December 2012

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Interim Police Chief Appointed

Manvel Business Owners Address City Council

Retraction on Interim Police Chief

AISD teacher receives prestigious award

Organization to sponsor concert for fundraiser

City to acquire acreage

Manvel resident wins dirt bike awards

AISD adopts Internet use policy

City Council Approves Zoning Amendment

 

Interim Police Chief Appointed

December 5, 2012

 

Manvel city council approved the appointment of an interim chief of police at a recent meeting. Charles Weedemeyer has been in law enforcement and administration for nearly fifty years. City Manager Kyle Jung explained that Weedemeyer was the police chief in Jersey Village for the past fourteen years. Prior to that he worked for the Harris County Sheriff’s office where he progressed from Deputy to Major during a thirty year career. He also worked three years with the Harris County District Attorney’s office. Jung said he expected the interim chief to assume his duties within a week once the city attorney prepares the necessary paperwork.

Hiring of the interim chief is in response to the council’s decision late last month to terminate the employment of Ralph Garcia who had held the position for nearly fourteen years. Jung expects the interim chief to serve approximately ninety days or so depending on the amount and quality of resumes received for the permanent position.

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Manvel Business Owners Address City Council

December 5, 2012

 

Manvel city council devoted a workshop to Manvel business owners last week to hear suggestions and input on city services to help the city provide an environment that assists local businesses to thrive and grow in Manvel.

Council member Adrian Gaspar proposed the get-together at a recent council meeting. Gaspar boasts a pro-business approach to governance and feels the city’s pro-active adoption of new state laws and various building codes and ordinances has been a “killer to small business in town.” Gaspar stops short of accusing the adopted policies of intentionally thwarting “mom and pop” type businesses, but does posit that the city and its hired consultants may have favored the larger tax base obtainable from big business.

Gaspar intimates that some former city consultants influenced prior councils to adopt policies and procedures that ultimately generated sizeable fees for their work. He says his intention while on council is to “stop some of this nonsense and start eliminating” the hiring of consultants and replace them with city employees who will do the job without consideration of how it will “benefit their pockets.” He says city employees can be held accountable in ways that consultants cannot.

David Salazar, owner of Manvel Auto Care, expressed his feeling that the “rules and regulations are really tough here in Manvel.” He told council that he owns eight acres in the city and “it seems like I can’t do anything with my property.” He tried to construct a storage facility on the back part of his property but was told that it was “illegal in the city of Manvel” and that “it would devalue the property.” He claims to pay a lot of tax to the city and says he needs to do something productive with his acreage. “If the property is considered business property it needs to be used as business property,” he says. He goes on to say that the city should be more business friendly and not make it so difficult.

Jim Sullivan, Manvel’s contracted code enforcement official, explained that the storage facility on Salazar’s property was disallowed by the Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z) as an illegal business. Sullivan further explained that the ordinance has since been changed to allow the petition for a specific use, something not available previously. Prior to that change last February, business was limited to just 71 uses and offered little if any flexibility. Sullivan says the current ordinance allows numerous other businesses that have been added to the permitted use table.

Manvel entrepreneur Mark Lowe, owner of numerous businesses in the city, implied that PD&Z often mishandles their authority by “crushing” proposals that never are presented to council for ultimate disposition. He asserts the city has a “never ceasing flow of things businesses can’t do and things that must be paid for.” He expressed his contention that it is “a little disingenuous to enforce rules against business owners” when the city gets a pass on the same rules. He cited the fire code and drainage code as not applying to city hall as an example and said it “puts a bad perception in the minds of business owners.”

Lowe went on to say that the “path to prosperity is not paved with more rules, regulations, or committees,” but rather with more open dialog that promotes commerce. Lowe would like to see a more collaborative environment between the city and business “where the outcome has not already been predetermined.”

Frank Hagdorn, owner of Manvel Mattress and Furniture, voiced his perception that he is hearing what he always hears from city hall, namely “every excuse in the world on why we can’t do it.” He considers that “day-to-day business at city hall.” He gave up his plans to expand in Manvel and went to Brazoria instead where he says they “welcomed me with open arms.”

Hagdorn does not understand why Manvel city council only allows a citizen three minutes to address council with no dialog allowed. He blames the city’s poor communication as a large part of the reason businesses are discouraged from coming to or expanding in the city. He told council that if they want to duplicate Sugarland that they are “on the perfect track” and urged them to “broaden their horizon a little bit” to encourage smaller shops and stores to open. He claims so many of the rules and regulations lack “good common business sense.”

Hagdorn communicated an experience that reveals the apparent disconnect between council members and the business community. Earlier this year Hagdorn petitioned city council to sell a city owned right-of-way that separated his property from a neighbor. Hagdorn wanted to expand his furniture showroom and council felt they had given their approval for the sale to move forward. As Hagdorn explains it, he paid $2,500 from his own funds for an appraisal and survey. When he delivered them some six weeks later he learned the rules had changed and a fee of $3,000 was now required for PD&Z to consider the city’s selling of the right-of-way. He learned too that his neighbor would also be required to pay a $3,000 fee. Hagdorn explained that simple math made it clear that spending $8,500 to acquire a right-of-way valued at $10,000 made no sense. Council apparently was unaware of the episode, which Hagdorn claimed is a good example of the poor communication among council members, the mayor, city staff, and PD&Z.

Adrian Gaspar responded to the varied comments that he suggested the meeting to show council as pro-business and wanting to encourage small business expansion in the city. He said council needs and welcomes input to work with the business community. He claims a willingness on the part of the city attorney, the city manager, and other city officials to “change certain ordinances” or “bend the rules” to make things more business friendly. “We need you guys to stay involved,” he told them.

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Retraction on Interim Police Chief

December 12, 2012

 

Last week it was reported that Charles Weedemeyer had been appointed interim police chief to replace former chief Ralph Garcia after his termination last month. Weedemeyer was introduced to the city through Texas First Group, an organization that provides interim management services for Texas municipalities.

According to City Manager Kyle Jung, the city “was unable to reach agreement with Texas First Group about indemnification and worker’s compensation provisions of the proposed contract for personnel services of the interim police chief. Since this contract could not be finalized, Texas First Group decided to withdraw their organization from consideration of supplying an individual for the interim police chief position.”

Jung appointed acting Police Chief Art Chapa as the interim chief effective December 3, 2012. He went onto explain that “Chapa will serve in this role while the search for the permanent police chief is underway. Once the next chief takes office, Art Chapa will resume his previous duties and position as sergeant with the police department. During his appointment, Chief Chapa will be an exempt, salaried employee compensated at the same monthly pay as the previous police chief.”

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AISD teacher receives prestigious award

December 12, 2012

 

Texas Governor Rick Perry and Education Commissioner Michael Williams paid a visit to Alvin’s Passmore Elementary last week to honor teacher Kristi Plummer with the Milken National Educator Award. Plummer had no previous indication that she would be the recipient as the selection process was carried out in a confidential manner. In addition to the distinction of being recognized as one of just 40 teachers nationwide, and the only one in Texas this year, Plummer earned an unrestricted cash prize of $25,000.

Dr. Jane Foley, representing the Milken Family Foundation accompanied the governor and commissioner to the event. Commissioner Williams introduced Foley to the assembly and described the Foundation as a friend to public education for a long time. Foley described the program to honor outstanding educators as beginning 25 years ago and known as the Milken Educator Award. She said greatness in education should be recognized in a public way. She describes the award as the “Oscar of teaching.”

Governor Perry told the group that “none of our state’s academic successes would be possible without the teachers of Texas, who inspire our students as much as they educate them.” “We owe you an enormous debt of gratitude for the work you do, both in the classroom and beyond.”

Commissioner Williams said of Plummer that she “is making a difference in the lives of Alvin children every day. She does everything from helping them with math to sponsoring the student council to even inviting a family new to the district to join her for Thanksgiving dinner one year. Kristi (Plummer) is an example of the dedicated, caring people we have working in schools all over the state.”

AISD Superintendent Dr. Fred Brent said “effective teachers are essential to raising student achievement. It is important that teachers like Kristi Plummer are recognized for their efforts. We are extremely proud of Kristi for this accomplishment, and look forward to having many more teachers recognized for their hard work and dedication to the children of Alvin ISD.”

A graduate of Texas A&M University, Plummer’s leadership and organizational skills were quickly recognized. She became the math department chair in just her second year of teaching. “I am completely in shock and truly appreciative for this award. I could not have accomplished this without the support from my colleagues and principal, Carol Nelson,” shared Plummer.

Since the awards creation 26 years ago, the program has honored more than 2,500 educators and issued more than $63 million in cash prizes. To date, 44 Texas educators been named Milken National Education Award winners and received a total of $1.1 million in prizes. Plummer is the second Alvin ISD educator to receive the prestigious award. Lesa Martin, former E.C. Mason Elementary teacher, received the award in 2004.

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Organization to sponsor concert for fundraiser

December 12, 2012

 

The Global Organization for Divinity (GOD) is sponsoring an Indian Classical and Western Vocal Ensemble for a Pearland area fundraiser to be held on December 22 at 5PM. The concert will be held at Pearland ISD’s Robert Turner High School auditorium at 4717 Bailey Road, adjacent to Pearland Junior High South. The announcement of the event was conducted at the recently opened medical office of Dr. Lekshmi Nair on CR 58 in Manvel, who is the wife of GOD Board member Jeevan Nair.

A young Indian singing duo from Houston, Kruthi and Keethana Bhat, will perform “Melody of Compassion”, a vocal ensemble of Carnactic, Hindustani, and Western music. According to organization representatives, the sisters hold numerous Indian classical music awards and accolades to their credit. “They have given innumerable concerts both in India and the USA, and are well known budding Houston stars in the Indian classical music arena.” The sisters are directed by their mother, a renowned Indian classical vocalist in her own right, Rajarajeshwary Bhat. Nisha Giri, spokesperson for the group, described the girls as having a “most amazing talent” and feels that no “music lover should miss the opportunity to come to the concert.”

The concert will depict “the universal spirit of compassion that transcends all boundaries – they will bring an innovation to their usually traditional Carnactic (south Indian music system) renditions with the added flavor of Hindustani (north Indian music system quite different from Carnactic).” Western pieces will be part of the concert as well.

Admission to the concert is free though patrons are encouraged to donate generously towards the construction of a charitable healthcare center in rural India, an area in need of medical facilities. Board Member Jeevan Nair explained that the rural hospital need matches the goals of GOD’s US organization, thus prompting them to sponsor the fundraiser. Mr. Ramanujam, who is from the southern part of India and often travels to the US to perform various youth workshops, explained that the organization does a lot of educational and medical related projects in India. He said the goal of the fundraiser is to help construct a medical center where there is a strong need and that would support about 15 villages in the area. Ramanujam said $100,000 is the goal of the event and would cover the actual cost of the building and the basic medical equipment. Land for the building is expected to be donated.

The Global Organization for Divinity (GOD) was established in 2007 with the guiding principle that “humanity and divinity are inseparable.” The organization supports many social causes in Texas, including an annual Life and Soul free health fair in Houston, blood donation and bone marrow drives, food and clothes drives to benefit local organizations, educational supplies drives for special-education schools, city clean-up drives, and other eco-friendly initiatives.

GOD is a federally tax exempt organization and has a presence in various other countries, including India, Australia, United Kingdom, and many others. Additional information on GOD can be found at www.godivinity.org. For additional information on the fundraiser, contact Jeevan Nair at 281-402-6585.

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City to acquire acreage

December 19, 2012

 

Manvel city council authorized the mayor to execute an Earnest Money Contract to acquire approximately 108 acres on CR 58 (Croix Rd) in the city’s Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).

A statement issued by the city manager, Kyle Jung, described the intent of the action as follows: “The property was appraised for $2,095,000.00 and the land owner, David Smith, LP has agreed to a sales price of $2,000,000.00. The city council is considering selling certificates of obligation (COs) to pay for this land purchase. These COs would be twenty year maturity debt obligations that would be paid from the city’s general fund revenue. The city council will consider this item at their December 20 council meeting.”

In describing the property to council, Jung said he would consider the property as a “huge asset to the city.” He explained that a sand mining contract currently exists on the land with approximately two years remaining and the seller is seeking a purchase arrangement with the city that will allow that contract to conclude. The seller would like to close on the sale and in turn lease back the property for the term of the mining contract. In exchange, the city could defer its payments on the acquisition until the lease terminates. Jung thinks it would be beneficial to the city to acquire the property now and be able to delay payments on the obligation for two years.

Mayor Delores Martin added that the acquisition would allow the city to begin the annexation process for the property as well. Council Member Adrian Gaspar considers the acquisition a “win-win for the city and the taxpayers.” In fact, council unanimously agreed to the action.

Jung defined several uses for the sand pit saying there are a “number of things that would both benefit the city and prevent bad things from happening.” The first would be the possibility of using it for off-site detention. “Storm water comes down Mustang Bayou and flows through a corner of this property. What we could do is have an agreement with nearby property owners to divert storm water into the existing sand pit,” Jung explained. He expounded that a number of drainage districts in the area actually sell off-site detention and that several existing and proposed developments near the property would offer the potential for the city to realize financial benefit as the pit could serve to meet their detention requirements. Jung said that detention can sell for $15,000 to $20,000 per acre foot.

The property could also be used for surface water storage. If the city can capture the water runoff from nearby developments before it flows into Mustang Bayou, it could then be used by the city in its own water system or possibly sold to nearby water authorities. Jung posited the possibility of using what would essentially be a large lake “for any number of different things.” Recreational uses such as a fishing pier or stock pond could be established and while Jung conceded there would be costs associated he explained that “if you have this lake anywhere from 35 to 60 feet deep you could have a whole bunch of recreational things going on that piece of property.” Jung thinks a part of the land “could be landscaped or cut out for a park area that would provide relatively easy access into the lake.”

Another benefit to getting hold of the property, claimed Jung, is that it would prevent its possible use as a landfill. A large waste management concern approached the seller about its acquisition and went so far as to present a sizeable earnest money deposit as an enticement. The seller prefers it not be used in that way and the city’s acquisition would stop that prospect.

The sand pit consumes most all the 108 acres and as Mayor Martin described it, other than the 20 or so acres used as a staging area for the mining equipment it is anywhere from 70 to 80 feet deep. Water is currently pumped from the pit so that the sand mining activity can carry on.

The city attorney, Bobby Gervais, along with Mayor Martin, City Manager Jung, and the seller’s representatives have met to negotiate final terms of the acquisition. Council is expected to vote on the consummation of the purchase at a meeting scheduled for December 20.

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Manvel resident wins dirt bike awards

December 19, 2012

 

Christopher DelBello, son of Manvel city council member Maureen DelBello and Chris DelBello, recently received a 1st Place Champion Award for his accomplishments in six dirt bike races across Texas. Christopher is a junior at Manvel High School and has been racing dirt bikes since the age of 5. He moved up to the larger 250B class in May of this year.

According to his mother, Christopher began racing a 50cc bike at the age of 5 and has advanced through the years to his current level where he uses a Kawasaki 250cc dirt bike. She explained that his father rode when he was younger and “kind of knew that when we had a son he would be introduced to the sport.” She said it is a dangerous sport “but then most all sports these days come with dangers.”

Racing is a family affair for the DelBello’s. According to Mother Maureen they are constantly travelling and camping at tracks along with their four kids and says they have made many good friends. She said Christopher has always had the option of stopping his racing but “he really loves the sport.” She claims that Christopher maintains good grades in school and does not get into trouble so “we allow him to continue racing.”

DelBello explained that her son has been to the emergency room twice so far during his racing career from “pretty bad crashes.” She said he was lucky that “he only sustained a concussion and no broken bones.” She described her son’s efforts to supplement his racing by lifting weights and running “because dirt bike racing is very strenuous on the body.”

The just completed year that won Christopher an award consisted of six races across Texas. Each race consists of 5 to 6 laps around a dirt track with various jumps and turns. His mother describes it as “physically demanding on the rider and very rough on the bike.” Based on Christopher’s points accumulation in the six races he ended up winning 1st place in his division.

The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) works with promoters to sponsor the races. There are specific rules specifying age, bike size, and racing levels. Points are earned by the contestants and as they accumulate the required number they must move to a higher level.

His mother explained that Christopher just this year moved up to the 250cc class and expressed some trepidation in the move “because there are many extremely fast and aggressive kids at that level.” She admits that her concern is “just momma speaking.” The next class he would move to is the Amateur Class, just one step away from the professional level.

Dirt bike racing is very expensive with an event costing anywhere from $250 to $1,000, depending on travel. There is also the cost of acquiring the bikes and maintaining them. DelBello comments that it is “hard to find good dirt bike mechanics in the area.” Full sponsors are hard to find when you are not at the amateur level, she claims. Christopher does have a few sponsors that help with discounted and free products, but the bulk of the costs are borne by the family. She says “it would be wonderful if we could get more sponsors for his racing” and says they have a motorcycle trailer where they display sponsor names.

DelBello describes a race as “pretty wild to watch and the older and better he gets it is very hard for me to watch as he fly’s through the air and I just pray and hold my breath every time that he will make it through his laps with no injuries.”

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AISD adopts Internet use policy

December 26, 2012

 

The Board of Trustees conducted a public hearing on the district’s Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) for 2012-2013. The public hearing was required due to a change in federal funding requirements. The Board ultimately approved the new policy.

The Executive Director of Technology Services, Laura Perez, made the presentation. She explained that new regulations and requirements necessitated the update of district internet safety policies. CIPA was created in 2000 by the US Congress to address concerns regarding the access of offensive content in school libraries through the internet and other sources of information. In 2001, guidelines were issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that regulated how federal funding for the program would work. AISD is part of a federal discount program whose funding is based on the percentage of free and reduced lunches provided to students. The discounts approximate 72% and are applied to the costs for internet access, telecommunication services, and internal connections such as network infrastructure. New requirements this year state that schools which do not adhere to the policy will be disallowed from applying for the federal discounts.

The goal of the district’s policy is not only to prevent and protect, but also to educate employees, students, parents, and the community in internet security. Included in the policy are technology protection measures that serve to block or filter access to visual depictions that are obscene, involve child pornography, or are harmful to minors. An attempt to circumvent the technology protection measures is punishable as a violation of the district’s policies on technology usage and the Student Code of Conduct.

The policy also is designed to prevent inappropriate network usage for unlawful activities, illegal access and “hacking”, and the unsanctioned disclosure, use, and/or dissemination of personal identification information regarding minors. It further prohibits hate mail, defamatory statements, and personal attacks based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

It is the responsibility of all AISD teachers, staff, and administrators, to supervise and monitor the usage of district computers and network access. Education will be provided through professional development training and materials provided to employees as well as curriculum integration and information on the AISD website.

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City Council Approves Zoning Amendment

December 26, 2012

 

Manvel City Council took steps to authorize an amendment to the city’s Zoning Ordinance by approving the first reading of a Public Hearing on the an application for a Specific Use Permit for 5.2 acres located on FM 1128. The property is located near the intersection with DelBello Road.

Mark Haddock, owner of Haddock Construction Company in Rosharon, made the application through the Planning, Development & Zoning Commission. According to Mayor Martin, Haddock wants to move to Manvel to a location that he feels offers greater security than was available at his previous address.

The site will contain an office building in the front with storage/warehouse space in the back. Haddock confirmed that the plans call for the office building that will front FM 1128 (Masters Rd) will be constructed of brick and/or masonry in conformance with the city’s Building Façade Ordinance. Structures in the back that are beyond 75 feet are not subject to the ordinance.

Mayor Delores Martin explained to council that the site will be enclosed by a chain-link fence for security and that the surface will consist of crushed gravel rather than poured concrete so that it will not be impervious to water. Martin said that concerns of heavy equipment coming and going from the site are not warranted. While machinery and equipment will be stored at the facility, they mostly will be located at the company’s job sites. A typical job for the company, Martin expounded, can last anywhere from a few days to several months.

All property owners within 200 feet of the location were notified in advance with citizens having an opportunity to voice concerns to PD&Z as part of their consideration process. City Manager Kyle Jung said that three citizens spoke to PD&Z with concerns of increased traffic while a larger number spoke in support of the action. The first Public Hearing at this week’s council meeting also welcomed citizen input with only supporters providing comment.

Member Maureen DelBello inquired of potential road damage to 1128 from the heavy equipment coming and going. City Manager Kyle Jung explained that state roads such as 1128 are manufactured to accommodate heavy equipment and trucks and there should not be any additional wear and tear on the road’s surface.

City Manager Jung clarified the Specific Use Permit procedure in reply to a question from member Lew Shuffler who wondered “what would we not approve?” Jung said the Permitted Use Table allows some businesses unconditionally while some require a specific use. The specific use is further clarified in the ordinance so that it defines what can or cannot be permitted. The Land Use designation also factors in to what can be permitted. The area along 1128 where Haddock’s property is located is considered Highway Mixed Use and does support the specific use of Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction. If the land use was designated as Light Commercial, which Jung used as an example, this specific use would not be allowed.

A second reading of the Public Hearing will be conducted at the next council meeting scheduled for January 14, 2013. Citizens are encouraged to participate. If the council approves the second reading the amendment will become law and Mr. Haddock will be permitted to relocate and operate his construction business.

Council also approved a Franchise Agreement with Chevron-Phillips Chemical Company for placement of certain pipeline facilities located on city property or rights-of-way. According to City Manager Kyle Jung the required work will affect Bissell Road just west of Amanda Lane. The agreement allows the company to commence work on January 2nd with a completion date projected before January 8, which is the first day AISD resumes school.

Authorization was granted by council to allow the process to acquire approximately 108 acres on CR 58 to proceed. The city intends to move forward directly with the execution of an Earnest Money Contract while consultants complete the process of securing the financing through an issuance of Certificates of Obligation. Council expects to finally approve the issuance in the January 28 council meeting.

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