said the student organization wanted to make a noticeable impact at the meeting with a “bang.” Smith, H.E.A.T president, said through an anonymous donor, members carpooled to the meeting via party bus, walked out in single file, and showed the council how many students were in favor of the nature center.
“The main way to save the nature center would be to stress to City Hall how important it is to students, and to show students’ support,” Smith said.
Smith said the students who voiced their opinions during the residents’ comment portion of the council meeting spoke on behalf of themselves — not H.E.A.T.— because any student can appreciate the center.
Smith said after the members spoke, Prather, Place 3, told Smith the reasons why he abstained. Prather told Smith after watching the students voice their opinions that he would change his vote to yes.
“I don’t want to be too optimistic, but I think we may have saved [the nature center] and changed some votes,” Smith said.
The City Council did not vote Tuesday night, but discussed the issues pertaining to the nature center.
Originally, the nature center would cost the City of San Marcos and Hays County a combined $3 million, and the cost would be split evenly between the two identities.
Porterfield, Place 1, said because the project was too expensive for the city — approximately $1.6 million— it was put back on the agenda to see if council could scale the price back.
Rodeny Cobb, director of Community Services for the city, addressed issues regarding developments that would directly impact the nature center. Cobb said he was asked to review the contract and found the county agreed to put in trails, parking areas, kiosks, signage and restrooms.
Porterfield said a month ago the project seemed to be “full steam ahead” and now there seems to be some obstacles in place. Miscommunication led council members to believe the building itself would cost $3 million.
Cobb said the wording of the contract was confusing, but the whole project totals $3 million—building center, trials and other services.
Thomason said the idea of building a nature center in an area that is already considered a nature center does not make sense. He said he agrees the money should go towards the upkeep of trails instead of a building.
San Marcos City Council discussed and asked Cobb and his staff to use Hays County’s share of $1.6 million to fund restrooms, roads, parking, upkeep of trails and other services.
Guerrero said the county’s share of $1.6 million would be used for everything except for the structure. He said the city’s share would be keep intact for the structure.
Cobb said he would go and renegotiate the funds.