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2014-01-16

- My View - Setting the record straight

By Brandi Morgan

(Brandi Morgan is a mom, teacher and former City of Bandera Councilman, 2011-2013.)
I would like to address a few of the false statements made against me at the Jan. 9 meeting of the Bandera City Council regarding the playground in the City Park by Councilmen Glenn Clark.
First of all, Councilman Clark stated that I "lied" to the public on numerous occasions about details of the playground throughout the process. Any intelligent individual should know that if you miss meetings during a planning process, you risk missing out on major changes being made, discussed and agreed upon. The only way to stay informed and up-to-date on facts would be to attend each and every meeting and-or go over the minutes.
The first issue I was accused of lying about was that I stated in spring 2013 that the installation costs would be included in the $30,000 playground budget. I did say that and have never denied that. Still, we also suggested at that time that we could use the FREE mulch provided by Bandera Electric Cooperative in those sections.
After Mike Cardenas, Binky Archer and I made phone calls and pursued our research on laws and safety, we discovered that a public playground must mandatorily have certified and inspected playground mulch shipped in from out of state. The cost was estimated at $5,000.
We immediately contacted the playground company and asked them how we could afford to proceed. They offered us the option of recruiting volunteers, rather than hiring a crew to install. Additionally, hiring professional playground installers to come to our city to guide, supervise, and help see the project through would also offer the same warranties as the professional crew they'd have sent. This saved $5,000. This option was brought back and discussed in the following city council meetings.
Next, Councilman Clark said that I "lied" about the agreed placement of the equipment. On final day that we approved the installation in July 2013, we walked the park with two other councilmen, the mayor, park designer Paul Barwick and several county residents. We drew out the placement of each section.
The next day, the supervisors left Indiana hauling the last of the equipment to come assist the build. As well, the electric company came and marked electrical lines.
Continuously, on the day we were building, one of the designated sections drawn for the musical pieces was plotted to go under the oak tree. James Stevens of Stevens Construction, who volunteered his time and auger; Glenn, our supervisor from AAA State of Play; and many other knowledgeable workers on site adamantly proclaimed that if we drilled two to three foot holes into the ground too close to the largest oak tree at the entrance of the city park, we could risk killing it.
With council members and professionals on site, the job in process, and no time to waste, we ALL decided to move the location out 10 feet to protect the oak tree.
Secondly, we discovered that the second section was placed between electric lines and on an uneven slope. Again, we ALL determined that it was dangerous to drill a five by seven foot hole there. Moving the location at least 10 feet from the outlets would be the safest, most practical and best executive decision.
These decisions were not made by me alone and I firmly believe were the best decisions for following through with the project I promised the community for two-plus years. I would not change anything and I am appalled at the slander of my name, my integrity and my commitment to my community.
Everyone was invited to join us in the build and the mayor sat most of the day under the pavilion with his wife watching our hard work.
Further, Councilman Clark stated that I did not consult with park designer Paul Barwick. This is false. Not only did Paul walk the park and advise on placement, he came out and got dirty with the rest of us during the installation process. In fact, before leaving the site, he shook my hand, patted me on the back and congratulated me on a job well done. I was deeply grateful for the approval from a man of his expertise.
To clarify:
• 10/12 - 2013 budget was approved with $30,000 for park improvements based on discussed "Educational Walking Playground" with first selections of equipment to be purchased from AAA State of Play and second from Gametime; signs and concrete benches TBA
• 11/12-03/13 - Selection of items to be ordered; discussion with playground equipment company; drafts mapped
• Spring 2013 - Council discussion of placement and location; walking and measuring the park with Mike Cardenas, Binky Archer; presentation of maps to city council
• 04/24/13 - Quotes given - good through May 2013 - from AAA State of Play
• Learned that the mulch from the BEC would not be acceptable for public playground
• 04/29/13 - Quotes given on certified mulch to Mike Cardenas and Brandi Morgan; information given to council, alternate options shared with council for community involvement
• 5/10/13 - Order placed to AAA State of Play for selection of equipment before quotes expired
• 06/2013 - Products shipped
• 07/13 - Started the planning of community build
• 7/16/13 - The agenda for special called meeting was to consider the approval and clarification of contracts and installation, park plan and formal approval of the build
Additionally, all issues were unanimously approved by council with the consideration of advice from Paul Barwick on locations chosen.
Finally, I resent the statements made in the attempt to impact my reputation negatively. I hope this city prevails in the face of such adversity and that our council is more careful in the future of spreading rumors, misinformation and using their power in public office to defame the character of loyal and dedicated public servants.
It was an honor to serve my city. In hindsight, all I can say is I did my best at every moment to be truthful and forthcoming. I never imagined that I would receive the hostility, criticism and disrespect for breaking my back for the town I love. If there is one thing I learned in my first three years in politics, it's that you can never please every individual. I gave my blood, sweat and tears to make that playground possible and I apologize to anyone who felt their ideas were discredited.
As a community and a society, we need to learn to appreciate compromise, have compassion and, above all, care for our children. We should spend less time on trivial matters and continue to invest in our future. Again, I thank the earnest, ambitious, and amazing individuals that helped me to accomplish this feat. My hope is that this bit of playground is added to, improved and treasured for years to come.