By JUDY SHERIDAN
Aledo city staff met with a handful of business owners Dec. 3 for the second “Rise & Dine” breakfast with Mayor Kit Marshall.
During the early morning event, held at the Community Center, Marshall assured business owners of the city’s support during the major road reconstruction and asked for feedback on the Urban Farmers’ Market, the “Keep it Local” campaign and others.
She urged them to stay informed by reading the city’s business newsletter and by signing up for Blackboard Connect on the city’s website.
Staff handed out information on grants — available through the sales tax-supported Economic Development Corporation — that incentivize special events, infrastructure improvements, façade improvements and wall sign and monument sign upgrades.
In addition, Public Works Director Gordon Smith gave a presentation on the next phase of Aledo Trail, which will reroute FM Road 1187 traffic onto the new construction by city hall as work on FM 1187 moves south.
Marshall told business owners that staff members organize and market First Fridays, Christmas Tyme and the Urban Farmers’ Market to draw new shoppers to Aledo. She showed a video, posted on the city’s website, highlighting events during the 50th anniversary year.
“The community events that we have sponsored are nothing more than an honest effort to bring in more people who don’t know what Aledo has to offer,” she said.
The mayor asked business owners if they wanted city staff to continue making personal visits, so the city “can make adjustments in what we’re doing to help you out.”
“I care passionately about you,” she said. “When I became mayor, there was no support for our business community. So, you talk about turning the Titanic …
“I will make sure that I won’t go too far in turning the Titanic. We can’t run your business for you, we’re not going to. We have enough to take care of running the business of the city.”
Marshall said the Urban Farmers Market, held on Front Street on Saturdays during September and October, was a success in terms of bringing potential shoppers in, but a small staff could not sustain a weekly event.
“We know that having it in that small location did cause some problems, we anticipated those,” Public Works Director Gordon Smith added, saying city staff wanted to gauge the draw because a new park would contain a structure to host similar events.
Smith said Aledo Trail’s completion has been delayed from February to May, with the final 45 days devoted to landscape and irrigation.
He said contractors are finishing Phase I and hope to move to Phase II — designing and building the couplet’s interior — between Christmas and New Year’s.
Phase I includes completing the new railroad crossing north of the primary crossing at FM 1187, he said, and closing the Chestnut Street railroad crossing.
Smith said it will take about five hours to reroute the traffic flow from FM 1187 to the new construction near City Hall. The contractor wants to do it before children return to school after the holidays, he said, but if not, early in 2014.
About 30 days after the Phase II switch, plans call for a Phase II shift, he said, which means moving traffic from one side to the other.
Original plans are for both Elm Street and Front Street to be closed at FM 1187 during Phase II, he said, but “the contractor and engineer have come up with a way to keep Elm Street open during this phase, as Front Street is constructed. Once it is constructed, they will close Elm Street and open Front Street.”
Smith said signs would direct patrons to Maria Bonita’s restaurant, which will be impacted by the change.
Front Street business owners expressed concerns about access, parking and the length of construction.
Mike Carter, First Financial Bank senior vice president and branch manager of First Financial Bank in Aledo, gave the city kudos for communicating effectively with business owners and moving ahead in a timely fashion.
“The speed and the care to let us know as vendors, we greatly appreciate that,” he said. “The speed with which this project is going is a million times better than Weatherford, a million times better.”
“At some point in time you have to deal with your infrastructure, and I submit to you that doing it now, with our population base is just under 3,000 is far better than doing it when we’re over 13,000 and impacting 30,000 cars a day,” Marshall said.
“We want 30,000 cars a day because that increases the opportunity for shopping local. What we’ve tried to do is minimize the pain as much as possible because we truly care about our businesses here in Aledo.”
Aledo Trail, designed to improve traffic flow, uses two one-way roads to provide four lanes of traffic across the Union Pacific Railroad Track.
A new two-lane road extends from Elm Street across a new railroad crossing north of the FM 1187 crossing, tying to FM 1187 at Maverick Street to function as a one-way southbound corridor.
The existing two-lane FM 1187 between Maverick and Elm Street will be reconstructed as a one-way northbound corridor.
Construction on the Parker County transportation bond project began in April 2013.