After postponing its decision earlier this month, Corsicana's City Council called a special meeting Monday, June 17 to reconsider Corsicana Water and Adventure Park's fifth request for an extension to the city's grant contract.
Council members once again questioned CWAP representatives regarding the chain of events leading them to request another extension to the contract between the city and the Texas Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Community Affairs.
The purpose of this extension is to allow TDA time to verify the jobs created by CWAP and to close the contract. This is the city's only involvement and has no financial position in the project.
The $750,000 reimbursement grant, of which the city utilized approximately $650,000, was awarded by TDA in March 2013 for water line and street infrastructure at the intersection of Highway 287 and Interstate 45 where the park is to be located.
After the issuance of a $750,000 bond by CWAP developers to protect the city, the city constructed the necessary infrastructure and received reimbursement from TDA.
In July 2018, the city rescinded its partnership with CWAP.
Should CWAP fail to meet TDA's grant requirement and prove that 51 full-time, non-seasonal jobs have been created at the park, the city will call the bond to repay the state.
Raising the issue of job creation at the unfinished park, Pct. 1 Councilwoman Susan Hale asked CWAP representative Richard Lewins, of Lewins Law firm in Dallas, if the company had submitted anything to the state verifying the payroll reported at the last Council meeting.
“No,” Lewins said. “The answer to that is that we have to go back in paper – whatever the TDA wants, paper, in the way that they want it, which we will do.”
Hale further questioned why that information wasn't submitted correctly to begin with, which Lewins had no answer for.
“I can just tell you today we will get them all the paperwork to support exactly what we've done,” Lewins said, although he seemed unsure as to when that would take place, offering a timeline of a couple weeks.
According to John McClung, a CWAP general partner, CWAP has already issued employees' checks for the pay period of May 15 through the end of May.
Mayor Don Denbow clarified that the required 51 jobs created were due to be reported to TDA on May 3, followed by certification of the payroll for those employees.
However, Denbow said that as of May 17, there were only 25 or 26 names submitted with no certification of those names on the payroll.
“We know we haven't done it,” Lewins said, “but we will get it done. It's just paperwork.”
“As it stands right now, those jobs didn't count at all,” said Hale. “so it does nothing to minimize any kind of reduction in the amount that would be owed to the Texas Department of Agriculture.”
Hale explained that, if the extension is granted, those jobs can count toward the 51 required positions, provided that the necessary paperwork is completed and certified by TDA, which Lewins said CWAP understood.
“When did you come to this understanding?” asked Pct. 4 Councilman Jeff Smith. “When did you finally figure out what you're supposed to do to get this thing done right?”
Lewins said that the understanding was reached when, at the start of the meeting, attorney Terry Jacobson requested time to speak privately with CWAP representatives to explain some of the city's concerns.
Hale explained the extension, if granted, would require CWAP to maintain 51 full-time, or 102 part-time, employees through Oct. 1 with payroll to be certified Oct. 31.
She also reminded CWAP that 51 percent of those employees must be considered low to moderate-income families, which will also need to be verified by TDA.
McClung said employees were required to submit a form stating their families' income to comply with that requirement.
Hale said that a letter requested from TDA after the previous meeting stated that it could not certify the jobs that CWAP had already reported, citing that it did not have a list of the actual jobs or the employees on the payroll.
“So we're having to make the bet that TDA is going to certify those jobs,” Hale said.
“We're all trying to do the right thing, trying to help you, but we have to know that things are in order – definitely in order, to make decisions that will impact our city,” said Pct. 2 Councilwoman Ruby Williams, who asked Lewins whether CWAP was aware that it needed to qualify with TDA prior to approaching the city for another extension.
“We understood what the qualification limits were,” Lewins said, prompting Williams to ask if CWAP just neglected to send in the paperwork.
“I wouldn't phrase it that way,” said Lewins, “but I understand that's what you want to say.”
TDA representatives Catrina Pulido and Aubrey Ann Gilmore were in attendance to answer the Council's questions regarding the grant contract.
Hale asked Pulido what information TDA required and when.
Pulido said that TDA requires four consecutive weeks of non-seasonal payroll for 51 full-time employees, or 102 equivalent employees. Those records must include the same employees hired at the start of extension period, from May through October.
“We have requested, prior, to see a list of employees and their hire dates,” Pulido said. “We have received a list of employees, but no hire date. That's just something we would like to know going forward if the extension is requested.”
Pct. 3 Councilman Chris Woolsey proposed an amendment to the resolution for the contract extension to state that no further amendments or extensions will be considered by the city.
“I believe that this ordeal has gone on long enough and the citizens of Corsicana deserve resolution,” Woolsey said, “I believe the city has gone above and beyond in helping this project.”
Jacobson suggested an additional amendment to obtain a general indemnity from McClung personally, for any losses that may be incurred by the city in the future.
The motion was seconded by Hale and unanimously approved by the Council.
After the meeting, the Daily Sun spoke with CWAP partners McClung and Pat Wollenburg regarding the status of the proposed park.
According to Wollenburg, CWAP has hired 54 to 55 employees, including lifeguards, office personnel, parking attendants, safety monitors, and grounds keepers who are currently going through training.
McClung said that the park was unable to open last weekend, but will try again this weekend, with a grand opening planned for June 29.
“This is really just the first phase,” McClung said. “We actually have two projects going out there.”
Initially plans for a water and adventure park morphed into an indoor trampoline park, with the water park open about 100 days a year, and the adventure park open 235 days.
CWAP's partnership with Altitude Trampoline Park and Altitude H2O expanded to include plans for an indoor trampoline park as well as the inflatable obstacle courses now in place on the property's 3-acre pond.
McClung described a four-phase plan to include other seasonal and year-round activities on the 20-acre property.
“The thing I've always liked about it is it puts a new face on Corsicana,” McClung said. “The income that this is going to generate for the city of Corsicana is going to be significant.”
McClung said issues with financing, and some times weather, have delayed the project throughout the past six years.
“The bottom line is just financing, raising money to build, at the time, about an $8 or $9 million park. We got some of the financing in place, but there always seemed to be kind of a gap that we just couldn't quite fill. Bottom line, that's where the delay is.”
McClung said that CWAP's hope is that what is put in place now will help generate income for the rest of the park moving forward.
Splashicana Water park timeline:
Feb. 7, 2013 — Project announced at Chamber of Commerce banquet. Projected opening Summer 2014.
March 30, 2013 — City qualifies for Texas Department of Agriculture – Office of Rural Community Affairs Texas Capital Fund infrastructure grant of $750,000 for project.
June 24, 2013 – Navarro County Commissioners approve 50 percent tax abatement for 10 years for the water park.
July 12, 2013 — Groundbreaking held at construction site. Construction to start “within 30 days.”
Jan. 28, 2014 — Mayor Chuck McClanahan states that “some work has started” and the new target date for the water park is July 4.
March 20, 2014 — Michael Jenkins announces project pushed back to Spring 2015 opening due to difficulty getting contractors.
April 24, 2014 — Developers announce contest to name park will kick off during Derrick Days.
July 14, 2014 — City puts $300,000 in debt guarantee fund in exchange for 5 percent ownership; August 2014 construction start announced.
Aug. 21, 2014 — Park named “Splashicana” in contest; construction due to start “during the month of September.”
Sept. 19, 2014 — Developer posts $750,000 bond to allow city to start using state grant money for infrastructure; no park construction yet.
Sept. 30, 2014 — Michael Jenkins said bid changes being worked on; “very confident we’ll start in early October,” with Memorial Day 2015 opening date.
Nov. 5, 2014 — Michael Jenkins announces an approximate $3 million funding commitment to build the park with Lincoln Capital Management.
Feb. 25, 2015 — The first weekend of April 2016 named as the new target date for opening, and Big Sky Construction of Dallas is named as general contractor. Michael Jenkins says park will open for “dry activities” in late 2015, with opening for first full season in April 2016; announced approval from Texas First Bank as a first lien lender.
June 16, 2015 — Foreclosure paperwork filed with the Navarro County Clerk’s office on the water park property citing a “default in performance of the obligations of Deed of Trust.” C.L. “Buster” Brown III files “Notice of Trustees Sale” with Navarro County Clerk’s office, stating default in performance of obligations by Corsicana Water & Adventure Park in $1.28 million purchase.
June 26, 2015 — Jenkins refers to the beginning of foreclosure proceedings as a “misunderstanding” over delinquent tax payments. Memorial Day 2016 announced as the projected opening day.
July 10, 2015 — First shipment of water park equipment arrives at the park site.
June 13, 2016 — City Council approves a deadline extension request to the Texas Department of Agriculture relating to grant funds.
Sept. 15, 2016 — Developers Michael Jenkins, Maurice Simon and John McClung tell the Daily Sun the water park is scheduled for a summer 2017 opening.
April 10, 2017 — City Council approves a declaration of nonexistence of a conflict of interest regarding the Corsicana Water and Adventure Park.
Sept. 7, 2017 – Mayor announced to Lions Club that water park had paid on bond insuring city's payback. Phase 1 of the water park is now a trampoline park.
July 22, 2018 – The Corsicana City council voted to rescind a resolution and memorandum of agreement between the city and the Corsicana Water and Adventure Park.
Sept. 2018 – May 2019 – Grant contract extension granted by Council.
May 17, 2019 – CWAP reports that the 51 required jobs were created (original deadline May 3); submitted incomplete records to TDA.
June 10, 2019 – Council postponed motion requesting fifth extension; told park would open that weekend.
June 17, 2019 – Council approved request for fifth and final extension. John McClung says water park will try to open that weekend with grand opening set for June 29