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Lions Park will be transforming into an inclusive community staple that gives every resident the opportunity to roar.
Mission Parks and Recreation Director Brad Bentsen presented an item that authorized the department to engage an architect’s services for a preliminary park design for Lions Park during this week’s regular council meeting. The restructuring of the park would feature all-inclusive playground equipment open to children and young people of all needs.
Lions Park, located at 1500 Kika de la Garza Loop, is classified as a neighborhood park. Currently it includes two baseball fields, a playground, two picnic tables, six covered picnic shelters, a Scout hut, Community Center, restrooms and the Texas Citrus Fiesta Office.
“Services will include the inclusive playscape design, overall park redesign, a recycling satellite center and redesign of the Mission Community Center,” Bensten said. “There’s four stages for this project.”
Mayor Armando O’caña asked all members of the council to nominate a firm before voting. Council member Beto Vela was the first to bring up ARKiiFORM, LLC, an approved architect currently underway on the Mission Historical Museum and Speer Memorial Library roofing projects, as the architect for Lions Park.
Mayor Pro-Tem Norie Gonzalez Garza suggested hiring the same architects who handled other all-inclusive parks recently opened in the RGV, including those in Hidalgo and Harlingen, in order to save money on the inclusive playscapes.
Council member Jessica Ortega-Ochoa asked if ARKiiFORM, LLC would still be able to act as the architect for the preliminary park design. The city has an approved list of ten firms to choose from, and ARKiiFORM’s Charlie Garcia III has already been hired as the architect for the roofing projects.
Bentsen said they were looking at the other architects on the list approved by the council because they were instructed not to go with a firm already occupied in a Mission city project.
“The direction I received was to try and find one [an architect] that wasn’t currently engaged so we could have 100 percent of their time and involvement in this current project,” Bentsen said.
Gonzalez Garza and O’caña voted for EGV Architects. Ortega-Ochoa, Vela and council member Ruben Plata voted for ARKiiFORM to take on the project.
Garcia, who was in the audience, was asked if they would be able to take on the additional project and start immediately. He said that yes, they have the staff and ability to do so.
Ortega-Ochoa said that she voted for ARKiiFORM because they were the only architect present at the meeting, and he is from Mission, they should take on the redesign. It was approved by council, who expressed excitement for the project.
The city also awarded a contract to American Contracting U.S.A. for the roof replacement projects on the library and museum. An evaluation committee, which included the city engineer, purchasing director and Garcia, looked at four bids before recommending the contractor.
Mike Silva, a firefighter for the city of Mission, made a public comment during the meeting expressing his disdain for the handling of a grant that had the potential to award the fire department with $500,000.
“I come before you today to express how extremely upset and frustrated we are with the whole grant process that has come to light recently in the past week,” Silva said.
Silva said that firefighters travel to the capital to advocate for their fellow public servants and residents of Mission, and one of their goals is to bring money to the city. He added that the firefighters have been working with Representative Oscar Longoria (HD 35) to get funding for equipment so money wouldn’t have to be taken out of the city’s budget.
“He [Longoria] was able to get us $2 million for the border fire department communities here,” Silva said. “And it’s upsetting that we won’t be getting any of that money.”
Silva explained that the reason the Mission fire department won’t be receiving any grant funding was because the city-contracted grant writing company Hollis Rutledge & Associates, Inc., specifically Rutledge, failed to meet the Dec. 2 deadline and instead submitted it Dec. 20.
“That makes us not eligible for that funding,” Silva said. “Who loses out? The citizens of Mission, and the firefighters.”
Silva said the department is there and are trying to help bring funding to the city and community. He also noted that Rutledge is consulting with other cities in the area, and is able to complete those grants and turn them in on time.
“And when it comes to the city of Mission, he fails to do his job,” Silva said, pointing out members of Longoria’s staff in the audience who worked to ensure money was allocated to Mission (had the grant been submitted on time). “For that not to happen is unacceptable.”
In Silva’s comment, he asked the council to end the contract all together.
“Do we need to have an internal grant writer? Do we need to look into someone else to come in here and do the job? Because obviously he failed to do his job,” Silva said. “I hope you’ll recommend what the firefighters recommend – and I’m speaking on behalf of them – is terminate his contract for the failure, that he did not do his job.”
During executive session, council reviewed Rutledge’s Grant Consultant Contract for “errors and omissions.” No action was taken on the item.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Jan. 17, 2020 issue of the Progress Times.