Brownwood City Council members took a big step Tuesday to address what they described as quality of life issues, approving an expenditure of up to $551,732 for the installation of three splash pads at city parks for summertime fun.
    The funds will come from a 2016 Certificate of Obligation for $3 million that was designated for parks, streets and city facilities. Construction is expected to begin in late July, with a 10-to-14-day installation period at each pad.
    “We talk all the time about quality of life, and how important it is for our industries,”  councilman Jerry DeHay said. “I think this is a very significant quality of life (action). I think it’s a very positive thing.”

Locations
    The council’s action means an international company called Vortex will install splash pads at three locations in Brownwood:
    • Allcorn Park, at Fourth Street and Indian Creek, near Woodland Heights Elementary School. The 2,500-square-foot pad will have 17 above-ground water features such as water cannons.
    • Mayes Park, off Austin Avenue, near East Elementary School, where the city recently had a skateboard park built. The 2,000-square-foot pad will 20 water features but no above-ground equipment.
    • Trigg Park, off Bluffview, near Northwest Elementary School. The pad will be similar to the one at Mayes Park.
    There will be no charge to visit the splash pads, and dates of operation are expected to be May 1 to Sept. 30. Those dates can be extended depending on warm weather.

About Vortex
    Vortex is a member of National Purchasing Partners, a procurement cooperative.
    City staff and council members met Vortex representatives at the Texas Municipal League Conference in 2016 and believed Vortex provides “the best quality product and service at a competitive price,” an agenda item briefing sheet states.
    Council members met with a Vortex representative last week to go over proposals for the splash pads.

School connection
    Locating the splash pads near elementary schools is intentional, Mayor Stephen Haynes said, noting the pads will provide activities close by that can be used in conjunction with the schools and after-school activities. The schools are spread throughout the city and would be a “good distribution” of the pads.
    City Manager Emily Crawford the locations were chosen because they are “highly visible, highly accessible and very familiar to the community in regards to their location.”

Cost, benefits
    Haynes and council members addressed the cost of the splash pads and gave their views on how they think the splash pads will benefit the city.
    “I think it’s important that we talk about improving the city from the standpoint of having entertainment options for our families,” Haynes said. “One of the things that I hear the most, and I know that the council hears the most, is that we need more things for the kids to do in Brownwood, and we need more things that are affordable to do in Brownwood.
    “This provides our kids with an option that’s free of charge, hopefully in a neighborhood environment that they’re used to, they’re familiar with, they can walk to and ride their bikes to. Our families need that.”
    Councilman Ed McMillian said he was awake for much of Monday night, experiencing sticker shock and worrying about spending nearly $600,000 for splash pads “at a time when we’ve got businesses folding and leaving.”
    But McMillian said he thinks the splash pads are worthwhile.
    “I always hate that the terminology for Brownwood is ‘Deadwood,’” McMillian said. “The claim (is) that we have nothing to do. I believe the current council is doing something about that. It’s unfortunate that it costs money.
    “I feel comfortable spending this money. It is money well spent.”
    McMillian said a splash pad will enhance Trigg Park on the city’s north side, where there currently isn’t much for children to do. ”This is going to add to it,” McMillian said.    Councilman Draco Miller said the city is looking to the future of children who are currently growing up. “I just think it’s a great thing for our community, and for people who are coming in to see what our community is doing,” Miller said. “Not only in infrastructure, but putting something out there visual, that we all can see.
    “It’s tangible, and when we see kids playing playing in the water, there’s nothing greater than that. We can’t put a price on that. So I think it’s a great thing for us.”
    Councilman Larry Mathis said “the wheels started turning” in his head after a visit to Florida with his grandchildren, where they visited splash pads. “Everyone was just having a great time,” Mathis said. “I am just thrilled beyond belief. I think it’s something the community will benefit from, to see all the kids out there playing — adults, too, for that matter. It’s going to be great.”

‘Where memories are made’
    Brownwood resident Sara Musgrove addressed the council, saying she supports the council’s decision to install the splash pads. “Brownwood’s slogan is ‘Feels Like Home,’” Musgrove said. “Having grown up in a larger city, adjusting to the smaller one has come with its fair share of gives and takes.
     “My family and I adore Brownwood’s community. The people here support each other with hear and tenacity. … What truly makes a place feel like home? Home is where memories are made. Homes is where creativity gets supported, and playtime builds new worlds.”
     Musgrove said she and her family have visited other communities and water activities are a favorite. She recalled her family’s visit to Louisville, Ky, and “the one activity that sticks out in mine and my children’s minds the most from that entire trip was the day we visited the splash pads at the city park.”