SPI city council to discuss 2020 census, fire hydrant enhancements

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — As communities continue to carry on through this time of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, city officials and leaders are continuing to strategize what’s best for their residents.

South Padre Island held a regular city council meeting Wednesday evening to approve and discuss several items such as 2020 census participation and fire hydrant enhancements.

SPI Mayor Patrick McNulty said it’s critical that residents fill out the 2020 census.

“It sets up our demographics for our count for the next 10 years, which is funding not just for us, but for Cameron County as a whole,” he said. “The larger (participation) we get, the more MPO money there is, which then also helps us hopefully get a better clearer pathway to a second causeway and certain infrastructure that comes out of this.”

According to SPI economic development coordinator Darla Lapeyre, two factors could have been the cause of the city’s low participation percentage.

“I asked the census gentleman if they are using all of the physical addresses on the Island as the base and he said yes, they’re using all of the physical addresses,” Lapeyre explained to city council during the meeting. “I said well there’s our problem because we have only less than 20 percent owner occupied and 70 percent of our properties are vacant.”

Lapeyre said another issue that is unique to the Island is that census forms are not delivered to post office boxes and many of the city’s residents use either SOS or post office boxes.

According to Lapeyre, because of those factors, the percentage count may be adjusted to be in correlation with the city’s estimated population, which is 2,989.

“So we take two hits, but I think we can, especially if they adjust it for us, then I think the numbers will shoot up right away, but we’ll keep pushing it and getting the word out,” Lapeyre said. “Wherever we can put it.”

According to Lapeyre, in 2010 the response rate for the Island was 14 percent.

“It was probably the same issue if they were using all of the physical addresses, that’s not going to work for us,” she said. “It’s not comparing apples and oranges because nobody else has that, I mean, other resort communities would, but nobody in Cameron County has that situation.”

Lapeyre said she and the city’s local task committee members are going to continue trying to increase residents’ participation with the census.

According to a press release issued on April 13, the U.S. Census Bureau will extend the window for field data collection and self-response to Oct. 31.

To complete the census questionnaire, visit 2020census.gov.

Fire hydrants

Council members approved a $50,000 budget enhancement from excess reserves to be allocated toward a stage one enhancement of fire hydrants.

Fire Chief Jim Pigg said ever since receiving the position on Dec. 29, one of his priorities has been maintaining fire hydrants on an annual basis.

According to Pigg, there are a total of 196 public fire hydrants.

“We started a project where our firefighters went out and did a flow test on all of the fire hydrants and we completed that project on March 6,” he said. “So this was already a project that was in place, that was in motion to be put into effect.”

Pigg said from the flow test, the department found that some valves were sticking and some caps needed to be replaced.

“There are some that might even possibly need to be replaced and we have an estimated cost of about $5,500 per replacement on those,” Pigg said. “So with that being said, at this point, we’ve got to get some of these hydrants back into shape to where they need to be.”

According to Pigg, during the flow test, the hydrants that need maintenance have been identified.

“Right now we do have a pump truck that’s operational so if we do run into any issues of fire hydrants being repaired and is out of service, we have the ability to take care of all citizens while repair is going on so no one needs to worry,” McNulty said. “We have water and the ability to put out that fire.”

A long-term plan for the department is to train some firefighters on how to conduct in-house repairs.

“I have two firefighters that were supposed to go this month to a four-day academy where they learn how to repair, replace and how to do all of this,” Pigg said. “It’s already been paid for, but it’s been postponed, but we’ll have them go and then we have two more that are going so we’ll have at least one person per shift that can be able to go out and do the repair and the maintenance on this.”