City council hears more on concerns about project to beautify downtown plus other updates from Monday’s meeting

At Monday’s meeting, the Presidio City Council heard from the head of the Convention and Visitor Bureau, Arian Velazquez-Ornelas, about concerns she has with the ongoing project to revitalize downtown and then agreed to request the Texas Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit on the section of O’Reilly Street that runs through the middle of town. And at the beginning of the meeting, the council discussed how to go about hiring a new executive director of the Presidio Municipal Development District.

New executive director of PMDD 

One of the first items of discussion at the meeting was whether to combine the executive director position at the Presidio Municipal Development District with another role within the city administration. Now that the longtime executive director of the PMDD, Brad Newton, has been hired to be the city administrator, the council is making steps toward appointing a new director, as they asked Newton to step down from the role.

Newton suggested that this new hire should split their time between the PMDD and the city, much in the same way as he did. The thinking goes that the executive director position alone is not a full-time job and doesn’t come with any benefits. If the new hire has a role within the city administration, then they would be eligible for benefits provided by the city.

EMS Director Malynda Richardson agreed with Newton, saying that in order to attract top-notch candidates, the position needs to offer benefits from the city.

After Councilmember Irvin Olivas asked for more clarification on what duties the new hire would perform with the city, Newton said that he would want them to help out mainly in tourism and finance. “The amount of work in the finance department is overwhelming. I mean it really is,” Newton said.

Councilmember Razo worried that the split nature of the role introduced too much ambiguity in the position and thought it would be best to keep them separate. In the end, the council shut down the idea with Councilmember Billy Hernandez and Razo both voting to not combine the PMDD position with a city role. Olivas abstained from the vote and councilmembers Nancy Arevalo and Rogelio Zubia were not present to take a position on the matter.

Beautification of downtown

The council also heard from Arian Velazquez-Ornelas, the president of the Convention and Visitor Bureau, about her concerns with how a nonprofit is going about its plan to beautify downtown. As The Presidio International previously reported, the nonprofit Presidio Cultural District Association was given $40,000 from the city –– through the PMDD –– to bring murals and plants to downtown. Yet the city has been providing little oversight to the project, leaving the bulk of the decisions up to the two heads of the nonprofit.

At a PMDD meeting in early August, a number of residents were frustrated with the way the PCDA went about selecting an artist to create a mural and felt as if the community was being left out of the decision-making process.

Velazquez-Ornelas asked the council for more transparency and oversight with how this nonprofit is spending taxpayer funds. “We want to be able to have a seat at the table,” she said. “They’re working on the downtown, which eventually will bring tourism to this community.”

Mayor Ferguson said that in future dealings with any group asking for funding, “We need to take a really careful look at things and study it, do our homework beforehand, and be able to ask some questions about how that money is going to be spent.”

This project was originally greenlit by city council back in May 2020 when the council passed a resolution endorsing the recent creation of the PCDA and its efforts to “preserve, promote and enhance Presidio’s rich cultural history.”

At Monday’s meeting City Secretary Brenda Ornelas informed the council that any resolution or motion they passed could be rescinded and Councilmember Hernandez said, “Nobody is daring to mention it, and I’m not going to, but we do need to do something about that cultural district association.” Despite that, there was no action taken in regards to the PCDA’s beautification project.

New speed limit

In other news, the council also passed a motion to request the Texas Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit on downtown O’Reilly Street from 30 miles per hour to 20.

At Newton’s suggestion, Police Chief Margarito Hernandez observed that many of the cars driving along the downtown section of O’Reilly rarely ever go 30 mph, and usually top out at 24 mph. Councilmember Olivas agreed that with all of the people crossing the road, it’s pretty difficult to go the speed limit. “I can’t imagine, at any time, going through there at 30,” he said.

“TxDOT may come in and say ‘Well, they can safely navigate at 25.’ They’re the ones that set the speed limit,” Newton said.

Newton also said he wanted TxDOT to look at signage and safety improvements that could be made along the O’Reilly and the council unanimously passed the motion.