The San Marcos City Council approved a resolution in support of the possible establishment of an Indigenous culture center at its meeting on Feb. 24.
The resolution proposes the possibility of the Indigenous Cultures Institute and the city co-applying for Hays County Parks and Open Space Bond funding and for city property to be used for the project. At this time, the approval of the resolution does not commit the city to provide any funding or land and only supports the Indigenous Cultures Institute as it pursues funding with Hays County.
Proposed requirements of the center from the institute include a total of 10 acres for the building and outside structure, as well as 500 parking spaces to be used for large events. The center would also feature an exhibit, gallery, classroom spaces and an outdoor garden.
Councilmember Mark Gleason expresses concern with the possibility of city staff having to search for property for the project when land could instead be used to provide new homes or to preserve green space.
"I want to get those people in homes that we have money for now, and we're having a hard enough time finding land as it is," Gleason says.
Councilmember Maxfield Baker agrees with Gleason's position on the necessity of using funds and lands to construct additional homes but adds that historically, past settlers originally stole land from the Miakan-Garza tribe.
"Our ancestors, our people came in, took this land from the Miakan-Garza tribe," Baker says. "I think finding 10 acres is probably the, you know, a very small token that we can do to right some of that historical wrong."
Councilmember Melissa Derrick adds the Indigenous Cultures Institute is looking for park land to be donated and says park land can never be used to build homes in the first place.
"All we're doing is saying, you know, we support them in applying for the funding," Derrick says. "And I think our children and our future generations could definitely benefit from this as can our economy because they plan to bring in the Aztec dancers and speakers and all kinds of things that will spur tourism and dollars into San Marcos."
Gleason mentions that while the organization seeks to use park land, he finds an issue with the possible construction of 500 parking spots on green space located along the river. Additionally, he expresses the purpose of the open space bond proposal was to preserve green space not to build a museum or an institute.
"When green space is gone, it's gone," Gleason says. "What we said to everybody is we want to buy green space and buy land and keep it in forever, and now we're talking about taking land that we already own and developing it."
Emily Aguilar from the Indigenous Cultures Institute says the center would serve as a community space for everyone in San Marcos and beyond and adds land outside the center would be used to teach young people about growing and harvesting their own food from the environment.
"I think it was Councilman Gleason [that] brought up the significance of taking care of the land, and I really appreciate that point because it's absolutely our number one priority to steward the land as the original stewards of these lands," Aguilar says.
Partners in support of the project include the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, the Center for Archaeological Studies at Texas State, the San Marcos River Foundation, Hays County Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra, San Marcos CISD, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and the University of Texas at Austin.
The resolution in support of the Indigenous Cultures Institute's proposal passed 5-2, with councilmembers Saul Gonzales and Gleason voting against it.
A moment of silence was held during the council meeting to honor those who worked to provide residents with utility fixes, resources and other assistance during last week's winter storm.
During public comment, community member Harvey Jenkins provided a statement regarding the Electric Reliability Council of Texas' (ERCOT) response to last week's inclement weather and says councilmembers must hold ERCOT criminally accountable for the cruel and inhumane conditions residents had to endure during the storm.
"My dad, my 70-year-old Hispanic dad who has type two diabetes, had to sleep in my truck with the engine running for 30 minutes at a time because that was the only way he could keep warm," Jenkins says. "It falls on your shoulders to hold these people accountable, and if you don't, then feel free to stand in their place and be held accountable. It hurts me to say that about y'all. You know, it hurts me to say that about my civic leaders, but we cannot have this again."
In response to last week's winter storm, councilmembers granted a temporary waiver of permit fees for plumbing repairs until April 16. The waiver will also ratify any fee approved before Feb. 24.
Councilmembers also supported a resolution approving an agreement with John Bugge for a $396,500 purchase of 3.64 acres of land located at 1410 and 1412 River Road. This resolution is the first out of 15 acquisitions required for the Blanco Riverine Flood Mitigation Project which aims to develop a floodwall structure between River Road and Blanco River to prevent floodwaters from entering the Blanco Gardens neighborhood.
The project is anticipated to go into construction this fall depending on approval of all acquisitions.
Council members approved a construction contract with Seidal Construction, LLC in the amount of $5,502,900 for the construction of San Marcos Fire Station No. 6.
Council members also voted to confirm the city manager's re-appointment of Kathy Martinez-Prather to the San Marcos Civil Service Commission. The amending of section 86.003 of the San Marcos City Code was also authorized by councilmembers; the amendment will remove the city manager's approval for connections and extensions for city water and wastewater service outside city limits and instead allow the council to issue approval.
An ordinance amending section 2.351 of the San Marcos City Code relating to the language update of representative titles of the Convention and Visitor Bureau Advisory Board was approved by council members.
Council members also approved an ordinance amending the city's 2019-2020 fiscal year budget to allocate $8,423,553 in additional funding from the General Fund for Economic Development Incentive payments.
The San Marcos City Council meets virtually on the first and third Tuesday of each month. Residents who wish to speak during citizen comment or public hearing periods should email email@example.com no later than noon on the day of the meeting.
For more information about City Council or to view meeting recordings and agendas, visit its website.