The man filling out the last year of Wilbert Austin’s term on the Waco City Council has one last goal before he steps down in May: renaming East Waco Park in Austin’s honor.

District 1 Waco Councilman Noah Jackson Jr. proposed the renaming at the end of the council meeting Tuesday and received support from Mayor Kyle Deaver.

“I think the council would find that appropriate,” Deaver said.

He said later that he hopes to have a vote by early May.

The council appointed Jackson last June to fill the seat Austin had vacated because of his battle with cancer. Austin, who served on the council since 2006, died the day before the council swore in Jackson, a longtime friend and ally.

Jackson is not seeking re-election in the May 5 District 1 race, but he said he wants to honor his predecessor for his years of hard work representing the district.

“It’s what I think he deserves,” Jackson said.

East Waco Park is next to a new Neighborworks Waco subdivision and just around the corner from Austin’s small home. Austin fought to make the park safer and to get improvements such as curbs and gutters and better lighting, which are now being added.

Jackson said East Waco Park’s improvements made him feel comfortable in naming it for his friend.

Suspension Bridge overhaul

In other business Tuesday, the council approved an $8.9 million certificate of obligation for the Tax Increment Financing Zone for three major pedestrian projects in the center city.

The bond will provide $1.3 million for streetscape improvements along Webster Avenue, including sidewalks, curbs and streetlamps; $2.1 million for “aesthetic lighting” under three soon-to-be-rebuilt Interstate 35 underpasses in downtown; and $5.5 million for the complete renovation of the Waco Suspension Bridge.

The city will use TIF funds to stabilize the towers and anchors for the 1870 bridge, replace the decking and install new cables.

The council also agreed to bump up TIF funding for the $3.8 million Elm Avenue Streetscape project, from $956,200 to almost $1.3 million, after rules on the state grant for the project changed. The council also hired BSP Engineers at a cost of $473,500 to design the project between the Washington Avenue bridge and Garrison Street.

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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