Council pushes forward on roads and visitor center improvements

MARFA — While major projects mostly hit the skids this year due to coronavirus complications, the city voted this week to affirm a few changes to an upcoming project that will work to chip seal roads this coming spring and to accept a proposal to landscape and irrigate the Marfa Visitors Center in the USO building.

The roads project will likely take around one week to execute in March or April, and involves laying a pavement surface treatment on a handful of roads in town. Mayor Manny Baeza explained the chip seal project in an interview, saying, “We’re trying to save the roads we can save before they deteriorate and we can’t fix them.”

“We should’ve seen some improvement this year, but of course there’s everything that happened,” the mayor said, referring to the difficulties of carrying out projects during the pandemic. And while the chip seal will be a minor improvement that will hopefully prevent some roads from worsening, there are even bigger road projects ahead.

“Hopefully next year or the following year we can tackle those streets that are in dire need,” he said. But that will depend on the council getting another loan for the project, which would take on poor-condition roads like Mesa Street, from the railroad crossing near the MAC building all the way up to Columbia Street, and the railroad crossing on Russell Street by the dog park, all the way to Columbia Street as well.

The seal coat program will be carried out with Parkhill, Smith and Cooper, and this week the council extended its completion date to September 1, 2021, and locked in the same price rate of $2.85 per square yard of seal.

For another capital expenditure, the city has been searching for proposals to take on the project of landscaping and irrigating the Marfa Visitor Center’s outdoor area, with hopes of turning the exterior into an outdoor venue.

Council moved forward to accept the one project proposal they received during the two weeks the request for proposals was open, which came from local landscape designer Jim Martinez.

Councilmember Buck Johnston, who has advocated for the Marfa Visitor’s Center beautification during budget cycles for the last two years, said she strongly supported accepting Martinez’ proposal, doubting the city would get another proposal from someone as qualified and noting that the project was projected to be under budget.

Council accepted the proposal by Martinez unanimously, which comes in at $59,550.