June 20, 2019 444 PM
EMERGENCY SERVICES, HOUSING, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
PRESIDIO COUNTY – Presidio County, and the cities of Presidio and Marfa are the sole Texas recipients of a US Department of Agriculture grant partnership that will provide free technical assistance to the three local governments for two years to help build long-term economic growth. The grant was originally sought by Brad Newton of Presidio, Judge Cinderela Guevara of the county, and former Marfa Mayor Ann Marie Nafziger.
The three communities identified emergency services, housing, and economic development as three key issues they hope to address with the funds. The goal is for the three governments to work cooperatively and share resources, a notion especially useful when capital is often scarce in the rural area.
Though the project extends to 47 communities across the United States, Presidio, Marfa, and the county’s individual mandate for the project is to “use planning assistance to build water and transportation infrastructure, expand technological innovation and support business development,” according to information provided by the offices of USDA Rural Development. “The recipient will use assistance to support health care providers, mental health services, childcare services and affordable housing for the local workforce. Assistance will also help support workforce development, apprenticeship programs.”
The grant comes at a pressing time for the county. Health care has been a growing subject in the area, since the entire county currently cannot access hospital-level care without traveling to neighboring Brewster County, and even relying at times on medical evacuations by air. Mental healthcare is also scarce, and often not affordable or covered by insurance. Childcare is piecemeal, and affordable housing is only beginning to be investigated by a committee formed by the Marfa City Council.
Rather than directly giving cash grants to the local governments, the USDA’s Rural Economic Development Innovation initiative gave part of its $1.2 million fund to the Rural Community Assistance Partnership. The RCAP will be partnered with Presidio, Marfa, and the county to “enhance the prosperity of rural communities and ensure their resiliency well into the future,” said Edd Hargett, the Texas State Director of Rural Development for the USDA.
The three political subdivisions will work directly with Communities Unlimited, the Southern RCAP, which describe themselves as “a community development organization that will provide technical assistance under REDI to support five rural towns and regions in Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas, to create and implement economic development plans.”
Kathryn Lucero is a Communities Unlimited employee based in El Paso, who said she hopes to use the grant to coordinate a plan that will be effective for these communities to cooperatively meet the three issues they identified – emergency services, housing, and economic development.
There’s no dollar amount tied to the grant; instead, Communities Unlimited will provide support to the project, through local on-site technical assistance, training, lending, GIS mapping services, and strategic partnerships.
Lucero summarized the grant efforts as “a plan to assist in collaboratively expanding and improving the emergency services, housing and economic development.” The CU employee is optimistic about the grant’s future. “With the involvement of the community, and everyone working together, ultimately there will be some really great changes coming out of it.”