Commission questions marathon preparations

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

South Padre Island City Manager Bill DiLibero visited the Port Isabel City Commission Tuesday to discuss ongoing preparations for the Run SPI Marathon, a Boston Marathon qualifying event which will take place on Friday, November 13.

The marathon is scheduled to begin in Port Isabel before runners cross the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway to complete the majority of the 26.2 mile route on South Padre Island.

The Commission balked, however, at plans to close down both eastbound lanes of Highway 100 through Port Isabel beginning at 10 p.m. the night before the race. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has approved the lane closures.

Port Isabel Interim City Manager Jared Hockema said this is the first time TxDOT has approved a closure of that type. “Why do they have to close both eastbound lanes?” he asked.

Several commissioners expressed concerns over safety issues that could arise from redirecting eastbound traffic to drive on a westbound lane in the overnight hours between Thursday and Friday, mentioning the possibility of drunk drivers.

DiLibero said the City of South Padre Island shared reservations with some of the event planning, as well, but stated the City had already made a significant financial investment in an event that is expected to draw some 4,000 to 5,000 participants during the typically tourist-light fall season. “We as a city had some problems with some of the proposals. … We decided it was worth the economic value to do that,” he said. The South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau has contributed $100,000 to the race, DiLibero said.

“They’ll bring enough tourists to fill our hotels,” he said, adding, “It’s a slow time for all of us.”

As with the recent cycling event, the Raul Alcala Gran Fondo, which began in Brownsville and continued through Port Isabel before continuing onto the Island, the Commission expressed concern with a lack of communication between event organizers and the City.

Several commissioners said they felt pressured to approve the routing of events through the City without being given the courtesy of being involved in planning discussions. “Keep us informed,” urged Commissioner Martin C. Cantu.

Hockema assured the Commission that an agreement had been reached with South Padre Island Mayor Barry Patel to keep the Commission better informed in the future in regards to events that would affect both cities, he said.

The Commission requested that DiLibero present their concerns to the marathon organizers with a request to postpone the lane closures out of concern for pedestrian and vehicular safety. DiLibero agreed, and made plans to visit with the Commission again at the next regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8 with an update.

In other business, the City also agreed to appoint Dr. Eduardo Uribe as the City’s new medical director. “As a city we need a medical director. We work under his protocols. If anything happens, he’s pretty much taking responsibility,” said EMS director Charlie Woods. The commission voted unanimously to approve Uribe’s appointment to the position.

The Commission also voted to adjust the advertisements for a proposed tax rate increase. Previously, the proposed tax rate increase, as well as the schedule advertising the tax rate discussions, was incorrect.

“In reviewing the schedule that was prepared for us… Some of the dates did not match with the state law,” Hockema said.

“Instead of the rollback rate being 64 cents, the effective rate is 64 cents, which is a huge, huge jump. It’s a tremendous difference,” he said.

The Commission voted unanimously to approve the advertising of a rate of 0.626327 cents per $100 valuation.

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