Amarillo residents are raising concerns about the city council’s recent decision to move forward with issuing certificates of obligation for a water park.

Recently, several Amarillo residents started an online petition to seek to place the debt issuance on the ballot for voters to decide. While the Change.org petition, like past online petition attempts in Amarillo, will not be accepted by City officials, it is just one example of how local residents are reacting to City leaders’ push for additional debt in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We need to be focusing on our community and their needs right now. Not a water park,” one citizen wrote on the petition website.

“This funding should be reserved for a true emergency for our community, and that is coming,” another citizen added.

Citizens have also been critical of the move as it comes during the height of the public health crisis caused by the Chinese coronavirus. One resident pointed out online that funding for needed personal protective gear was being crowdfunded.

The city council’s vote to publish intention to issue up to $8.15 million in certificates of obligation was met with swift pushback from Amarillo residents. The move followed a controversial decision by the City of Amarillo in 2018 to close the historic Thompson Park Pool in North Amarillo. City officials have been considering four different designs for the water park, each comparable to another Texas city’s design.

Some citizens also raised concerns about the city council pushing forward with the construction of a water park just three years after Canyon opened a water park of their own. Located about 20 minutes south of Amarillo, the pool was funded by a $6 million bond approved by Canyon voters and has served patrons in the Panhandle area.

Although this petition will likely not be accepted by city officials, there is still an opportunity for citizens to have the item placed on the ballot.

State law provides that if those against the debt issuance file a petition signed by at least 5 percent of the registered voters before the final issuance of the debt obligations, an election will be triggered on the debt issuance. Specific petitioning requirements are available in the Amarillo Municipal Code.

As of publication, the petition had garnered over 1,600 signatures.