City infrastructure shored up during Marfa council meeting

MARFA – Marfa City Council met Tuesday in the Casner Room to make decisions on contracts, continue improvements on city infrastructure and start preparations for the Marfa Lights Festival. Here’s what happened at the meeting:

City water infrastructure

The silver cone-top water tower and the purple and white standpipe water tank are now part of a full service maintenance plan from Maguire Iron, after the council approved an amended proposal that will contract the company to do maintenance through 2030, when both tanks will get fresh coats of paint under the maintenance plan.

The deal includes regular Texas Commission on Environmental Quality inspections and cleanouts, though the bulk of the payments each year will go towards the costs of materials and labor to carry out the paint job in 2030. Council agreed to a payment schedule where the first four years of $44,795 will remain the same as what is currently being paid to Maguire Iron for work that has already been done.

In 2026, the payments will increase closer to $80,391 a year and begin contributing toward the 2030 project, though council agreed that if the higher payments weren’t sustainable in upcoming city budgets, future city council members would still be able to terminate the contract after completing the four years of payments.

Since the full maintenance plan covered the costs of breakages, it could prove to be reliable insurance in the next nine years. “There’s value to peace of mind, especially with something as important as water supply,” said City Attorney Teresa Todd.

“You basically have a $1,000 inspection fee and then the cleanout fee,” said Maguire Iron Regional Manager Michael Bruck. “The rest is the paint and our labor to paint with. If we do have to replace a vent or hatch, it’s on us — it’s not going to cost any extra.”

Mayor Manny Baeza was initially hesitant to proceed, pointing to a groundwater tank that is slated for replacement at a cost of $750,000. However, once it was determined the contract could be exited, council moved forward with the contract, partially because it would lock in the cost of the 2030 painting now, rather than at a later date when material and labor costs could be higher.

Lights in the USO Garden Pavilion

With an upcoming memorial event planned at the Garden Pavilion and USO Hall for David Tompkins, organizers were eager to install lighting in the rafters, and dimmer switches to accompany them.

The city approved a proposal for a licensed electrician, Junie Villareal, to install lighting and dimmers at a cost of $1,645. The bill won’t come across the city’s desk however, as Marfa resident Rob Weiner offered to pay for the full cost of the project.

Marfa Municipal Pool

Public Utilities Supervisor Chuck Salgado provided a follow up on the condition of the Marfa swimming pool, reporting that it would not be feasible to reopen it before the end of the summer season.

Salgado had filled the pool to test the pump and look for cracks, and both pump issues and cracks presented themselves. The utilities crew also partially repaired the solar panels that heat the pool, fixing about 10 to 12 leaks, with another five to go.

While Dan Dunlap, former mayor and volunteer pool servicer, had good news that the chlorinator was still functioning, he also shared that a substantial leak had been found.

Councilmember Buck Johnston moved, and council agreed, that the city not open the Marfa municipal pool in 2021, “but that we have it ready to go as soon as we can in spring of 2022,” she said.

Road improvements continue

A recently repaved road at Ridge Street, west of the smaller Stripes gas station in town, was completed at the hands of Permian Paving. Council heaped praise on the project and its stewards and Attorney Todd remarked, “Never have I had a project move so quickly,” before moving to accept a bid from Permian Paving to update three new streets.

Permian Paving out of Midland was the sole bidder, and City Roads Supervisor Albert Dominguez recommended that the city give the contract to the company, saying they worked well with the city workers and the neighbors while executing the Ridge Street project.

New improvements will begin imminently on Spring Street from San Antonio to El Paso, on Dean Street from San Antonio to El Paso, and on Abbot Street from San Antonio to Dallas.

Marfa Lights Festival

The Marfa Chamber of Commerce asked the city to shut down streets around the courthouse for the annual Marfa Lights Festival Friday, Sept. 3, and Saturday, Sept. 4, and council granted the closures, also agreeing to hang a banner this week across Highland Street to advertise the event. In addition to the city street closures, the Texas Department of Transportation will be asked to close Highland between Oak and Lincoln, and the eastern side of Lincoln next to the courthouse, since it is part of State Highway 17.