New lease terms of Lions Club Tube Rental approved by San Marcos City Council

The new lease for the San Marcos Lions Club Tube Rental includes additional costs intended to raise money for city park operations and improvements. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)
The new lease for the San Marcos Lions Club Tube Rental includes additional costs intended to raise money for city park operations and improvements. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)

The new lease for the San Marcos Lions Club Tube Rental includes additional costs intended to raise money for city park operations and improvements. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)

After years of contentious debate centered on how a prominent San Marcos service organization should be charged to lease city property, officials have reached a solution.

City Council voted 6-1 during the April 6 meeting to approve a renegotiated lease with the San Marcos Lions Club for its tube rental business at City Park.

Place 1 Council Member Max Baker cast the dissenting vote on an action that followed a terse debate over lease negotiations that have served as a wedge issue for Lions Club members as well as its supporters and regional nonprofits and were also a point of frustration for members of City Council and the San Marcos parks board.

"To say that the process has been difficult is an understatement," Lions Club President Dennis Gutierrez said during his public comments at the beginning of the meeting. "I'm not sure how the Lions Club became such a target, but the comments made about a service organization were difficult to swallow, and we feel were unwarranted."

At issue is whether the arrangement remains a fair deal for the city, and, among other benefits, proponents of changes to the lease renewal said it could help provide the parks department with much needed funding.


"The parks department operates at 14% cost recovery," parks board member Diane Phalen said. "They really are so underfunded and understaffed, and the parks board has been really working hard to try to find various avenues to get more money."

While the monthly rent will remain unchanged, other amendments to the new lease include shifts in how the Lions Club allocates certain donations as well as when the organization conducts cleanup work around the area where it operates.

Breaking down the debate

Earlier this year, the parks board recommended several measures be added to the lease to improve the health of the river and raise additional funds for the city, such as limiting days of operation and adding a $2 surcharge per tube rental and shuttle ride.

The Lions Club is an international service organization that is tax-exempt in the United States. The San Marcos chapter donates profits from its tubing business to local nonprofits such as the Hays Caldwell Women's Center, Greater San Marcos Youth Council and CASA of Central Texas.

The original lease for the facility, approved in 2011 after a fire destroyed the previous building in 2009, comes up for renewal every five years and has the potential to run through 2036. A mutual agreement of the lease's terms is a component of the renewal that opens the door for renegotiation.

Those opposed to changing the terms of the lease say the move could result in a negative trickle-down effect on the community.

"Should the funding from the Lions Club decrease because of the amendments to their lease agreement, it will not only put a strain on our nonprofits that receive the funds, but also on people receiving services from those nonprofits," said Michelle Harper, president of the United Way of Hays and Caldwell counties, during the meeting. "Some of you may think, 'Well, they'll just get other donations.' I wish it were that easy."

For the 2018 tax year, the Lions Club's 990 tax exemption form shows a total revenue of $1,067,466. Salaries and wages accounted for $292,472, and another $456,108 went toward expenses that included merchandise and tube operations. According to the document, Lions Club leadership are unpaid volunteers.

A total of $348,070 was doled out in grants. Six organizations were listed as receiving more than $5,000 in 2018, with San Marcos Lions Charities getting the largest amount at $70,000. Hays Caldwell Women's Center was the second most funded with $25,000.

"Over the past three years, we have averaged returning about $375,000 to the community," Gutierrez said. "The city is a beneficiary of a portion of these funds each year."

Baker and others argued additional revenue is still needed to fund the city's parks rangers, and a lack of staff poses a danger to public safety.

"The impetus for looking for more funds in this rental rate agreement was kind of focused on how can we guarantee more money," Baker said. "Not through donations, but through reliable rental fees to pay for park rangers."

How the leases compare

The lease's 2011 terms included $10,800 in annual rent with marginal increases during each renewal. The $11,900 in yearly rent for the 2021-26 term remained unchanged after negotiations.

Concession stand revenue was not included in previous iterations of the lease, but the Lions Club reportedly donated 75% of proceeds to the park rangers division. Conflicting figures in city documents state a minimum of $14,000 was donated every year since 2016, with an annual high ranging from $23,850-$29,000.

Instead, the city will now require a donation of $285 for every day the Lions Club operates a new Rio Vista Park concession stand, which is expected to provide a more steady contribution of $19,950-$21,660 per year.

The Lions Club was required to assist in the city's designated river cleanup events in the previous lease but will now be required to send employees out during each day of operation to clean City Park and Dog Beach as well as the Rio Vista Park area between the new concession stand and Reynolds Drive along Cheatham Street.

A minimum of $10,000 per year will also be paid to the new river parks improvement fund established by the city. It will be funded through donations collected by the Lions Club, which will be responsible for closing any funding gap.

Future lease renewals will also have a deadline of Oct. 1 of the year preceding the expiration of the lease.
By Warren Brown
Warren joined Community Impact at the beginning of 2020 as the editor of its New Braunfels paper and now reports the news in San Marcos, Buda and Kyle. Warren previously wrote for the Dallas Observer and Fort Worth Weekly and he brings a passion for truth and equality to his reporting.


MOST RECENT

Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett addressed council April 20 regarding an ordinance restricting sex offenders' residency in the city. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Kyle officials revisit safety zones designed to restrict registered sex offender residency

After numerous, divisive public discussions that began in February, the city of Kyle is once again considering implementing child safety zones that would restrict where registered sex offenders may go and reside.

Kyle Communications Director Samantha Armbruster addresses City Council on April 20. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Kyle makes play to be designated official Pie Capital of Texas

Though unofficially, the city of Kyle has already put in the work to be the Pie Capital of Texas, and officials are now campaigning to make the designation legal and binding.

Kyle City Council approved the rezoning of land to a townhome district during its April 20 meeting. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Townhome district to help diversify Kyle’s housing profile

A townhome district in Kyle is defined as allowing attached, single-family structures with four or more dwelling units at a minimum of 1,000 square feet per unit.

A team from Texas State University presented findings to Kyle City Council on an ongoing ride-hailing partnership with Uber. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Analysis: Uber/Kyle partnership so far meeting expectations

During Kyle's April 20 meeting, the Texas State University team said the Kyle model would have to surpass 58 riders per day to exceed the city's budget—$150,000 for fiscal year 2020-21.

Mayor Jane Hughson speaks during a groundbreaking for medical marijuana company Goodblend in San Marcos on April 19. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)
Medical marijuana company breaks ground in San Marcos

Goodblend will build a $25 million medical cannabis cultivation, production and retail facility near the Amazon Fulfillment Center in San Marcos.

Early voting for the May 1 election runs April 19-27. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Hays County reports 500 votes in first day of early voting

Education-related election items in Hays County include $443.5 million in bonds as well as city council positions, school board seats and municipal utility district directors.

Doug Wozniak, the district's director of tranportation and safety, updated officials on staff's latest vaccination plans during SMCISD's April 19 meeting. (Screen shot courtesy San Marcos CISD)
San Marcos CISD working on plan for student vaccinations

While no students at San Marcos CISD have yet been vaccinated for COVID-19, at least not as part of any district program, a plan is in the works to ramp up inoculations for that population.

Tracey Benson updated SMCISD board members virtually regarding an ongoing equity audit during an April 19 meeting. (Screen shot courtesy San Marcos CISD)
Recommendations coming to San Marcos CISD regarding ongoing racial equity audit

Officials and staff at San Marcos CISD will soon hear a report based on the findings of an anti-racist consulting firm.

Blue Corn Harvest Leander is located at 11840 Hero Way W., Bldg. A, Leander. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Blue Corn Harvest opens in Leander; park, pizzeria launches social club and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Jack Allen's Kitchen will be at 1345 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park. (Rendering courtesy Jack Allen's Kitchen)
7 restaurants coming to Cedar Park, Leander; new murals to go up in Georgetown and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the Central Texas area from the past week.

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Austin FC supporters celebrate the official announcement of the team in January 2019. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
How, where to watch historic first Austin FC match April 17

Check out this list of breweries, pubs and restaurants around Central Texas that are hosting watch parties for April 17's inaugural Austin FC game.