Marfa City Council addresses newly-received February 2021 gas bill, sales tax for street improvements and golf cart policies 

MARFA — Marfa City Council members met last week for the first time in 2022 to discuss everything from golf cart regulations to what to do about a $114,000 natural gas invoice they recently received dating back to the February 2021 winter storm. 

The invoice, which the city received in December 2021, is from provider West Texas Gas. Due to higher usage during severe winter weather last year, Energy Transfer Interstate Pipeline Group charged West Texas Gas a higher gas transportation charge, which West Texas Gas is passing along to its customers. West Texas Gas worked to lower the charge with their provider, thus the nearly year delay in the billing. The City of Marfa’s annual budget for natural gas supply is $193,000. No part of the $114,000 bill was a penalty charge. 

The City of Alpine also received a hefty bill of over $286,000, with three Village Farms grow houses and Biad Chili in Presidio receiving adjusted invoices as well. Marfa City Manager Mandy Roane said council may consider partnering with the other affected entities to fight the surge costs. The group agreed to hire outside counsel to address the bill and see what initial steps they can take in order to get the bill lowered. It is not yet determined how the surge prices will be passed on to City of Marfa gas customers, but other cities have opted to charge customers for similar charges over a number of years

Next up was deciding upon golf cart regulations for the City of Marfa. Golf cart owners were previously unable to obtain golf cart licenses from the county courthouse because the city lacked an ordinance on the matter. It was decided golf cart drivers within Marfa city limits are required to have a valid license and insurance policy, as well as a working horn, turn signals, headlights, tail lights, reflectors and seatbelts — essentially all the bells and whistles. 

As per state law, golf carts will not be allowed on state highways with speed limits over 35 miles per hour. Locally that includes State Highway 90, Highway 67, Highway 17, Farm to Market 1112 (Golf Course Road) and FM 2810 (Pinto Canyon Road). Golf carts are allowed on city streets both day and night as long as the vehicle is outfitted with required lights. Those found in violation will pay a fine up to $200. There will be an exception for parades, per Mayor Manny Baeza, and City Attorney Teresa Todd will edit and finalize the ordinance accordingly. 

Council then discussed a May 2022 ballot measure regarding sales tax. The current quarter cent sales tax, which allocates money for street improvements, is set to expire this year. After some back and forth regarding whether to raise sales tax to half a cent or keep the remaining quarter cent, the council decided the quarter cent was a more conservative amount and more likely to be adopted by voters. 

“The public needs to see that it’s not just the locals that are going to get hit with that,” said Mayor Pro Tem Irma Salgado. “It’s going to be tourists.” 

Councilmember Yoseff Ben-Yehuda gave updates on the Marfa and Presidio County Museum, which is still serving visitors despite experiencing structural failures. The council will likely put out a request for proposal (RFP) soon to stabilize the foundation under the crumbling east wall, level interior floors, repair plaster inside and outside, as well as any other touch ups. The current scope of work does not include ceiling repair and is more of a stop gap on the way toward a larger-scale renovation. 

“The idea is not to give us a new building or to fix everything about the building. But just this one issue of this east wall sagging, stop it,” said Ben-Yehuda. 

Councilmember Ben-Yehuda, Councilmember Eddie Pallarez and City Manager Mandy Roane will continue to meet with potential partners for the project, with more updates coming soon.

In staffing news, the council elected to appoint two new Parks and Recreation board members, Molly Barker and Marshall Ramsey, who will each serve two-year terms. They also made a motion to appoint Dina Jo Losoya-Marquez to the unexpired term of Marfa municipal judge beginning February 1 and ending May 2023.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of Marshall Ramsey. We regret the error.