By Michael Sudhalter
The Houston Heights Association board appears to be conflicted over how to deal with the fallout from the Paul Carr wooden train controversy.
On Monday night – more than three months since Carr installed the train in Donovan Park – the board discussed for approximately 15 minutes whether to send the 74-year-old lifelong Heights residents an official thank you note.
They voted against it, with Leanne Mueller as the lone vote in favor of sending Carr an official letter of gratitude.
Many board members were concerned with precedent, considering the board hasn’t written official thank you letters in the past. Another concern was finding someone with the time to write multiple thank you notes, to the association’s volunteers.
Some board members pointed out that the board has recognized volunteers and donors in newsletters and during banquets, so an official thank you note may not be necessary.
Carr said receiving an official letter “would be nice,” but he’s satisfied with the banner that children and their parents made for him in appreciation for the train.
Carr said he and his wife, Mary, will attend the HHA’s Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at the Heights Firehouse and after that, they’ll end their association with the Association.
“It will be a little awkward, considering (the people) that fired me will be running the show,” Carr said.
Robert Woods, a new board member, said the board should move past such the “official letter” discussion.
“It’s not a waste of time, but it’s close,” Woods said.
The HHA paid Carr $1,100 per month to manage Donovan and Marmion Parks, but dismissed him from the independent contractor position because they said he didn’t ask permission for installing the wooden train.
Carr, one of the founders of the HHA in 1974 and a four-time former president, said getting permission to build the wooden train was a “bunch of nonsense,” saying that he’s volunteered on many projects without getting permission first.
At Monday’s meeting, HHA vice president Bill Baldwin introduced the idea of creating a written policy prohibiting permanent installations from being built. It could be voted on at the HHA’s March meeting.
He said it would make the process of parks planning clearer for volunteers to follow policy.
Baldwin said the HHA will pay “just under $6,000” to make the train compliant with safety regulations required by its insurance policy.
The HHA is looking for a successor to Carr, but Baldwin said it’ll likely be a volunteer position. Baldwin’s brother, John, is currently volunteering to assist with the management of the parks.