The Facility Improvements Bond Committee voted Tuesday to keep funding for improvements at the University of Texas at San Antonio athletics complex.

But as it finalized its recommendations for the City’s planned $850 million bond, the committee voted to take more money away from projects around Alamo Plaza.

Like the Parks and Recreation Bond Committee did Monday at the Central Library, the Facility Committee mulled last-minute reallocations for smaller or unfunded projects.

City Council will review recommendations from all five bond committees in January and finalize the project lists that will go before voters in May 2017.

City staff originally recommended $10 million to support upgrades at UTSA Main Campus sports facility. But the District 10 contingent proposed to shave $750,000 from UTSA to fund improvements at the Perrin Homestead.

The Parks Committee wound up reducing money for homestead improvements by half Monday night. The $750,000 would restore the original $1.5 million recommendation.

Supporters of this proposal called the UTSA project worthy, but reasoned it is a large institution that could leverage more private funds to achieve its objective.

“It is difficult for me to imagine a capital campaign would have difficulty raising the money,” said District 10 member Glenn MacTaggart.

District 10 member Casey Whittington said rehabilitating the Perrin Homestead, which dates back to the 1860s, would preserve part of the Northeast Side’s history for public educational purposes.

Plus, the restored homestead would tie into area green spaces such as Lady Bird Johnson Park.

“We didn’t expect it to get de-funded last night, so we were scrambling today,” Whittington added.

After they surveyed the UTSA athletics complex during a bus tour Dec. 3, some committee members said improvements there must be fully funded.

District 8 member Marc Harrison said having an upgraded facility would help UTSA lure more sports events and support its quest for Tier One status.

District 3’s Joanie Barborak urged the committee to consider UTSA and its athletics program as economic generators for San Antonio.

“I’m all for history, but your have to think of the greater good,” she added.
The committee voted 14-10 against the proposal with three abstentions.

The committee nearly unanimously approved a follow-up motion to place the Perrin Homestead on a priority reserve list, which the City Council and staff could consider later if money becomes available within the bond.

Three other improvement projects — Forest Hills and Las Palmas libraries, and the Central Library’s Texana/geneaology department — also made the reserve list.

In its last meeting Nov. 15, the committee approved a handful of funding modifications. One redirected $735,000 from Alamo Plaza to improve parts of Market Square.

Another vote split the $6 million recommendation for Wheatley Heights Community Center, with $3 million being split to create the ZerNona Black and Greater Love community centers, both on the Eastside.

Outside of making the reserve list to possibly get additional funding, the Texana/geneaology project did received a $700,000 infusion from Alamo Plaza on Tuesday. That proposal, from the District 6 contingent, passed by a 2-vote margin.

“I’m a big believer in Texana,” said District 1 member Andi Rodriguez. “This would be a good use of those funds.”

Mike Frisbie, director of the City’s Transportation and Capital Improvements Department, said the Alamo Plaza decrease would not adversely affect that overall improvement project.

The committee’s final facility improvements package includes other notable projects, such as a Center City police substation and park police headquarters ($20 million), a District 9 constituent services/senior center ($13.2 million) and a replacement for Fire Station No. 24 in the Austin Highway area ($10 million).

Before and after the two-hour meeting, committee Co-Chairs Joe Linson and John Clamp praised their fellow members for working through occasionally tough decisions.

The proposed UTSA funding cut, especially, briefly involved some members talking over each other and trying to offer counter motions.

“I want to thank all of you. Although it got a little exciting, I think you understand how the public process works,” Clamp said.

Linson encouraged committee members to talk with their respective City Council representatives about their district projects.

“We made sure we listened to our citizens, too. I think it’s been a very fair process,” Linson added.

Next up, the Neighborhood Improvements Bond Committee will finalize its recommendations 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Central Library.

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.