Falfurrias City Manager Noe Bernal gave a slide presentation on how his city prepared for a bypass.
The U.S. Highway 77 route south through Refugio is a proposed section of I-69. If I-69 comes to Refugio County, it is likely that a bypass would be constructed around Refugio.
Victor Garza, the Refugio County Community Development Foundation executive director, said he invited Bernal to give the presentation after seeing the bypass at Falfurrias.
“I saw the way it was built. It’s great. It has four exits to the main street downtown,” Garza said.
Bernal said Falfurrias’ elected officials had reached out to other city managers and clerks about I-69, and they became more focused on a long-term plan.
That long-term plan became the big picture of what Falfurrias had to do about a year and a half ago. The planning is paying off.
Bernal said Refugio would have to focus on the capital outlay side, that is infrastructure and utilities, including housing.
He said quality of life would be the sustaining economic factor for the community.
He emphasized a capital improvement plan to accomplish the task that should be “predictable, achievable and affordable.”
Bernal even suggested that Refugio become a home rule city, dropping its status as a general law city, which follows state guidelines for rule.
The home rule city has more ability to annex, among other things when deciding what it wants to do.
As an example, Bernal said Falfurrias was looking at another convenience store outside the city limits. With being a home rule city, the city would have the legal power to annex the area or go farther to the highway.
However, a city has to have a population of more than 5,000 to become a home rule city, according to the Texas Municipal League.
Bernal suggested zoning and managed growth.
“You will have to figure out the city’s needs, desires and the situation of the community as it stands,” Bernal said.
He asked to what extent Refugio goes out to try an influence new business. He said the city should adopt an economic development plan and a business plan for I-69.
A business plan would mean a serious analysis of business and the city’s core businesses: the anchor businesses, not including oil field because it is not sustainable.
Bernal said the city has to build outside the ‘one-big company” dependence.
Again, he emphasized quality of life for a sustainable economy, including things like trails and parks, festivals and entertainment and more.
Bernal warned that the Texas Department of Transportation will bring Refugio a plan, and it would probably be “one time then put on a shelf.”
“And then when it comes time, it will be done,” he said.
Councilman Lenny Anzaldua noted that the city has a planning grant and will begin soon on a plan.
Bernal said economic development is a means to an end.
“The end is improving or maintaining services you provide,” Bernal said.
He added that Refugio’s history, transportation, inter-city concept (downtown), community services, parks plan, the aesthetic of the city and the entrances to the community were all of importance.
Finally, Bernal said Refugio will have to identify its strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats (declining population and deficits in restaurants and entertainment).
The council took no action but thanked Bernal for the presentation.