By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
During last week’s South Padre Island Economic Development Corporation (EDC) regular meeting, City Manager Bill DiLibero gave the board an update regarding the status of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) grant being considered to improve boater access to the Laguna Madre. In addition, the board discussed feasibility studies related to bringing an aquarium as well as a marina to the Island.
In regards to the TPWD grant, DiLibero informed the board that the City will not be submitting a proposal for the boat ramp grant program. Due to specifications laid out by TPWD officials, who ispoke with the city manager, applicants will not be considered unless a ramp that needs improvements or additional parking is already in place or unless property on which to build a ramp is owned by the City. The Shoreline Task Force and City Council decided that Corral Street would serve as the best area for a new marina while the Polaris Drive boat ramp could use continued improvements, but ultimately, DiLibero and staff determined that neither of these properties would be appropriate for this grant.
Although it was deemed a great potential site, Corral Street does not currently have a ramp, nor does the City own the property on which to build one. In the case of Polaris Street, the ramp is in place, however, land to increase parking in the vicinity is only available for lease rather than for purchase.
As a future source of funding these projects, the City plans to look to the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012, also known as the RESTORE Act, which was created in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, also referred to as the BP oil spill, of 2010. RESTORE Act funding is being dispersed amongst gulf coast states, so SPI will only be competing throughout the state and plans to approach large projects county-wide for a better opportunity to receive funding.
Also on the agenda was an update regarding the progress of the current Aquarium Feasibility Study. Data is being collected by consultants, and based on a summer study, Sea Turtle, Inc. contributed significant information on the subject of ecotourism statistics. The full report for the aquarium study will be given at the EDC’s October meeting.
The board also received proposals regarding a Marina Feasibility Study. Originally, the idea from EDC members was to build a marina for large boats, those 60 feet or larger, however, the proposal was not limited to that, so EDC members decided to leave it open to interpretation by consultants in order to explore more options and gain different perspectives on what is needed in the City. Bid requests were sent out to four different companies, and three came back with similar estimates in the range of $24,000. Due to their excellent references and extensive marina experience in a variety of locations, Marina Management Services was awarded the project.
Teresa Metty of the Shoreline Task Force attended the meeting and recommended that the two committees stay connected regarding this project as they are both exploring related options. She also suggested that the EDC stay open to the idea of a shallow boat marina because of their large economic impact.
To close out the meeting, EDC Director Darla Lapeyre gave a report noting that although July sales tax was down 2.48 percent from the previous year, compared to the past five year average, the month was at a 12 percent increase. Year-to-date, sales tax is up 4.7 percent when compared with last year.
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