City-hired consultants got an earful Thursday from the young and the old alike on how to best improve Stephenville’s sometimes antiquated and deteriorating taxpayer-funded facilities.
On one end of the spectrum, senior citizens told representatives of Brinkley Sargent & Associates — the recently contracted firm — that the city needed to upgrade or replace the center for the elderly.
On the other end, parents talked of the need for a new recreational facility and a new swimming pool to be constructed.
They complained that local children often have to leave Stephenville to participate in activities because the city doesn’t have adequate facilities.
Stephenville City Council members expect Brinkley Sargent & Associates to gather community input and design potential replacements for the existing recreation hall, senior citizen center and swimming pool.
Thursday night’s meeting was aimed at gathering information so that future decisions regarding city facilities can be made.
“We want to do what you want us to do,” City Administrator Mark Kaiser told those in attendance. “This has been an important step in the process.”
And Mayor Rusty Jergins, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said he was extremely pleased with the input from the crowd of 125-plus who filled the Senior Citizen Center.
“I think we had a good cross-representation of the community,” Jergins said, noting that those in attendance ranged from senior citizens to the middle-aged to the parents of small children.
“I’m pleased with the diversity of the crowd we had here tonight.”
Jergins said representatives of Brinkley Sargent & Associates will use information gathered Thursday to formulate a plan.
In addition to information from Thursday night’s meeting, Jergins said the firm will take into consideration information gathered earlier in the day during meetings with city council members, city staff and representatives of two advisory boards — one for senior citizens and the other for parks and recreation.
Now, Jergins said, he expects the firm to take the information, “digest it” and come back in three months — around September — with some ideas.
In the interim, Jergins said the firm may also want to look at other groups who weren’t represented Thursday, including representatives of industry and the medical community.
“We’re really at Day 1 of this journey that we are taking,” consultant Dwayne Brinkley said.
During the meeting, before opening it up to public comment, Brinkley talked of all the possibilities, noting that a community center — like the one being looked at — could include meeting rooms, a multi-purpose gym, a fitness/wellness center, an area dedicated for senior citizens, and aquatics.
A number of senior citizens talked about how dilapidated the current Senior Citizen Center is and how much it needs to be upgraded or replaced. However, some senior citizens expressed concern about being housed in a community center, as envisioned by some, that would include children.
Other residents, however, said blending the possibilities into one facility makes good financial sense.
Two young mothers also appeared and talked of the need for better recreational facilities and a new swimming pool to replace the old one that the city recently shut down. One mother said she favored improved recreational and swimming facilities and possibly paying a little more in taxes rather than having to take her children to the Metroplex and Abilene to participate in activities and spending money there.
Dr. Darrell Floyd, superintendent of the Stephenville Independent School District, said it was the first time he had been in the Senior Citizen Center and that the condition of it is “not very good.”
Floyd commended the council for taking steps to improve city facilities and that it’s a “shame a town our size has no swimming pool for our kids.”
Floyd said he has children going into the 7th and 8th grades and that he understands the need for improved facilities.
Treva Thompson, of the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce, said Stephenville needs improved meeting spaces because “we have so many events going on.”
In addition, Thompson said, there is also a need for facilities to be provided for children, and that if Stephenville doesn’t offer those, then parents will continue to take them out of the city to participate.
“We just need to provide that for our families,” Thompson said, adding that the city needs an indoor pool and that everything needs to be in one location, even though she understands the concerns of senior citizens.
Meanwhile, city officials are encouraging residents to continue to provide input on what they believe the city needs.
A separate meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., June 14, at the Senior Citizen Center to discuss whether a new public library should be built or the existing library should be relocated. The city-hired firm of Hidell & Associates will hold the public meeting.
DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.