Staff leadership transitions occur at Prosper Waco

NEWS RELEASE

WACO — Prosper Waco Executive Director Suzii Paynter March announced that the local nonprofit is saying goodbye to one leading staff member and welcoming another.

Rev. Bryan Dalco
Dexter Hall

Dexter Hall joined the Prosper Waco staff July 28 as full-time chief of staff and senior content specialist for financial security. It is a new role at the nonprofit but will include many of the functions previously part of the Chief Operations Officer position.

Bryan Dalco left the part-time COO position July 31. Dalco is also a pastor, having recently moved from being pastor of One Fellowship Church in Waco to being pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Temple and also serving in a new leadership role in the UMC Annual Conference. Dalco will continue to live in Waco.

“We are fortunate to have had Bryan as part of our collective effort in Waco, and we are now fortunate to have Dexter join us,” said March, Prosper Waco’s CEO. “Dexter’s background in banking and finance will help Prosper Waco to advance it’s priority of promoting financial security across Greater Waco. This is even more important now as we respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the economic challenges created for so many people.”

March expressed her deep appreciation to Rev. Dalco for his leadership and the strengths he has brought to Prosper Waco. “Bryan will continue to be a part of our Waco community, and we count on his friendship and involvement even as he leaves the Prosper Waco staff and launches out into his new areas of responsibility.”

In the new chief of staff position, Hall will provide direct support to CEO March and build strong relationships across the organization to optimize Prosper Waco’s resources, business process and administration. As a senior content specialist, he will develop, coordinate and execute projects and initiatives which advance benchmark indicators in financial security.                                                       

“I am happy to continue my work and lifelong heart’s desire to make our community, country and world a better place,” Hall said. “The City of Waco gave me birth, pride and my nucleus. I look forward to making our tomorrows better with Prosper Waco in improving the education, health and financial security of our citizens as we work to ensure equity for all.”

Rev. Dalco joined the Prosper Waco staff in April 2018.  “I will always treasure my time with Prosper Waco because it has added so much depth to the call upon my life,” he said. “I’ve always felt called to work with people who have been disenfranchised and marginalized. However, much of my work had been done at ground zero with more of a hands-on approach. Prosper Waco gave me the opportunity to do this work from a much higher and broader perspective.

“To be a part of efforts that provided research and data analysis towards impacting systemic issues has been an extremely rewarding effort,” he said. “During my time at Prosper Waco I have learned a lot of things, but one of the most important things I take with me is the importance of collaboration. When we work together we get more accomplished together. Thank you for accepting me and working with me.”

Hall is a native of East Waco and was raised in Oakland, Calif. He is owner of Noir Kith Consultants, which provides business and consumer financial management consulting. Hall retired in 2019 after 28 years with Wells Fargo, his last position being regional banking district manager for Wells Fargo’s Texas Region covering the Waco-Brazos Valley market.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration / public administration from California State University in Hayward. He sits on the boards of LeadersUp, Dr. Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute, YMCA of Central Texas and Black College Expo (advisory board). Hall has three daughters from age 16 to 22.

Rev. Dalco is a native of Beaumont and holds a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and master’s degree from Brite Divinity School. He has served several churches under appointment for 20 years in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Rev. Dalco is a mentor at South Waco Elementary School, a member of Waco NAACP and active in other community organizations. 

He has served as executive director of two nonprofits in the Houston area. He is married to Tara and has four children.

Summer months call for summer squash

By Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez

Recently I have been thinking about the “Wild West” — a time when there was a lot of discovery and a lot of unknown. I must say, it somewhat feels like we are in a modern-day Wild West. I can only imagine how difficult it was to stay hydrated. Someone probably shared a water canteen and planned travels according to where the next water source would be.

Today we do the same when we camp, go hiking or walking, or are outside for an extended time. To avoid dehydration, we must actively think about drinking more water, and even more so in these hot summer months.

Thankfully, we do not have to solely rely on water; fruits and vegetables also provide us with water. This month we are highlighting a vegetable which consist of 95% water, making it a great source for extra hydration and is even named for its season. Introducing summer squash! 

Nutrition: 

Per USDA dietary guidelines it is recommended we consume 3 Cups of vegetables daily. Vegetables may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. It all counts!

Summer squash is a great source of vitamin C, which keeps our immune system strong and helps our bodies heal quickly. Additionally, summer squash is fat free, saturated-fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free, and low in calories (around 20 calories in 1 cup). It is not recommended to peel summer squash because most all the vitamins and minerals are found in the skin. 

Shopping, Storage, and Preparation: 

There are two types of squash: summer and winter. Today we are focusing on summer squash. There are many varieties of squash, some names you will see are: patty pan, yellow crookneck, yellow straightneck, chayotes, and zucchini. For all squash varieties, choose firm, glossy, small to medium-sized squash. Avoid squash that is soft, moldy, or sunken in spots. Though usable, larger squash tend to be less flavorful and tougher. 

Right before using, wash squash by rubbing the skin under cool running water. Refrigerate summer squash for up to one week or freeze and use within three months. If freezing, cut it into pieces and blanch (placing vegetables in boiling water for a short time and then placing in freezing water.). For more instructions, read here

Enjoy: 

Due to its mild flavor summer squash can be prepared multiple ways. It is important, however, to remember that seasonings or other ingredients added to squash will change the nutritional value. Below are some ways to enjoy it: 

Roast — Cut squash in slices and drizzle with olive oil and low‐sodium seasoning before placing on a baking sheet. Cook 10-15 minutes or until tender. 

Grate — Add raw, grated squash to green salads, muffins, or cookies. Use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons in place of pasta noodles. 

Grill — Pair squash with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, peppers, or fruit. 

Raw — Enjoy in salads or dipped in hummus or a low-fat dip. 

Sauté — Heat pan to high, add oil to coat the pan and add sliced squash. Sauté until lightly brown, about 3‐5 minutes, or tender. Use as side dish or add to dishes like stir fry or pasta. 

Check out these other tasty recipes too: Italian Spinach and Zucchini Meatballs or Baked Zucchini Sticks

See below different ways to cut and prepare zucchini –  thank you to Montana State University Extension for the graphic: 

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and many others continue to practice public health recommendations. Whether we are communicating online or face-to-face know that program content will always be research-backed to help individuals navigate decisions for themselves and their families. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP. To learn more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or to apply for benefits, visit www.yourtexasbenefits.com


Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez is an Extension Agent for the Better Living for Texans program with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine but now calls Waco home. A graduate from Baylor University, she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy Ann just saying hello.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Meeting Insights: TIF Board Meeting – 08/13/20

By Jeffrey Vitarius

(Civic meetings happen in Waco every week – city council, school board, planning commission, and countless others.  Decisions from these meetings affect our lives every day.  Many of us are curious about these meetings, but to be honest, it’s just too hard to decipher the jargon and figure out what’s going on and why it’s important.  Act Locally Waco is trying something new in August! Jeffrey Vitarius follows civic meetings for his work and out of personal interest.  Each week in August he will pick a meeting in our community and highlight one or two items from the agenda to translate from “government-ese” into language we can all understand.  We’re calling the series “Meeting Insights.” Let us know what you think! If you enjoy it, we will try to keep it going!  — ALW )

The Board of Directors for Reinvestment Zone Number One For Tax Increment Financing (TIF Board) meets every other month on the second Thursday of the month. These are the folks that make recommendations to City Council about how TIF dollars should be spent. Before COVID-19 they would go on a tour of potential projects some time in the morning and then conduct their regular meeting at noon. The public is invited to the regular meetings, although, for the time being due to COVID-19, that attendance is virtual through the Waco City Cable Channel’s YouTube channel (WCCC.TV – YouTube) with public comments sent in ahead of time. There are a few interesting projects on the agenda this week, but we are going to dive into some background and look at how the TIF encourages development in a way you may not expect…silencing train horns in Downtown Waco. 

Meeting Basics 

  • Regular Meeting – 12:00pm
  • To watch the live stream click here (City of Waco Cable Channel YouTube channel)
  • For the full agenda click here
  • For the meeting packet with the documents pertinent to the meeting click here. I will refer to page numbers from this packet in the notes below. 
  • Details on how to provide public comment are listed in the agenda

A Study in TIF – the Downtown Waco Quiet Zone 

Mention of the TIF invites questions. What is the “TIF”? How is it funded? Who allocates the funding and to what? Luckily, Waco 101 has already tackled a number of those topics here. Today we are going to zoom in on one example of a TIF funded project, and follow how that example has had an impact on the direction of downtown development, and potentially even the skyline of Waco.

It all starts with trains and their horns. The locomotives that make their way through Downtown Waco along Jackson Avenue are required to sound their horns as they approach any train track crossing. This is to alert folks that they are coming so they can make sure they are well out of the way. As any Wacoan who lives or works near the tracks can tell you, they certainly accomplish this goal. Everyone knows when the train is coming!

However, all this alerting makes it somewhat difficult to invite investment in the properties next to the tracks. An early morning horn makes these properties a hard sell to anyone looking to place hotel rooms or residences in Downtown Waco, and midday horns interrupt workflow in office spaces.

Enter “the quiet zone.”

The quiet zone amounts to  improvements the City and railroad can make to the track crossings that provide sufficient safety so that the horns are no longer required (outside of certain specific circumstances, like construction). Unfortunately, the process of figuring out what improvements are needed and then constructing them can be costly. This is where the TIF makes the difference.

In the summer of 2017, city staff presented first to the TIF board and then to the City Council on the potential benefits of a quiet zone in Downtown Waco. Then City Manager Dale Fisseler noted that increased density of development in the area was an important potential benefit of the quiet zone. He pointed out that the quiet zone could “open up other sites along the railroad track for redevelopment.” That summer the TIF board recommended and City Council approved $450,000 in TIF funding towards the study of a quiet zone. The project essential broke down into three phases:

  • Phase 1 – Feasibility – this is checking to make sure that creating a quiet zone is reasonable to do or “feasible”
  • Phase 2 – Design – putting together the specific improvement designs
  • Phase 3 – Construction

The $450,000 in TIF funding was intended to cover phases 1 and 2 of the potential project. Phase 1 was completed in December 2017 (per later presentations by city staff). 

In the summer of 2018, staff produced a summary of the improvements that would be necessary for a quiet zone. Most of these improvements involve installing new crossing gates, efforts to make sure folks don’t drive around those gates (something called “channelization”), changes to Jackson Avenue (that runs parallel with the tracks), and pedestrian safety improvements.  

In the fall of 2019, the project was ready to seek funding for phase 3. The TIF Board recommended and the City Council approved $1,528,807 in TIF funding for the construction of the improvements noted above. At the time, the project was estimated to be completed sometime in the fall of 2020 (it is possible COVID-19 has had an impact on this process).

The project has some benefits that do not involve any other development: improved safety at crossing, improved pedestrian connections, and decreased downtown disturbance from the horns.

But perhaps, the biggest impact of the quite zone has been in making sites near the railroad track more appealing for development, just like City Manager Fisseler noted back in 2017. Since staff presented the improvements in the summer of 2018, seven projects have sought TIF funding (two this month) for developments right next to the tracks (see map below, the quiet zone in blue and the projects in green).

Before we move on, here are some critical caveats to keep in mind with TIF projects:

  • A project being funded may not ultimately be completed. Lots of changes can happen between funding and completion (like a pandemic, for example)
  • Sometimes  completed projects can look different from their initial renderings.
  • The information I have gathered here is from what I could find in the meeting packets from past meetings of the TIF board and City Council. It is possible that some details of these projects have changed since those packets were put together.

That being said, these seven projects represent a combined total private investment (not counting any TIF funding) of $93.9 million. They include 22,000 square feet of retail space, at least 709 new parking spaces (not all public), space for six new restaurants, and nearly 500 new hotel rooms. On top of all of this, a developer announced in June of this year intentions to build a set of office towers next to the tracks that might grow higher than the ALICO Building (site in yellow above). We can’t say for certain that these projects have come about because of the quiet zone, but the logic of less noise, more development and the timing of these projects is convincing for me.

Be on the lookout for more TIF-funded public projects like this that encourage economic development in particular parts of downtown.   

Other Interesting (to me) Items From the Agenda

  • This month’s agenda includes the annual board report for the TIF board. Each city board or commission produces one of these reports each year, and they can be a pretty good starting place for getting to know what that group has been doing and will do in the future. 
  • One of the best parts of any TIF board packet are the renderings. Below are those for the projects consider this month.

8th Street Market

Heritage on Webster

Jeffrey Vitarius has been actively local since early 2017. He lives in Sanger Heights with partner (JD) and his son (Callahan). He helped found Waco Pride Network and now serves as that organization’s treasurer and Pride Planning Chair. Jeffrey works at City Center Waco where he helps keep Downtown Waco clean, safe, and vibrant. He is a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and graduated from Baylor in 2011.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.