Alpine Downtown Association
6:30 p.m. Thursday July 9, 2020
By Zoom virtual meeting
- Call to Order – Jim Street
- Approve Minutes, June 4, 2020
- Treasurer’s Report – Rick Stephens
- Statue and Plaque for Railroad Park – John Kennedy
- Meeting with Sul Ross President Pete Gallego – Dave Busey
- GoFundMe Page update – Jim Street
- Signage and Sidewalk Obstructions – Chris Ruggia
- Post-Virus Celebration – Conley Razor
- Harvest Moon – Dave Busey
- Economic Development
- Website – John Kennedy
- Community News and Other Business
- Next meeting, Thursday, August 6, 2020
Alpine Downtown Association
Thursday, June 4, 2020: ADA General Meeting
Zoom Virtual Meeting (https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/9ZV2JZj0zkhOWq_J5Ub8QL89E73pX6a8gydP_fQLflLL2wUPFAvhueIKTaYquw)
Jim Street called the meeting to order at 6:31 pm. John Kennedy let folks know that the meeting was being recorded.
Dave Dumas motioned to approve general meeting minutes for April and May, John Kennedy seconded and the motion was approved unanimously.
Jim Street moved Rick Stephens’ Treasurer’s report to later in the meeting.
Regarding the need to raise and collect some money for local businesses, Jim started the discussion for an Alpine Recovery Fund. John Kennedy offered to establish a page on GoFundMe and establish some marketing and communications strategies. Marfa is doing Solidarity Bonds. In terms of what to call it for Alpine, Chris Ruggia mentioned business rescue fund.
Chris Ruggia motioned to establish the fund, David Busey seconded and the motion was approved unanimously. Chris Ruggia brought up the administration of funds and determining awards. Jim offered to explore establishing a committee to this end.
Chris Ruggia reported on the City of Alpine signage and sidewalk ordinance document circulated— current rules in effect. A permit with fee is required to be renewed every eight days, which the Building Official does not find practical. The current ordinance is not being enforced and there will be a replacement ordinance. Any business can have one sandwich sign in front of their business, it cannot obstructs the walkway and does need to be permitted but there is no fee. You have to register your one sign. If somebody puts out a sign without it being registered they will be cited but there is no fine. The Code Enforcement folks are encouraging everyone to register their signs and are seeking feedback on this process. The membership should feel free to review the document and get back with Chris Ruggia and/or David Hale.
Conley Razor provided an update on the celebration parade. He has established a database of several dozen businesses to set up advertising and award opportunities. Would like to recognize some businesses and provide shout-outs on the radio. Some questions have come up regarding event insurance. Chris Ruggia suggested Stewart Ramser would have some insight. He wasn’t sure about parades but mentioned that Viva Big Bend carries its own event insurance on top of what venues have in place. General discussion indicated that most local events and parades do not carry it and the City itself does not require it in addition to having sovereign immunity. There will be some followup on rates and options. There could also be a waiver signed by participants. Costs incurred could be covered by paid sponsors. Conley asked for any suggestions on businesses for the list. Shooting for late July to Labor Day.
David Busey reported on the Harvest Moon event. The new mural in the alley has received some press. Our organization sponsored the first full moon event and we have had two more since then. The one this year would be on October 2 or 3, Friday/Saturday right in the middle of the full moon. David is lining up some musical act possibilities but we are still a long ways away from being able to firm up the logistics. John Kennedy mentioned that the business rescue fund can be featured at this event as well as the parade. Conley confirmed that engaging the local businesses and creating marketing opportunities would be ideal.
For economic development Jim Street wanted to emphasize that remote workers are flourishing in this macro environment. This remains a great opportunity for Alpine to attract potential new residents. Many businesses are finding that their employees are even more productive at home. Erik Zimmer and Chris Ruggia are working with Heather Yadon and Marcy Tuck to develop resources for knowledge workers and remote workers.
Rick Stephens joined and provided the Treasurer’s Report for finance through today. We have $3,055.54 in the bank in addition to the 25 dollars in the savings account. Rick ran through some recent transactions and has submitted required documentation for the IRS.
Regarding the website, John Kennedy suggested that building a robust message for the business recovery fund on the web and social media will be a priority. As always, he is happy to chat about it with folks. Jim provided some updated language for the membership page that will be posted and allow for applications. We will also set up a signup for the mailing list. John will also figure out a PayPal account to facilitate online transactions.
Stewart Ramser reported on Viva Big Bend. The planning process was slow rolled to check in with how things are trending. As things are opening back up hopefully that trend will continue. But if things start closing again will have to reconsider having Viva. But this is a festival spread out over 50 miles and 15 different venues. We will need to keep venues at lower capacities and establish social distancing. Tickets will be on sale at Porters. Open to any questions and concerns. There was some good discussion of the economic and cultural importance of this festival for the region. Like the parade, there are good opportunities for local business promotion tied into the festival given the potential influx of people.
David Busey and Jim Street will be meeting with Pete Gallego who was named the incoming President of Sul Ross University. This is a great opportunity to work with the University and rebuild the synergy between the campus and greater community. These are very challenging times in the academic sector. Anyone that has ideas on this front should bring them up now or in the future.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:15 pm.
Alpine Downtown Association
Thursday, May 7, 2020: ADA General Meeting
Virtual Meeting (Zoom): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzLrQUduAUo&feature=youtu.be
Jim Street called the meeting to order at 6:33 pm and suggested we wait on approving the minutes until the next meeting. Present via video and teleconference were David Busey, Dave Dumas, Danny Ginn, John Kennedy, Dave Leet, J.D. Newsom, Monica Quiroga, Conley Razor, Chris Ruggia, Jim Street, Cathy Wright, and Erik Zimmer.
Rick Stephens was not present for the Treasurer’s Report.
There was some discussion of the Governor’s reopening order – some wondered what is happening and when. Capacity for restaurants is limited to 25 percent to 50 percent, depending on the county certification of COVID-19 testing results. Chris Ruggia said he could relay developments to this group such as efforts to support the hotel industry.
Walt Pyle was not present. He had asked earlier to talk about PPP loans. He told Jim they now are fine but he wanted us to ask to ask about the sign on 6th Street pointing to parking at the Depot. Chris Ruggia said the sign is now at the City Yard and is to be installed along with the alley paving project.
J.D. Newsom, executive director of the Big Bend Conservation Alliance, joined us to report on the dark skies initiative which is intended for businesses to incentivize good lighting. The program is being discussed with our local master naturalist chapter and the McDonald Observatory and has local workshops and awards for businesses. Celebrations and promoting certified businesses for night sky defender status are encouraged. He said the alliance is looking at having a dark sky preserve for the entire tri-county area and specific facilities such as the parks and Wildlife Management Areas.
Conley Razor offered getting the program on the radio via his science program. Cathy Wright and Dave Leet, John Kennedy and Chris Ruggia offered thoughts and assistance to J.D. Dave Dumas said he could take volunteers to the top of a hill at Sierra la Rana so they could see the effects of the lighting in Alpine.
On the signage and sidewalks update, Erik Zimmer said the City is applying for a Community Development Block Grant to push sidewalks out 6 to 7 feet downtown to allow for a 3-to-4-foot breezeway. Building Official David Hale had appeared at an earlier meeting seeking input on a new sign ordinance but Erik said that has been written and new signage can be created, including wayfinding signs on a few major corners. Does replaceable signage make sense? He suggested we prepare a letter supporting this effort.
Chris Ruggia reported on the HOT funds. Some events have already been cancelled and he has to figure out what the burn rate will be. Monica Quiroga asked about funding events already confirmed for funding. Chris said we can cover them with the fund balance carried over from previous years. Monica suggested a lot of non-profits will ask if the city runs short next year, which projects will get funded. Erik said community participation via the committee will make the recommendations. Sarah Davison at the Holland is a member and we all agree she should remain. Ultimately the council will approve any recommendations. Chris and Erik are ex officio members.
Cathy Wright asked about what events will happen and when will we know? As different states open up, how will this all impact health safety wellness, etc. New Mexico said no events over 100 people will happen for the rest of the year. Gov. Abbott is not taking that approach. Viva Big Bend would not happen if that were the case here. We will circulate information from Erik Zimmer as it is available.
Regarding the Harvest Moon event, Dave Busey said the mural alley is getting paved. We have a $4,000 budget and he is planning an event around that. If something comes up sooner, we could try to do something in the summer. He would like to keep Harvest Moon going.
Conley said Mason Fleming has proposed that businesses celebrate coming out of the shutdown with a coupon special or something. Conley will prepare a plan for a summer event, not necessarily with Harvest Moon, but it could promote Harvest Moon. It could be something like a car parade. We need to get people buying things again. Conley suggested a Bingo card with all of the businesses offering with a stamp for each business. It could then turn into a raffle at the Harvest Moon event.
Cathy said the Chamber did something similar several years ago. It went over a long period of time and drew people to all over town.
Jim suggested with so many people working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, a micro-industry could be forming. More people are finding they don’t have to commute an hour each way to a huge business somewhere. They can sit at their computer in a nice area like Alpine and send their work in by email. Cathy asked how much we can grow with our infrastructure? Erik said water and sewer infrastructure could easily support doubling the population.
Cathy asked how roads are being looked at for future plans. Erik said with new subdivisions, the developer must provide the roads. He suggested the Lechuguilla development in South Alpine as an example. Extension of water and sewer lines also are incumbent on the developer.
John Kennedy noted that the website has been running well. He has been working on setting up our Zoom meetings and uploading them for later viewing. The website will need some new content as we move into the next phase of development.
We took a moment to remember Gwynne Jamieson and her contributions to Alpine and the ADA.
There was a question on maintenance of the planter outside the Old Gringo. The consensus was that you can take care of your local streetscape if it needs some T.L.C.
Dave Busey brought up the significance of Alpine as a college town. Pete Gallego is a finalist for Sul Ross President. Carla McFarland was involved in the search. Dale Christophersen had some insights and Monica moved we draft a support letter to the Texas State System Chancellor favoring Pete. Chris Ruggia seconded and it carried unanimously.
The meeting adjourned at 7:50 pm.
Alpine Downtown Association
Thursday, April 2, 2020, ADA General Meeting,
Virtual Meeting (Zoom)
There was some discussion of quorum protocol and the need to review the bylaws in order to ensure productive meeting participation.
The meeting was called to order at 6:36 pm by Jim Street. Present via video and teleconference were David Busey, David Eckley, John Kennedy, Darin Nance, Andy Ramos, Conley Razor, Chris Ruggia, Rick Stephens, Jim Street, Cathy Wright, Victoria Young.
The March 5 minutes were approved unanimously. John Kennedy motioned that the normal meeting rules be suspended to allow for a more fluid virtual discussion format. Rick Stephens seconded.
Conley Razor introduced himself as a local citizen (radio show host, podcaster, computer scientist at Sul Ross) with an idea to hold some sort of community event in the context of the ongoing pandemic related economic shutdowns— having some sort of event at the end of the shutdown. There was discussion of parade options, either a long term or seasonal event. Maybe give out awards to first responders once this is all over.
Mayor Andy Ramos reported on the local coordinating officials and regional context with the hospital and task force. The emphasis is on not panicking, especially in terms of limited local supplies and disrupted supply chains. This is a Tri-County effort to keep everyone in the loop.
Chris Ruggia suggested that we can work together to promote the community while meeting social distancing requirements. It is a great idea to be looking for ideas to celebrate community within the order we have. The Mayor agreed we need a morale booster for the city and the county, within the bounds of the guidance.
Rick Stephens presented the Treasurer’s Report. The report was approved unanimously (Rick Stephens motioned and John Kennedy seconded). The federal form 990 will be presented at the next meeting.
Jim Street mentioned the formation of a committee related to the sidewalk signage issue. Chris Ruggia will continue to connect with Jim on the ordinance development.
Chris Ruggia is aware of an El Paso economic development workshop webinar. Jim Street will participate.
Dave Busey presented on Heart of the Arts which is delayed for now, suggest to do something in September, perhaps related to the Alley Art. Will the alley be a meeting place in addition to a tourist draw?
Rick Stephens advised we need a few weeks to determine where we are headed in terms of the social distancing policies.
There was a question related to hotel revenue diminishing. Chris Ruggia offered to review HOT fund policy and answer any questions we have for this year in response to the crisis. David Busey inquired about the ADA fund allocations for events, based on last year’s allocations or revenue this year?
Rick Stephens provided information on the new programs in the federal law such as SBA loans, etc.. We need to help folks figure out how to fill out forms and access these resources. We will get with Chris Ruggia to send out to our membership and help businesses get with those programs: Disaster loan links. As you apply you can self certify to get an advance which is forgivable. The PPP loans are forgiven if the business uses them to keep paying employees rather than laying them off. The other goes through a bank. There are at least two processes, you can do both.
Chirs Ruggia emphasized that momentum will be important and inquired which banks will offer these loans. Rick Stephens is checking and working it for nonprofits he is involved with. These types of programs mostly deal with large national banks that do tend to be in midland. There is an online application. Jim Street and the group generally supported the support for lost rent and lost savings.
Dave Busey proclaimed this is a disaster for downtown businesses. Hopefully we can fund the art walk. Recuperate. That and cowboy poetry gets us through the year. How to get people back in this town and our businesses alive?
John Kennedy reported on the website— meeting and membership information has been updated online. Next steps still include development of the member/local business spotlights and linking to community event portals. Chris Ruggia mentioned that Heather Yadon is now working at the City of Alpine Visitor’s Center and will be a resource. Current focus continues to be on the efficient dissemination of information to our stakeholders as well as the facilitation of virtual meetings.
Cathy Wright proposed continue the Alley Art initiative to the alley between 6th and 7th St. She is toying with the idea of utilizing the back of the fence on her property. This would lead to two blocks of Alley Art. Chris Ruggia asked why stop at two? One at a time and we will get there.
David Busey reported that trains are not blocking 5th street as much lately. Rick Stephens confirmed that they can indeed get fined for that now.
We adjourned at 7:56 pm.
Alpine Downtown Association
Thursday, March 5, 2020, ADA General Meeting,
Sunshine House Board Room
The meeting was called to order at 6:30 pm by Jim Street. Present were David Busey, Susan Curry, Sarah Davison, Dave Dumas, Kathleen Griffith, David Hale, Vivian Harvey, John Kennedy, Mattie Matthaei, Darin Nance, Stewart Ramser, Walt Pyle, Jim Street and David Winslow.
The February 6 minutes were approved unanimously. David Winslow made the motion and Dave Dumas seconded.
Rick Stephens was not in attendance but last month provided a comprehensive Treasurer’s Report. The federal income tax form 990 will be prepared and presented for review at a future meeting so it can be submitted to the IRS.
David Hale, incoming City of Alpine Building Official, joined the group to provide an update on the city’s efforts around signage and sidewalk obstructions. A four-foot walkway is to be maintained. Any signs need to be appropriately spaced from the building or curb. One or two sidewalk signs will be permitted per business. Policies around off-premise vs. on-premise signs are being explored. The City is requesting input for an upcoming update to the comprehensive land use plan. Wayfinding signage, including signage for parking, continues to be developed in accordance with TxDOT regulations. Murphy Street is not subject to those restrictions as Holland Ave and Avenue E are. Ordinance has a fee of $10 for 7 days of sign placement, up to 8 times a year. There will be a new draft ordinance to update these requirements. The City is requesting input on the fee structure and cost of enforcement.
Jim Street suggested connecting with Chris Ruggia to incorporate the work already done in this area, including the street banners. John Kennedy asked about the comprehensive plan, David Hale suggested it could be up to a two-year process. David Winslow expressed support to control signage and local aesthetics. Susan Curry mentioned the McDonald’s sign, which prompted a previous signage ordinance. David Hale confirmed that the new ordinance will be dark sky compliant and thanked the group for ongoing feedback and participation in this process.
Vivian Harvey and Darin Nance asked about sidewalks. There was also discussion of curbs in alleys. David offered to connect with the Public Works Director on these matters. Eddie Molinar has a goal of repaving 150 blocks in the next two years. Susan Curry suggested the group take a walk around the areas in question to get a better idea of the issues.
David Busey reported on historic preservation grants. Previously a percentage of the HOT tax went towards façade improvement grants to be approved by a design and review board in the interest of promoting community beautification. The City and this group could work on criteria. There is also potential for external grants of this nature. Susan Curry and others expressed support of this initiative.
David Busey also discussed the Heart of the Arts event, there is a sense to move it later in the spring when new murals and such are coming online and there will be lots of tourists about. On another subject, recently a train was blocking 5thStreet for 21 minutes which continues to violate the ordinance. The group agreed that getting the crew change out of town would be a good option. Rod Ponton was able to make some progress on similar matters in Pecos. Susan Curry mentioned that the trains have been speeding more than usual and have been excessively blowing their horns.
Stewart Ramser joined the group to provide an update on Viva Big Bend which will be July 23 -26 this year. The festival has been a big draw the last few years. Dozens of shows across many venues in the region. 2021 date will be a little later, July 29 – August 1. Viva wants to continue incorporating local businesses and is interested in developing local partner discounts for wristbands and official program promotions. Public volunteer efforts such as local cleanups will be organized by Viva. Stewart is the former City of Alpine Tourism Director and is excited to work with the local community to promote Alpine. There was some discussion of local/regional venues and real estate. Stewart confirmed that the festival is not moving to Marfa in response to a half-joking inquiry.
The Membership Drive is a placeholder item. Kathleen Griffith and Nancy Whitlock are working on the tile project at the railroad garden park.
Jim Street also added a placeholder for economic development—this will be developed further as Rick Stephens and others are able to put together a panel to consult with local entrepreneurs.
John Kennedy reported that the website continues to be up and running. There have been some additions on the events page in addition to a listing of the active Alpine Downtown Association members. The Texas Downtown Association is also linked with the ADA site. Upcoming projects will be links for active member businesses, member outreach, online membership application and payment.
Kathleen Griffith reported on Branding and Murals: there will be a March 21 event at the library to engage folks in painting their own tiles for the railroad garden wall. The new mural map will be put online and posters are being considered.
Involving the community is critical which links to the following agenda item, Visual and Performing Arts Center. We need to identify a building for an art center. It would be great to have a place where we could have workshops and community events. Perhaps a summit to go along with ArtWalk. Susan Curry mentioned the old NAPA Building. There was also discussion of the old firehouse, the old community center and others.
There was some discussion of the status of Thaiway and options moving forward if left inactive which lead to identifying local downtown “parks” due for improvement such as across from the American Legion (where some murals are under consideration). There was also some concern regarding speeding enforcement on Holland Ave and the need for a four way stop at 5thand Murphy which was referred to the police chief Robert Martin. Mention of potential to collaborate with Leadership Big Bend.
We adjourned at 7:37 pm.
Alpine Downtown Association
Thursday, February 6, 2020, ADA General Meeting
Sunshine House Board Room
The meeting was called to order at 6:33 by Jim Street. Present were David Busey, Dave Dumas, Danny Ginn, Vivian Harvey, John Kennedy, David McComb, Walt Pyle, Monica Quiroga, Andy Ramos, Rick Stephens, Jim Street, David Winslow, Nancy Whitlock, Cathy Wright, and Erik Zimmer.
The January 9 minutes were approved unanimously. Dave Dumas made the motion and David Busey seconded.
Rick Stephens provided the Treasurer’s Report which provides comprehensive financial tracking since October’s update. The checking account balance as of the end of January was $4,594.92. The federal income tax form 990 will be prepared and presented for review at the next meeting so it can be submitted to the IRS before May 15. Monica Quiorga motioned to approve the Treasurer’s Report and David Busey seconded. The motion carried unanimously.
As a footnote to the financials, Jim Street noted that the annual Texas Downtown Association Dues of $180 were paid.
David Busey reported on the Heart of the Arts event branding. There is consensus around moving the event from February into the spring months due to the major events already occurring in February as well as the weather inhibiting the potential for outdoor activities. Erik suggested there are some open dates in May this year.
David Busey noted that the Big Bend Gazette had good coverage on local murals, including the new ones. Nancy Whitlock presented the new mural map which looks great. She had the first batch printed at PrintCo and is coordinating donations for additional runs. An electronic version will be provided for the ADA website.
John Kennedy presented the new ADA website, www.downtownalpinetx.com. He is working to develop the basic organizational content in a modern format and style. There was some discussion of branding and identity and logo concepts were considered. John will return with further refined iterations of the ADA digital presence. Again, he thanked Aaron Rodriguez for generously offering to host the website and allow broad access for development.
Jim Street passed along a suggestion that the ADA look into municipal economic development corporations. Regarding economic development, Rick Stephens suggested that a few folks get together on a committee to provide feedback to local entrepreneurs. The goal would be to help grow successful businesses in this unique market setting where we have special insights. He volunteered to explore this further and report back.
David Busey reported on a meeting he took part in with the City and Texas State System leadership. In the search for a new Sul Ross State President, there is a renewed focus on the community synergy between the City and University. Erik Zimmer agreed that it was a productive meeting and that the system leadership assured the group that Sul Ross’ future in the context of state politics and funding is secure. The new Sul Ross President is expected to be selected by May. In the Sul Ross network you have Alpine, Uvalde, Del Rio, and Eagle Pass. The Alpine setting is considered unique and special by the Texas State System leadership and there are opportunities for the ADA and City to help grow these connections.
Jim Street emphasized we need to put more emphasis on vocational training. Not every high school grad has to go to college. We need to find ways to train people for the trade with hospitality a key need.
There was discussion of the various ways the school and city have opportunities to interact: the plans for a multiuse trail system connecting the creek and Hancock Hill networks; murals such as the recent one featuring the Sul Ross Art Colony provides historical context; and events such as the Lonestar Cowboy Poetry Gathering which is held on campus.
Rick Stephens and Erik Zimmer clarified the development of two committees: one related to tourism and HOT funds, and another related to music.
David Busey once again lamented the ongoing blockages of 5thstreet by Union Pacific (UP), reminding the group that they are in violation of the 1997 agreement and are jeopardizing the City’s ability to provide timely emergency services in addition to clamping down economic activity on Murphy Street. Rick Stephens noted that UP is cutting back on staff as they operate ever-longer trainsets. As labor negotiations are underway, local operating rules have not been upheld. The new City ordinance would fine UP in every instance there is a delay beyond the stopping time– litigation is likely. David Busey applauded those efforts and emphasized that the physical division of the city echoes the historic racial division. There was a question about underpasses which are prohibitively expensive. Rick Stephens reminded the group of the recent transportation studies which indicate significantly more trucks coming through the area in the future. The Texas Pacifico rail bridge will also soon be operational (currently planned for September.)
Nancy Whitlock said the Arts Council work considering the need and benefits of a local Visual Performing Arts Center. There was discussion of community demographics and attracting a more mobile workforce which could appreciate Alpine’s local amenities while working remotely. Local institutions will be critical in driving demand for creative cultural endeavors. Culture and community make this a great place to live and we can grow by attracting location neutral folks. The Internet allows many workers to work remotely by Internet so they can live here and work at a firm in a larger city.
Monica Quiroga noted that the Old Gringo Big Bend Biker Hotel Grand Opening will be the weekend of February 15. David McComb announced that his barber shop is also opening at 206 W Murphy on February 18th.
Andy Ramos invited everyone to join the Help Clean Up Day the weekend of February 15thfrom 9 to noon. The city will be broken into quadrants and folks will meet at the railroad park to help beautify the community.
Erik Zimmer also mentioned the upcoming college basketball tournament at the end of the month which is an exciting opportunity for locals and visitors alike. It was estimated 15 out-of-town schools will be in town for the tourney.
We adjourned at 7:35 pm.
Alpine Downtown Association
Thursday, January 9, 2020, ADA General Meeting,
Sunshine House Board Room
The meeting was called to order at 6:32 by Jim Street. Present were David Busey, Dave Dumas, Danny Ginn, Kathleen Griffith, Gwynne Jamieson, John Kennedy, Darin Nance, Pete Peterson, Walt Pyle, Monica Quiroga, Aaron Rodriguez, Chris Ruggia, Jim Street, David Winslow, Cathy Wright, and Erik Zimmer.
The November 7 minutes were approved unanimously. Monica Quiroga made the motion and Dave Dumas seconded.
Rick Stephens was not present for the Treasurer’s report. We will follow up on the financial update.
Erik Zimmer provided an update on City of Alpine transportation initiatives and opportunities. He reported on discussions around several major aspects of multimodal passenger and freight transportation through and within the downtown core: the potential creation of a railroad quiet zone, the US 67 corridor planning with TxDOT (highway bypass tabled for now), crew changeovers with Union Pacific, an old proposal by Mayor Lockhart to relocate the main Union Pacific Line from the central core and the upcoming further activation of the Texas Pacifico / South Orient rail line. There is an opportunity for the City to address all of these factors in a comprehensive fashion. The City Manager is working with Rick Stephens to explore feasibility of a possible bypass for both rail and trucks around the north side of town. Instead of addressing the quiet zone at five and soon-to-be seven intersections through the community core, the current rail right of way could be converted to a multiuse path and “outdoor living room” for the community to gather in. This would also serve to address historic institutional segregation of the urban form and access to economic opportunities and public services in town.
Erik and Rick will attend the Texas Rail Association Conference at the end of the month. Initial discussions with Union Pacific have been favorable. They could support such an initiative if the City were able to put together the funding package. David Hale, the new City of Alpine Building Official, is researching other towns such as Marysville, Kansas, that have done this type of reconfiguration. Either way, we must consider the coming increases in rail and truck traffic and explore the options that make the most sense for Alpine.
Jim Street noted that the one major downside that comes to mind with such a plan is the Amtrak Service which comes directly to the central district a few times a week. Chris Ruggia and Monica Quiroga agreed with the group that such a downside could be outweighed by all of the positive benefits of the other aspects of such a catalytic project for economic development. And a rail bypass would take years to implement and Amtrak might not even exist by then.
Dave Busey recounted the egregious issues surrounding more than 20 minute blockages now occurring at Highway 118 as well as 5thStreet. Erik mentioned he is working with Union Pacific to make updates to the lighting to areas near the platform that will allow the trains and crews to safely stop short of blocking 5th. Incoming Police Chief Robert Martin is observing the blockages and taking notes. Erik and Rick estimate that the project could cost as much as $70 to $80 million, with the City of Alpine needing to match around $3 million in local funds. John Kennedy praised the systems thinking of such a transformational project and noted that the multiuse path and gathering place at the center of town would be a significant opportunity for public art and outdoor recreation, two of Alpine’s biggest selling points for visitors.
Dave Busey reported on the Heart of the Arts event. There will be celebration of the new mural presenting the history of Alpine’s Art Colony. In the past there has been outdoor music but will it be too cold? This is also one week before the Lonestar Cowboy Poetry Gathering. He also mentioned there is consideration of alternatives with the Big Bend Art Council.
John Kennedy reported on the downtown association website. He thanked everyone for their patience as we aim for the development of a great product at launch. There has been a change with the hosting and developer. The downtownalpinetx.com domain has been registered – thanks to Aaron Rodriguez with a generous offer to host and register. John is migrating the content and developing the design which will be sent to this group first as soon as some technical issues on the hosting backend are resolved. Jim Street would like to have a vote on the proposed logo at the next meeting.
Kathleen Griffith provided an update on the mural wall tiles and Chris Ruggia noted that the 19 street banners have been deployed.
Jim Street brought up economic development and the downtown association’s role in that area. Certainly we need it, he said. Aaron Rodriguez described the example of the Presidio ED board determining what types of businesses are needed for the town. Jim mentioned that a committee could work towards that type of activity. Monica Quiroga described her experiences in not having sufficient economic development data to maximize opportunities around finance and tax policy. She needed the downtown district boundary map which was not readily available. Dave Busey noted that he feels the general role of economic development is best left to the Chamber and SBDC and that the downtown district is a zone of influence rather than a rigidly delineated area. Chris Ruggia will send the digital district map to John for inclusion in the website.
Erik Zimmer emphasized that any recruited businesses will need to cash flow in the context of Alpine and to do so will require rock-solid business plans. He recommended that the Chamber focus on workforce development and social mixers for local entrepreneurs. Darin Nance discussed economic leakages – the local resident funds that are sent outside of town for goods and services through on-line shopping.
Darin also suggested targeting the growing number of remote workers that can live anywhere they choose with a broadband connection. Chris Ruggia mentioned there is a need for information, such as examples and practices around opening a business. The downtown association website could serve such a purpose. Cathy Wright reported that she has had her own issues around the workforce. She is unable to get her short-term rentals cleaned by locals. Also managing the vacation rentals is an opportunity. The group agreed that there is a general deficiency in most contract work.
Walt Pyle asked about the parking signs for 6th and Holland. Chris Ruggia reported the development is underway and should be complete within the quarter.
Cathy Wright reported on the 2019 Christmas in Alpine activities. The parade was great. We had 27 sponsors. $753.53 was carried over from 2018, $5,604 raised and $4,289 spent, leaving $1,315 for 2020. The decoration contest had 538 votes and the winners were the Old Gringo, Quarter Circle 7 and Texas Roadhouse Too. B’s and the Visitor Center were also recognized. For this upcoming year the timeline will be condensed and there will need to be some more focus on the Starlight Shopping which had 18 venues. The mailing list also needs to be updated. There will be an after-action debriefing and Chris Ruggia will get the upcoming dates sorted out with the larger community events calendar.
Jim noted that the first meeting of each year requires the election of officers. Dave Dumas motioned and Gwynne Jamieson seconded to keep the same officers from 2019: Jim Street as President, Dave Busey as Vice President, Rick Stephens as Treasurer and John Kennedy as Secretary. After some discussion Dave Busey agreed to continue his service but encouraged others to seek these positions. It was suggested that the nominating committee should be moved to October or November as opposed to December since there has not been a December meeting the last couple of years.
We adjourned at 7:59 pm.