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Marble Falls council moves with caution on digital signs proposal

Marble Falls Downtown and Marketing Manager Erin Burks

Downtown and Marketing Manager Erin Burks gave a presentation to the Marble Falls City Council during its regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15, on the use of digital signs in the city to advertise events and communicate important information to residents. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Marble Falls City Council expressed caution over the installation of permanent digital signs across the city, citing conflicts with businesses and traffic safety issues. During their regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15, council members requested further research on the proposal. 

The council did approve a traffic ordinance overhaul, a water and wastewater master plan update, and a contract of services for the design of a new pump station.

Marble Falls Downtown and Marketing Manager Erin Burks presented a preliminary proposal for the use of digital signs to advertise community events and communicate emergency and other important information. High-quality digital screens would be mounted on permanent fixtures and post regularly changing content.

Before a decision is made, Burks will consult with other cities that use digital signs and seek out potential locations for their placement. She told DailyTrib.com that the technology’s ultimate purpose is to improve community outreach.

“We just want to get the information to the community,” she said. “Whether it’s an emergency notice, like a boil water notice like we had during the freeze, a burn ban notice, or events going on in the community, we want to get the information in their hands as quickly as possible.”

The signs would cost about $75,000 each and be placed in strategic locations to reach as many drivers as possible, as safely as possible, Burks said. They would also match the aesthetic of downtown Marble Falls. 

Councilors Dave Rhodes and Bryan Walker voiced concerns, citing potential conflict with business owners who have been prevented from using similar signs by city ordinance. 

“I’ve been here on and off for 25 years. The single greatest, nastiest thing we talk about is signs,” Rhodes told the council. “You can’t win, you can’t make everybody happy. It goes on and on and on. Whether it’s legal or justified, that’s one thing, but business owners who we’ve told over the years that they can’t do that, then we go ahead and do it as council, is another.”

While these signs will be within city ordinance standards, the ordinances are relatively lengthy and restrictive, which has caused friction in the past with local business owners, Rhodes said.

“I don’t want to run afoul of the business community, thinking that we are competing with them or thinking, ‘these are rules for thee, not for me,’” Rhodes told DailyTrib.com after the meeting.

Mayor Richard Westerman acknowledged the councilors’ concerns but asserted that the city needs a way to quickly communicate with residents.

“It’s been a real struggle for us to get communication out there since the banner program was eliminated,” Westerman said. “I think this is a reasonable solution.”

Until 2012, the city of Marble Falls paid to be part of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative banner program, which involved PEC crews installing informative banners on co-op structures across the city. It was discontinued due to cost and safety concerns.

Burks noted she looked into banner installations and vertical signage in the city, but both of those options were costly and time consuming. Banners would be more than $1,000 each and require extensive installation time. The wait time for vertical signage can be eight weeks or more.

The council settled on requesting further research from Burks, asking her to reach out to Fredericksburg, Lockhart, and College Station, which use the proposed digital signs. Members also requested research on sign locations that would be safe and visible, reducing the risk of driver distraction.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The council unanimously approved an overhaul to city traffic ordinances, including a drop in residential speed limits from 30 mph to 25 mph and regulating electronic scooter rental companies.

The council also approved the design of a new pump station by Trihydro Inc. for the Via Viejo Pump Station project, which will create an updated water tower capable of serving future growth around eastern Marble Falls. The project currently has no timeline, but it is expected to cost around $2.5 million.

A contracted update of the city’s Water and Wastewater Utility Master Plan by Miller-Grey LLC was also approved.

dakota@thepicayune.com

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