County parks regulations merit revision
Commissioners Court regulations governing the rental of pavilions at Bexar County parks are in need of revision — and more exposure.
The decades-old rules on who pays for additional security at events held in these county facilities are being loosely interpreted and unevenly applied. More transparency and equal application of the rules are needed.
The vagueness of the county’s policies on additional security at private functions at rented park pavilions became apparent after an Easter Sunday incident at Rodriguez Park in Commissioners Court Precinct 2.
Commissioners had decided to cover all security costs for Easter Sunday festivities. Yet one pavilion renter was ordered to pay $50 an hour, for six hours, in security charges directly to Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela and her chief deputy to keep his party going.
Vela said the county’s regulations allow her to charge for extra security if a party has more than 50 guests and alcohol is served. However, a closer look at the county regulations indicate a lot was left to interpretation. There is something wrong when an elected official earning more than $93,000 a year can moonlight in a park under her own interpretation of rules and pocket the resulting cash.
The written regulations, adopted in 1987 by commissioners, refer to the need for additional paid security at pavilions where 100 or more are gathered, but there are some major loopholes. Page four of the rules states, “A member of Commissioners Court or his representative or authorized park personnel may determine the sufficiency of the required security and shall be authorized to require additional security.”
That means a constable — or anyone the commissioners designates as their representative, for that matter — can increase the security requirements.
This needs to be more explicit, listing the conditions under which that additional security might be warranted. For instance, the additional security should not be required simply because the rental site is coveted by an elected official.
The online reservation form for Rodriguez Park in Precinct 2 refers pavilion renters to Vela’s office to find out if they need to hire security. Those making pavilion reservations are not required to contract with Vela’s staff for off-duty security, but that is what the general public is told.
Over the decades, an unwritten rule has evolved that referrals for private security for certain parks go to specific people. The county’s park regulations allow any certified peace officer to fill the security job, but there is no clear explanation of that on the county’s website. They can hire another “peace officer.”
The county needs to post its park rental regulations online and clearly outline when extra security must be hired. Commissioners also need to let those making park reservations know they have a choice in who they hire to provide the security.
The timing for revisiting the county’s park regulations could not be better. County commissioners recently opened Hot Wells of Bexar County park on the city’s South Side. A $6 million capital campaign to expand the offerings at the 4-acre site along the San Antonio River Mission Reach just got underway.
The county park use regulations were last upgraded in 1995 and are not available on the county’s website. It time to clear up the murky language and post the rules online.