The under-construction Texoma Health Foundation Park dominated discussions across multiple items during Monday’s Denison City Council meeting. Monday’s council saw Denison leader’s approve a $657,531 change order to a contract with Piazza Construction for the construction project and the hiring of eight new staff members for the park.

With Monday’s actions, city officials said the park project is entering its final phases and approaching an expected opening in mid-August.

“This kind of finalizes out the project and allows Piazza to finish as quickly as possible,” City Manager Jud Rex said, referring to the change order.

The change order, which brings the project’s cost up to $13.01 million, relates primarily to the construction of new trail systems as a part of the park project. The $600,000, 1.3-mile path system was originally expected to be handled by Gateway Village developer TPJ Properties, but it was later discovered that there could be cost savings by bundling it with the Piazza contract, Rex said.

The path project will make use of Beam Concrete, who are a Piazza contractor already at work for the park project, Rex said.

“They are already out there, it is easy for them to mobilize and they gave us a very competitive bid,” Rex said.

Of the $600,000 budgeted for the pathways, Rex said the city is only responsible for about $50,000 of the cost, with TPJ picking up the remaining expense. The remaining $57,531 will be used on a number of amenity options that the city elected to add, including bullpen and batting cage improvements, a boardwalk to the sand volleyball courts and other minor alterations.

City staff also made a request to move $350,000 from the general fund and water/sewer fund to the project to offset the change order cost and cover expenses related to engineering, surveying and geotechnical work.

Renee’ Waggoner, finance and administrative services director, said the expense will affect the city’s general fund balance, but will not drop it below the 60-day minimum that the city maintains.

With the last steps to fund the project in place, the city also took action Monday to ensure to ensure the park had the proper staff.

New THF Park Manager Justin Eastwood proposed the hiring of eight staff — two full-time and six part-time — to help manager and operate the park. These new employees include two full-time maintenance utility works, a part-time utility worker, three part-time park ambassadors and two part-time supervisors.

Eastwood said the new staff members will be focused on the operational aspects of the park project and managing the day-to-day needs of keeping the park functional and clean. In documents for the meeting, city staff said this will help extend the life span and quality of the facility. In addition to keeping the park clean, these staff members will also focus on providing customer service.

Eastwood said these new staff members will have their shifts staggered to allow for a city employee to be on site during the park’s prime hours.

These new employees are expected to cost the city $29,442 for the remainder of the fiscal year, and increase to $139,206 for the 2019 fiscal year.