Former Mayor Wants City To Buy More Parkland, Incur More Bond Debt

August 29, 2011

Former West U Mayor Burt Ballanfant told city council last week that he would like to be involved in acquiring more parkland for the city.

Ballanfant filed an application to serve on the parks and recreation board because of a “long term interest.” Council interviewed and appointed him to the board last week.

During his interview, he said one issue that still exists is the Ownby property, which was voted on and left dormant.

“We’ve spent a lot of money on parks,” Ballanfant told council. “If you approach things in a methodical fashion you will get somewhere.”

West U voters approved a $2 million bond program for parkland in 2006 while Ballanfant was in office as mayor. The parkland was included in the first bond program for the Recreation Center and Colonial Park Pool and was the only item to receive voter approval.

The property that the city was looking to purchase is owned by the family of Clifford Ownby. The property is located on Pittsburg and Poor Farm Ditch and is roughly one acre.

City Manager Michael Ross told InstantNewsWestU that the Ownbys wanted $4 million for their property in 2006, which was more than the city was willing to pay.

According to documents on file with the Harris County Appraisal District, the Ownby’s property is appraised at about $2.5 million.

The city did not issue the bonds, but the authorization to sell the $2 million bonds is approved by voters and is available for 10 years until it goes “stale” and the city can no longer use it, Ross said.

The bond money could be used to acquire parkland if the council so chooses, he said.

Ballanfant was the only parks board applicant who expressed interest in pursuing the Ownby property. Other residents said they would like the parks board to continue to maintain the city’s parks and work on developing more programs.

Council appointed John Wilkinson to the parks board as chairman. Wilkinson has served two terms on the recycling board, most recently as co-chair. Other members include Friends of West U Parks Chair Leah Ragiel, Ballanfant, Melissa Pifko, J.C. Kneale, Sona West, Susan Reeves, Kristen Woiwode-Flores, David DeAnda and Amy Morgan.

The term for the new boards and commissions will begin on Sept. 12.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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