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Board picks ‘low-hanging fruit projects’ in downtown Marble Falls

Third Street stairs in downtown Marble Falls

These worn steps on Third Street made a project list for the Marble Falls Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Board No. 1. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Uneven steps, heavily trafficked sidewalks, and faded striping on parking spaces in downtown Marble Falls might be due a touch-up. The city’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Board No. 1 met on Wednesday, Jan. 30, to discuss the so-called “low-hanging fruit projects.”

The board is targeting work that is easy to complete and finance.

The well-worn stairs between Main Street and Element7 Concrete at 901 Third St. are the board’s primary focus.

“My opinion is that it’s our highest priority and highest-value job,” said TIRZ board Chair Kyle Stripling at the meeting. 

The plan is to level out the steps for easier pedestrian access.

“With this project, it would keep the sidewalk the same width,” said Downtown and Marketing Manager Erin Burks. “We’re just fixing the stairs. It’s fixing a problem that we know needs to be done.”

Marble Falls City Engineer Jeff Prato laid out a larger vision for the project.

“(The stairs) are very wide, and if you cut those stairs down to five feet, that would leave you space to potentially have a sidewalk adjacent to the street,” he said. “That way, you could accommodate parking, keep the stairs, and have a sidewalk. I’d consider something along that line as a permanent solution.”

Deputy City Manager Caleb Kraenzel reminded the board that Prato’s proposed take on the project would require additional work.

“The second option is going to require geotechnical investigation,” he said. “We have to equivocally know if (the stairs) are part of the building foundation — if there’s rebar to tie them into the building. That could structurally affect the building. We need to do our due diligence.”

The board also discussed restriping parking spaces across downtown and renovating sidewalks between Yett and Second streets and Fourth and Fifth streets.

“Those projects don’t have big interruptions to businesses,” Burks said. “They fix a problem that needs to be fixed, and we’re in and out and we make an impact.”

City financial advisor SAMCO Capital Markets recommended TIRZ take out a bond of $4 million to fund the projects. 

“It is, in essence, our legacy what we do with the money,” Stripling said.

Board member Mitch McManus was uneasy with that figure.

“I’ve got to say this, and nobody is going to like it,” he said. “I don’t know where we came up with $4 million. I don’t think we should borrow that until we can afford it. We’re betting on (revenues) to come, and I would never do that in my personal life. I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes, but I don’t know. It seems like there’s a lot of assumptions. I’m all for progress, but I like taking baby steps.”

Other board members agreed with McManus’ assertion, leading to a tentative agreement to seek a “staggered issuance” of about $2 million.

“I see what you’re saying,” said board member Joe Don Dockery, who’s also the Burnet County commissioner for Precinct 4, which includes Marble Falls. “We can do a $2 million issuance, wait two years, and do another $2 million issuance.”

Four of the nine TIRZ board members were absent during the Jan. 30 meeting: Tony Plumlee, Matt Cochran, Kaitlynn Williams, and Teresa Carosella. 

The next meeting of the Marble Falls Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Board No. 1 is at noon Tuesday, Feb. 27, inside Council Chambers at City Hall, 800 Third St.

nathan@thepicayune.com