National Butterfly Park gets grant for summer program

Marianna Wright, director of the National Butterfly Park in Mission, told the Mission City Council the National Butterfly Center received a grant for a summer educational program that would provide classes for students attending summer programs at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Mission

During the Monday meeting of the council, Wright said campuses involved include Leal, Castro, Marcell and Jensen Elementary schools, where Boys and Girls Club is active during summer.

City of Mission logoIt will be a nine-week program with weekly lessons at the park designed to teach children 9 to 12 years old about habitat, ecology and wildlife, building skills for outdoor encounters like animal tracking, campfire safety and bird and butterfly identification.

The purpose of the program is to teach children about the unique habitat where they live and help develop a desire to protect it for future generations. There will also be a field trip to Estero Llano Grande in Weslaco to learn about wetlands.

During the following school year, these children will use their skills to mentor younger children in the afternoon sessions of Boys and Girls Club, teaching what they learned. The students also will design a native plant habitat and pollinator garden for their school. This process will include selecting the plants and type project they want, producing designs for the project, and getting permission from their local school administration and school boards before the projects can be built.

Wright said being required to plan and then present their plans to local authorities would develop communication skills as well as the critical thinking skills needed in planning and implementing their projects.

“We teach our lessons from Project Wild, where children are outdoors learning in nature as it exists around them,” Wright said.

The grant from the state through the Community Outdoor Outreach Program is for $33,171 and will be matched by a grant of $34,000 from North American Butterfly Association and its partners.

In other action, the council approved Resolution No. 1399 for expansion of the Hike and Bike Trail by 2.8 miles. The new expansion will pick up the trail where it ends near Bentsen Palm Road and loop it around the north side of the Rhodes Developments and take it back to Inspiration Road and back down to the trail to create a loop that will provide additional area for those who enjoy riding the trail.

The council also heard a rezoning request to zone a long narrow lot on Shary Road near 20th Street that measures 80 feet by 544 feet as C-3 (heavy commercial zoning). The request was denied at the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) because the site is completely surrounded by single-family residential lots.

Mayor Beto Salinas asked the council what the property owner was supposed to do with the land if it was not zoned commercial.

The property developer suggested if a C-3 zoning were not acceptable, a C-2 for office use would be acceptable. Planning Director Danny Tijerina said a C-2 use was not on the agenda and could not be voted on, so the item was remanded to the P&Z for further consideration.

Seven housing reconstructions were approved by council at the request of Jo Anne Longoria, director of Community Development Block Grant Funds. Three of the reconstructions were awarded to A-One Insulation in the amount of $152,700 and four were awarded to G&G Construction in the amount of $202,520.

At the request of Fire Chief Rene Lopez a contract for repair of fire department uniforms was approved with G&K Services at a rate of $25,000 per year. Lopez stated uniforms often get torn in the line of duty and the average bill for repairs is between $380 and $500 a week.

The council agreed two write off uncollectible utility bills in the amount of $167,269 for water, $107,390 for sewer and $91,997 for garbage for a total of $366,658.

Also, the council approved payment of $672,857 toward funding of a future medical school in conjunction with the University of Texas system and approved the first payment of $250,000 from Mission Economic Development Association funds.

Under the Safe Route to School Program, Mission will do about $150,000 in sidewalk improvements at five local school campuses. Schools to receive the improvements are Bryan Elementary O’Grady Elementary, Escobar-Rios Elementary, Leal Elementary and Pearson Elementary.

At the request of Police Chief Robert Dominguez, the council agave final approval of the improvements made at the Mission Public Safety Jail Facility. Joe Williamson Construction did the repairs and construction. According to Dominguez, the interior walls had to be broken and reconstructed so that mortar was placed between the walls.

Dominguez also said the rebuilding of the roof was still underway. It had to be done because of the number of leaks in the roof that were a danger to the computer systems should they get wet. He expected the project to be completed in four to eight weeks.

The police department was given permission to upgrade computers to meet higher standards required for new U.S. Communications technology. The $67,350 cost of the upgrades will come from the Federal Drug Forfeiture Account.

In a related item, the city received a $4,000 grant for the annual Click It or Ticket program designed to encourage use of seatbelts for safety.

Under board appointments, Brad Bentsen was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Board. Cipriano Saenz and Humberto Garza were appointed to the Youth Advocacy Advisory Board.

Bids for right-of-way improvements for Arnulfo “Tatan” Rodriguez Park were approved. Improvements to be done include sidewalks and a handicapped ramp along with decorative lighting so the park will blend with the new improvements in the downtown area.

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