CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — Erecting signs to find civic landmarks such as the pavilion, a boat ramp or Historic Main Street in Marble Falls has raised questions about use of capital improvement funds for tourism-related projects, officials say.
Development Services Director Caleb Kraenzel brought the proposal before the city council on Sept. 2 to allocate $50,000 for Phase I of a so-called “wayfinding signs” system to be implemented in conjunction with the Downtown Master Plan.
“In an area where you have a lot of civic assets — city hall, police station, parks — it’s to provide people easy navigation tools to be able to find those assets,” Kraenzel said. “A lot of visitors will benefit by knowing, ‘Oh, there’s a boat ramp right there off (U.S.) 281 within a couple of blocks of a lakeside park.”
City Councilman Raymond Whitman scoffed at the proposal and funding, which was eventually turned down by council members at the meeting.
“Projects like this should never ever come from your capital improvements budget. Capital improvement projects should be streets, water and sewer. The things that you need to make a city function,” Whitman said.
Last year, the city allocated $17,000 to contract with Motivational Systems Inc. of San Diego, Calif., a wayfinder sign firm, to work with city staff, who selected a focus group of downtown business owners and community leaders that picked the sign design to present to the council.
“The one challenge we have (with the existing signs), they’re not all the same material or the same color palette. They’re disjointed. (The new sign proposal) is meant to develop a look, a brand, a system of wayfinding signs that all have a consistent look,” Kraenzel said. “In this particular instance that the city is looking at right now is the downtown Master Plan Historic District area.”
The Phase I proposal involves 10 signs with a granite feature to provide a “substantial historic native element.”
“The focus group didn’t want to sacrifice character or quality by cheapening what the product would be,” Kraenzel said.
City staff is expected to offer a followup proposal during the Oct. 7 city council meeting.
“They asked us to look for alternative funding sources and to look at some minor adjustments to the design,” Kraenzel said.
Whitman recommended hotel/motel funds, handled by the city but derived from taxes on lodging within the city limits.
“There may be some signs in there directing you to the pavilion, but for the most part, if you’re here and you have a function at the pavilion, you know where it is,” Whitman said. “Going forward for those people who are on Main Street, they should go to the chamber of commerce. They should go to the hotel/motel tax fund and see about getting their money from that.
“At a time when we can’t afford to pave our streets and fix our water and sewer, spending $50,000 on wayfinding signs seems slightly ridiculous,” he added.