City of Marfa receives half a million dollars from state for street repairs

MARFA — City officials announced a $500,000 state grant recently awarded to Marfa for street repairs, a significant amount of new money that will allow the city to stretch its repair budget farther to tackle even more rough spots across the city.

In December, the Texas Department of Agriculture awarded the City of Marfa the grant to repair Abbot, Madrid and Kelly streets. 

“We’re excited to do the work on the streets,” said City Manager Mandy Roane. “We know that they need to be done. This is a way for us to defer some of the cost so it’s not all on city funds, so that we can stretch the funds we have a little bit further.” 

The grant comes from the department’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which aims to improve living environments for low to moderate income residents in rural areas. 

The City of Marfa received the full grant amount it requested and will be required to pay a match in the amount of $25,000, which was already in the city budget, Roane said. 

The city hopes to start work on Abbot, Madrid and Kelly streets as early as this spring after putting out bids for a contractor. Crews will repave the streets and improve or repair curbs, Roane said. 

The three streets were not chosen at random. They met the grant’s specific requirement of 51% or more of the street’s population qualifying as low to moderate income. For Marfa, that is defined as earning around $40,000 a year or less, Roane said. 

The grant also requires that surveys are attempted at 100% of the homes on the street with 80% responding, making the application process rigorous for city officials.

“This year we had a couple of volunteers — folks who work here at the city and city council members — who literally go door to door with a survey and ask questions about how much they make, how many people live there,” Roane said. “Then we have to do the math that way. We can’t qualify for the town as a whole.”

Roane said the Marfa Housing Authority, which has properties along the streets being repaired, also assisted with the grant process. The City of Marfa has received CDBG grants in the past, said Roane, but blocks that meet the low to moderate income population qualifications that haven’t already benefited from the grant are becoming harder to find. “The mixture of streets that hadn’t been done and that will pass those surveys, the areas are getting smaller and smaller,” she said. 

In addition to grant money, council members and city administrators budgeted $2.1 million in tax note funds for additional street repairs this fiscal year. Streets the city may target for that round of repairs — which have yet to be formally approved by council — are Third, Mesa, Gonzales, Summer and Edinburg. 

Roane said the city would prefer to use the same contractor for both the CDBG and tax note-funded streets to get better prices on materials, but there is no guarantee that will work out given the current market.

“Right now, it seems like so many crews are so busy that they sort of have a pick of jobs,” Roane said. “We may not be as attractive. Even though $2.5 million dollars is a lot of money to us for streets, for some companies, it’s not a big job.” 

Part of the CDBG grant process involves selecting an engineer from a specific list, and the city will work with Frank Spencer out of El Paso for those streets. For the other city streets being paid for with the $2.1 million tax note, the city will work with its new engineer JACOB|MARTIN, out of Abilene. JACOB|MARTIN is set to visit Marfa next month to go over city projects, including streets, said Roane. 

Engineers are brought in to see what condition streets are in, assess angles for runoff and water diversion and more. Roane said fixing Marfa’s streets is an ongoing, costly process, but city staff is working hard to improve failing streets for Marfa’s residents. 

“I have every expectation that the engineers, the contractors, and our staff will make sure that those streets are done correctly,” said Roane. “We will give everyone the best streets we possibly can with that and then hopefully move on to some more city streets and continue working.”