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‘Coffee Chat’ audience stays informed about City projects

By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer/photographer

Looking for a great place to meet fellow citizens and get updated on City projects? Then come to the quarterly “Coffee Chat,” hosted by the Bastrop Economic Development Corporation and the Bastrop Main Street Program.

On Friday, June 16, BEDC executive Director Shawn Kirkpatrick and staff hosted a large group of citizens who came to the second Coffee Chat. Dick Smith, who serves on the City’s Main Street Board, praised the get-together, saying, “People are partners in what we do, and it’s important to make the connection with them.”

Rick Brackett, owner of popular restaurant/music venue Neighbor’s Kitchen & Yard, serves on the Downtown Business Alliance and the recently created Bastrop Destination Marketing Organization. He concurred that the Chat “is a good check-in to find out what’s going on in the City.”

Joining Kirkpatrick in briefing attendees was BEDC Project Manager Jean Riemenschneider and Bastrop Main Street Program Director Sarah O’Brien. Bastrop YMCA Executive Director Terry Moore updated attendees on summer programs, including the YMCA pool at Bastrop State Park. Several business-owner attendees also shared some of their activities. Among several subjects that audience members asked about were the status of the Downtown Trail Expansion Project, Main Street and abutting alleys, and downtown parking.

The trail expansion project will create a nearly 2-mile loop/walkway from downtown, out to the westbound frontage road of Hwy. 71, then back around to Loop 150 and downtown. The first phase will begin in the 100 block of Perkins Street (near Sonic) and run westward along the Hwy. 71 to the corner of Loop 150. It will turn the corner toward the Old Bridge, connecting with the existing sidewalk at Eskew and Loop 150, near the Texas Department of Public Safety office. It will be a multi-modal sidewalk ranging from six to 10 feet. It will also establish an existing trail that TxDOT will tie into once work starts on the new frontage roads across the Colorado River. Bowman Consulting, a civil engineering and land surveying firm with offices in Bastrop and Austin, has been contracted for the engineering/design for the project.

Construction on the first section of the project is expected to begin later this year. $180,000 was budgeted for Fiscal Year 2016-2017. The remaining $250,000 will be proposed for the FY 2017-2018 budget, said Angela Ryan, BEDC Assistant Director.

O’Brien gave an update on the newly formed Bastrop Destination Marketing Organization, which recently named 13 permanent directors, composed of community and business leaders. Regarding an audience question about adding more parking space downtown, including an oft-mentioned parking garage, O’Brien said she believes there is a “parking perception problem” when people discuss downtown parking. She said she has found it to be “very rare” not to be able to find a parking space around the downtown. She said “everyone would love a parking garage” downtown, but there isn’t enough vehicle presence to warrant the financial investment by the City.