It’s rare that a week will go by without at least one of my constituents asking me about the progress of our new dog park. I wish I could say that it has been delayed by all of the great features that it’s going to have or the very high quality of the construction.
Unfortunately, it has been delayed by one of the most nefarious thieves of time we all have encountered: government bureaucracy.
And before you think that I’m going to point fingers at our city, I’m not. If anything, they have been pushing as hard as anyone to get this project off of the ground. So who is holding it up? Well, your local flood control district, that’s who.
Why is the flood control district involved? We’re building the dog park on their land. When the flood control district built out the Jersey Meadow Detention Basin next to the golf course in early 2014, the City of Jersey Village entered into an interlocal agreement to build and maintain a walking path around the basin. We maintain that trail, but ultimately it and everything on that parcel of land belongs to the flood control district. By the way, that trail has made for an extraordinarily popular area for residents to enjoy nature and get some exercise. It’s an incredible place to watch a sunset, particularly on a clear spring day. I highly recommend checking it out one evening.
So when a proposal to build a dog park was made (inspired by the Jersey Village Comprehensive Plan developed by citizens), a vote was taken through a town hall and online between two locations. The land owned by the flood control district and maintained by the city was, by far and away, the most popular choice. Adding a new feature, however, would require the flood control district to approve of the design. Surely, it wouldn’t take long for that to happen, right?
Well, at first it seemed easy. The city contacted the flood control district to find out what would be needed. All they needed to receive to approve the construction was the interlocal agreement and the proposed dog park layout. And we proceeded to wait. And wait. During those months, the city bid out the work, obtained quotes for the purchase of the needed fencing and secured a contractor for construction. We advised the flood control district we were ready to proceed.
The city was then informed that we would need to forward those same plans to the flood control district’s watershed coordination department for review. And so we did. Finally, after a number of phone calls back and forth, the watershed coordination department now wanted to see an engineered drawing stamped by a professional engineer. So after a few weeks, the city had in hand the stamped engineered drawings for the dog park. The flood control district then decided that we needed to go through a permitting process in order to get approval for the construction of the dog park. After a few weeks, the flood control district’s permitting department has now requested that we provide a maintenance access plan, right of way identification information, construction drawing notes, and stormwater pollution prevention information. And so the wait continues as we secure all of these things in piecemeal fashion.
So, for those of you keeping score at home, what should have been a simple parks project has now required the following:
- A drawing of the layout of the dog park (sent to two different departments)
- A copy of the interlocal agreement between the city and the flood control district
- An engineered drawing of the dog park stamped by a licensed professional engineer
- A permit for construction of the dog park
- A maintenance access plan
- Right of way identification information
- Construction drawing notes
- Stormwater pollution prevention information
And that’s all before a single contractor begins to step foot on the property.
I write this not to whine about the length of time we have waited for the dog park to be constructed. In the grand scheme of things, although it is a very popular amenity that I am asked about frequently, it’s not the most important item on the city’s “to do” list.
But it does demonstrate in a very real way the tremendous amount of red tape that the city faces in advancing many of the projects people have asked about. Plus, keep in mind that this is a dog park. We’re talking about some fencing, a few gates and a few other items to be installed in the park. Imagine if we were trying to build something else, like say… an earthen berm.
Also, I’m not just picking on the flood control district – they’re far from the only large government entity that causes our relatively small and nimble city government to slow down to their glacial speed. Certainly, working with the county, the state, the federal government, the Texas Department of Transportation, or nearly any other large government agency out there can be extraordinarily difficult to work with due to the copious amounts of red tape placed before us.
While I have had my fair share of experience with government bureaucracy prior to being elected to city council, few things seem to be able to top the inefficiency of working between two government entities. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution at the moment. But I will certainly continue to communicate my concerns to my counterparts at the county, state and federal levels to find ways to increase cooperation with our partners in government and cut through some of the redundant and unnecessary regulations placed upon us.