Marfa City Council discusses power procurement, fire station expansion project and other updates 

MARFA — A brief city council meeting this week started off with a presentation from program manager David Quinn of Public Power Pool (P3), who discussed the city’s current contract and upcoming energy procurement process. 

All members, with the exception of Eddie Pallarez, were present for the meeting. 

P3 is a nonprofit political subdivision corporation that brings together urban and rural counties and municipalities across the state to negotiate rates and contracts with retail electric providers — a process referred to as procurement. By unifying, it allows for smaller entities, like the City of Marfa, to receive cheaper rates. Lengths of contracts and rates vary depending on the energy market. 

The City of Marfa only recently joined the power pool, and has so far saved a total of $17,027, said Quinn. Presidio, Brewster, and Jeff Davis counties are also members of P3. Quinn said he has been on the road visiting commissioner’s courts and city council meetings across the state to discuss the current procurement cycle and the program was going strong. 

“No one’s leaving, everybody wants to stay together. With a group you have more protection — you’re going to get a better rate by working together,” said Quinn. 

Quinn said P3 delayed their procurement process last year due to the volatility of the state’s energy market in wake of the February 2021 winter storm. The city’s current contract with P3 expires in December 2022. Council members reviewed copies of P3’s procurement proposal for next year, and while they did not ultimately enter into any formal new agreements, they discussed whether or not they would be interested in opting into green energy with P3 for the next procurement cycle.

Quinn said so far in this upcoming procurement process, Dallas County was the only other entity to express interest in 100 percent green energy through P3. Green energy is currently costing up to 10 percent more than conventional energy through P3, but renewable energy rates were competitive and only becoming more so, said Quinn. 

Councilmembers Buck Johnston and Yoseff Ben-Yehuda were in support of exploring the green energy option, with Ben-Yehuda stating it could give future council more options. 

“I say, let’s throw our hat in, let’s find out what the rates are,” said Ben-Yehuda. 

It may also be a marketing opportunity, he said, and allow Marfa to be included as one of the few entities opting for green energy in addition to Dallas County.

“It’s clear that this is the direction things are headed,” said Ben-Yehuda “It’s kind of who’s doing it first.” 

Council ultimately approved a motion, with Mayor Pro Tem Irma Salgado voting against, to begin the procurement process for 100 percent green energy through P3. By doing so, the council simply expressed an interest in purchasing green energy through P3 but did not commit to any particular rates or contract. 

Next, council briefly touched on whether or not the Marfa and Presidio County Museum Board was interested in establishing a long-term lease agreement in order to join in on the upcoming designation of downtown Marfa as a Central Historic District, which would make the museum eligible for franchise tax credits on restoration projects. Ben-Yehuda reported that board member Terry Norman had notified him the museum was not interested in entering into a lease. In a response to a request for comment, Norman said the board ultimately felt the agreement wasn’t something that would work for their particular situation. 

Next up, Councilmember Ben-Yehuda and Fire Chief Gary Mitschke took the floor to discuss putting out requests for bids for phase one of a long-discussed fire station expansion project, which would take place on the station’s existing site. 

Utilizing city and county funds, the expansion, currently split into two phases, would prioritize adding climate controlled space to store fire station trucks and equipment. Another goal of the volunteer fire department, said Ben-Yehuda, is to ensure the building is multi-use and could be utilized to house the community in emergency or inclement weather situations, for example. 

Local architecture firm MUDLAB donated their time to draft up the architecture plans, said Ben-Yehuda. Many council members complimented the proposal. There is currently $175,000 secured for the project, said Ben-Yehuda.

The first phase will focus on getting a simple building up, while phase two will focus on adding new bathrooms, a kitchen and other amenities. 

“We really tried to keep everything as economical as possible,” said Ben-Yehuda. “We know there’s not a ton of funds. We want to see this project realized, so we’re really trying to keep things as simple as possible.”

Last was City Manager Mandy Roane’s report. Roane said EMS Director Bert Lagarde recently retrieved the service’s loaner ambulance while the main ambulance in Houston undergoes a remount, which was funded by a grant from the state. Roane was also working on finding a training outlet the city could utilize to onboard new lifeguards for the Marfa Activities Center pool’s upcoming summer season, but was finding it difficult to locate classes. She also said she was working with INSIGHT Structures, the company chosen to perform engineering services for the Marfa and Presidio County Museum, to draft up an agreement.