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Congressman Randy Weber Visits Area
AISD Under Scrutiny
Two Council Positions Up for
Manvel Council News
Nicole Tonini to make second run for
Public Safety Departments Update
City moves forward with land
AISD Annual AEIS Report
Brazoria County Dedicates War
Congressman Randy Weber
February 6, 2013
elected US Congressman Randy Weber paid a visit to the area last week. Weber
was elected in November to the seat formerly held for many years by Ron
Paul. A meet-and-greet was sponsored by the Chocolate Bayou Federal Credit
Union in Alvin to allow constituents in the area to get to know their new
representative and to ask questions.
Weber explained that congress is a “little like the state legislature” and
considers himself to have had an advantage over other freshman
representatives because he took his Chief of Staff of four years from his
days in the State Legislature with him to DC. He feels their experience of
working together helps considerably in setting up the new office, developing
a budget, hiring staff, and filing and monitoring bills and keeping up with
what is going on in the session. He said that some of his fellow freshmen
had never run for any elected position before and “they are like deer in the
Weber said he has retained some of Ron Paul’s former staff in the District
and combined with his staff he enjoys “good experience on the ground, so we
feel like things are going really well.” His office is receiving nearly 400
emails each day, a lot of which deals with the gun control issue, and many
about illegal immigration. He says his office “tracks it and responds to it
Weber has been assigned to the House Foreign Affairs committee, the Mid-east
Committee, and the Space, Science and Technology Committee, which he
considers important to NASA. He serves as Vice-Chair of the Energy Committee
which is vital to our region, he believes, “because of all the petro-based
chemical plants in the area.”
Weber states his goals for his first term as “to get Obama off our backs”,
to work toward the repeal of Obamacare, to get the economy turned around, to
create jobs in the area, and to work toward a “predictable regulatory and
tax environment.” “We don’t have that,” he says.
He describes himself as “cautiously optimistic” in achieving those goals. He
says the “bottleneck is the democrat controlled Senate, which has failed to
produce a budget in three and a half years.” He explained a recently
submitted House bill that calls for “no budget, no pay” in an effort to
induce the Senate to meet their budget responsibilities. He believes
President Obama, as the leader of the Democratic Party, needs to tell the
Senate leadership “to get that budget out.”
Weber is a Pearland resident who built a successful small business, Weber’s
Air and Heat, from scratch in 1981. He served on Pearland City Council from
1990-1996 and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2008.
During his tenure in the House, he served on the committees of Environmental
Regulation, Public Education, and as Vice Chair of Border and
Weber claims to strongly believe in the principles of our founding fathers
and considers his previous legislative experience, business acumen, and
conservative track record to be valuable assets as he serves in the US
Weber has been married for over 30 years and has three children and four
grandchildren. He has served as a Bible Study and Men’s Group leader, as
Chairman of the Men’s Ministry, and is a Deacon at his church. He is a
graduate of Alvin Community College and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree
from the University of Houston at Clear Lake.
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February 6, 2013
In recent weeks, the AISD Board of Trustees and the Superintendent have been
accused by some of malfeasance in regards to the acquisition of four
vehicles to serve the Food Services Department.
The matter was provided increased exposure at the January Board of Trustees
meeting when Dennis Edwards, a Pearland resident and AISD constituent,
addressed the Board during its “Open Forum”. Edwards prefaced his remarks
that he considers the matter to “be of the utmost, serious nature.” He went
on to say that he believes it “uniquely important” that School Board
Trustees and school administrators “exhibit at all times and in all actions
the highest adherence to the law.”
Edwards went on to recite a timeline of events, which he describes as
“indisputable”, that are the substance of the accused breach of trust. On
September 15, 2012, purchase orders (PO’s) were issued for four vehicles not
budgeted for and unapproved by the Board of Trustees. On September 25, AISD
accepted delivery of two of the vehicles. On October 9, the Board of
Trustees voted to reject the vehicle purchases. On October 26, AISD accepted
delivery of the other two vehicles despite the Board’s prior rejection. On
November 13, Edwards said “the Board knowingly and deliberately violated its
own Board policy by voting to approve the purchase of these vehicles after
the fact by a 4-3 vote.”
Edwards believes the Board “may have also violated the Texas Education Code,
which is the State law that governs this District.” Quoting the law, Edwards
said “public funds of a school district may not be used or spent in any
manner other than as provided for in the budget adopted by the Board of
Trustees.” He continued in citing the law saying that any Superintendent or
Board Trustee authorizing the expenditure of funds in excess of the formally
adopted budget commits a Class “C” misdemeanor.
While staying short of demanding resignations, Edwards specifically called
out Trustees Tiffany Wennerstrom, Charles McCauley, Regan Metoyer, and
Cheryl Harris, as well as Superintendent Fred Brent, and Assistant
Superintendent Tommy King “to now carefully examine your ability to continue
to serve. You simply cannot ask the students in this District to learn the
important life lessons of responsibility and accountability if you
yourselves will not accept the highest standards.”
AISD’s Director of Communication, Daniel Combs, admits there was a “mistake”
and conceded a “procedural error on the purchase.” His explanation suggests
no “malice or intent” in failing to adhere to Board policy or state law and
he expressed willingness to readily make available any documents related to
Combs explained that at the beginning of the budget year a requested
amendment was submitted by the Child Nutrition Department to transfer money
already allotted to other accounts in the department for the acquisition of
four vehicles, among other things. Combs acknowledges “that is really where
the error took place” because there was an assumption by staff members that
the moving of funds through the budget amendment was tantamount to an
approval to move forward with the purchase.
The vote on the vehicle purchase at the October meeting was a tie, as one
Trustee was not in attendance. A tie vote essentially rejects the motion.
Combs recalled questions asked by Trustees on the need for the vehicles as
they never had them before and on the cost of reimbursements to employees
currently using their personal vehicles in fulfillment of their jobs.
Combs made clear that no funds had been spent to that point despite the
issuance of PO’s and the delivery of the vehicles. He explained AISD’s
acceptance of the deliveries as employees following protocol based on the
improperly issued PO’s. When told that authorization was not granted and
that the vehicles would need to be returned, the dealerships responded with
a suggestion that the vehicles remain “stored” in the custody of AISD until
the matter is re-visited by the Board at its November meeting.
At the November meeting, Superintendent Brent accepted responsibility in
admitting to a “procedural error” in the vehicle acquisition process and
explained that revised policies and procedures would be submitted for Board
approval to avoid like “mistakes” in the future. This time the Board voted
approval of the purchase with a 4-3 vote.
Combs said clarification was obtained from the District’s legal counsel that
while policies were broken the Board maintained the authority to decide if
they want to purchase the vehicles or not. He went on to say that “it is
illegal if there are no funds to cover a purchase” but in this case funds
were available to cover the entire cost. Combs rejects the allegations that
laws were broken.
Responding to the accusation of malfeasance, Board of Trustees President
Tiffany Wennerstrom submitted the following prepared text: “Following the
allegations that district officials and selected Board Members were in
violation of breaking district policies or possibly State laws, the board
sought insight from their legal counsel. The Board was advised that indeed,
as Dr. Brent previously informed the board, that the district purchasing
policy had been violated; however, clarification indicates that no legal
violations occurred. As well within the authority of the Board, we
authorized the purchase of the vehicles to aid the Child Nutrition
Department as they had been using personal vehicles for district
responsibilities. Dr. Brent has been instructed to ensure that measures are
put in place to prevent these types of errors from occurring in the future.”
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Two Council Positions Up
February 13, 2013
The City of Manvel will hold an election on May 11 for two council
positions. Place 6 is currently held by Lew Shuffler, who has yet to
announce his intention of running again. Place 4 is held by Mayor Pro-tem
and current senior council member Melody Hanson, who says she is undecided
but is leaning toward another run. It would be her fourth term on council.
All elected council terms run for three years. According to Manvel’s City
Secretary, Tammy Bell, applications for those wishing to run for a seat must
be filed with her office at city hall by 5PM on March 1. In order to qualify
for candidacy the following conditions must be met: 21 years of age, a US
citizen, a qualified voter of the city, reside in the city for at least 12
consecutive months preceding the election, not an employee of the city, file
for only one position, and not be a convicted felon or have been convicted
of any offense involving moral turpitude.
Early voting begins April 29 and runs through May 7.
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February 13, 2013
Manvel City Council held a Public Hearing regarding an amendment to the
city’s Zoning Ordinance that would change the classification of a 3.43 acre
tract of land located at 21202 Highway 6 from Heavy Commercial to Heavy
Commercial with a Specific Use Permit. The proposed facility would have
allowed for outdoor storage of boats, RV’s, and other like equipment.
City Manager Kyle Jung explained the three major things the Specific Use
Permit would have allowed was the waiver of a requirement for a site built
office, not having an on-site restroom, and the tallness of the vehicles
over the height of the fence.
After discussion and a change in the language of the proposal to mandate an
8 foot wooden fence and not allowing any stored item to be seen from the
outside of the fence, council voted not to move forward with the action.
Council members were apprehensive of the ultimate appearance of the
facility. Member John Cox said he “has a real problem with it” stating his
disbelief that the storage of “150 motorized vehicles, whether they are
cars, boats, trucks, or campers, will not look like another junk yard on
Highway 6.” Members were unanimous in their condemning other properties
along the highway that “look like junk yards” and did not want to add
In other news, members voted to approve a budget change that will
appropriate not more than $25,000 to Olson & Olson LLP for professional
services to update the city’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan. It is suggested that
a city update its Plan every five years.
A request for a variance in the city’s Design Criteria Manual by the Alvin
Independent School District (AISD) was voted down unanimously. AISD
requested approval to design parking spaces for the new Elementary School
that will soon be under construction at a dimension of 9 feet wide by 18
feet deep. The city’s requirement calls for 10 feet wide by 20 feet deep.
AISD’s Director of Building Projects, Jeff Couvillion, explained to council
it would save the district $55,000 in construction costs and that the
requested standard is commonly used at other school facilities. Members felt
the 9 foot standard is not sufficiently wide to accommodate larger vehicles.
The new school will be located on CR 59 just east of Kirby and borders the
northern border of the Southfork subdivision in the city’s ETJ. Couvillion
said construction is expected to commence on March 1.
Council also approved the re-appointment of four members to the Planning,
Development and Zoning Commission with a term to expire in March 2015. Those
re-appointed were Brian Wilmer, Kyle Marasckin, Jason Rains, and Jerome
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to make second run for AISD Trustee
February 13, 2013
Nicole Tonini has filed to run for AISD Trustee Position 5 against incumbent
Eddie Martinez. It will be a second try for Tonini who was narrowly defeated
last year for the Position 1 seat by just two votes among nearly 3,000 cast.
Tonini says the disappointing defeat did not deter her “desire to serve the
schools.” In the past year she has attended all but one Board meeting and
has attended many of the Board workshops. She claims to have led the fight
against a proposal to change the voting procedure in AISD from a plurality
to a majority. Tonini asserts to have shown how the proposed solution would
have cost the district an additional $300,000.
She has served on Congressman Pete Olson’s Youth Advisory Council and as
Vice President to the Manvel High School Booster Club, having chaired the
Booster Club’s Gala fundraiser. She assisted the Alvin Education Foundation
by serving as a "celebrity waitress" at their annual fundraiser where she
also took the lead in fund raising in the northwest area of the district
where there were no school sponsors prior to her involvement.
Additionally she has sponsored her son in the completion of his Eagle
Project, chaired her child’s Elementary school's Christmas store, and
volunteered to serve in Public Relations and as a Sunday school teacher for
She feels each of these activities demonstrate her qualifications and better
prepare her for the duties of a School Board Trustee. In seeking to be the
first elected representative from the west side of the district, she says
she will face again a “political machine that has a tight grip on the local
politics and a school board that all live within three square miles of each
other in a school district with over 252 square miles and partisan power
within the school board.”
Her opponent, Eddie Martinez, has served on the School Board twice. He was
first elected in 1999 for a three year term and then again in 2007 and 2010
for consecutive three year terms. Martinez is a graduate of Alvin High
School and owns The Old Ballpark in Alvin.
Early voting will begin on April 29 and runs through May 7. The general
election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 11.
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Departments Update Council
February 20, 2013
city council received Departmental Updates from Manvel EMS, the Fire
Department, and the Police Department at its recent meeting. Dave Ferguson
presented an end-of-year report for 2012 from the EMS Department. He told
council that his department had its busiest year ever in terms of call
volume. For the first time in its history, Manvel EMS handled more than 1000
calls. In fact, 1101 calls for service were handled. Ferguson went on to say
that just ten years ago the department was handling just 600 calls. He
explained the nearly doubling of call volume in ten years speaks to the
growth of the area.
Ferguson was pleased to inform council that the department bettered its
self-imposed average response time of 9 minutes 59 seconds for the year with
a 9 minute 45 second average for the entire 85 square mile service area. For
the last five months of the year, more than 90 calls were handled each
month. August and September were the busiest months of the year with more
than 100 calls handled each month.
Ferguson said he is working diligently to meet the demand and to well
position the department for growth. He said three new employees were hired
last year, each bringing with them good experience. One ambulance is staffed
24-hours every day of the year and he explained that there remain four
volunteer members in the department who are not regularly staffed but do
sometimes respond as a backup to the regular crew.
DelBello reported on the Fire Department statistics for 2012. He informed
council that the department currently operates seven vehicles, including
three engines. Other vehicles include a tanker, a brush truck that was
replaced in 2006, a utility vehicle for use by department personnel, and a
rescue truck. He was pleased to announce that there is now a rescue truck on
either side of the railroad tracks, enabling a better response time.
Cal volume was down in 2012 from the previous year. DelBello said 262 runs
were made compared to just over 300 in 2011. The majority of calls were
major accidents, followed by false alarms, brush fires, rescues, EMS
assists, and a couple of HAZMAT (hazardous materials) runs. In covering 52
square miles, response time for 2012 averaged 7 minutes 45 seconds. He said
runs to the far west side of the ETJ, such as to the SouthFork subdivision,
can be upwards of fifteen miles and can require over ten minutes response
There are 22 members of the fire department with six paid positions. One
member is available 24 hours every day. The budget for this year is $212,000
with over half the amount going to payroll, workmen’s comp and social
security taxes. DelBello explained that the department’s members participate
in a lot of public relations activities, such as going to the schools and
contributing to Career Day. Additionally, last year they participated in
Halloween functions and the Manvel Police Department’s cook-off event.
DelBello told council that 2012 saw the department receive four grants
totaling about $30,000, enabling them to acquire additional gear so that now
“everybody in the department has state-of-the-art gear that is less than
five years old.” Their radio system is in the process of updating to digital
handheld devices. Twelve additional units were acquired in 2012 and DelBello
said an additional fifteen to twenty still need to be obtained as soon as
money is available. $57,000 has been spent on new air packs so that the
department is now equipped with “the best you can have out there.”
Police Chief Art Chapa reported from his department that personnel currently
consists of eight officers, including himself as the active chief, one
acting Sergeant supervisor, five patrolmen, and one reserve officer. Chapa
told council that one officer would be leaving the department and that he
has discussed with the city manager the process of moving forward with an
effort to secure a replacement. A new dispatcher hiring was announced by
Chapa to have occurred the day of the report.
Saying the evidence room was in disarray upon his assuming the Chief
position, he says electricity has been made available and a required
inventory procedure has commenced to verify the evidence is properly
accounted for and “in the right place.” He said the “required continuing
education classes are being maintained, which the previous administration
did not keep up with.” He is sending both patrol and dispatch officers to
the legally required courses.
Two narcotics complaints have been taken care of and he describes them as
on-going investigations. Traffic complaints that came through the mayor’s
office, usually regarding school zones, are being handled and taken care of.
Extra patrols have been on-going for some needed areas and Chapa said he is
out there in his unmarked vehicle along with the regular patrol cars. He
claims citizens to be happy to see the additional patrol presence. Chapa
described his regular visiting of local businesses in the city and that
“they know we are out there checking their businesses.”
Chapa expressed his opinion that department morale is “everything on the
positive side now that we have gotten rid of a lot of dead weight that is no
longer here; we are doing what we can with what we have and the people are
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City moves forward with
February 20, 2013
December Manvel city council authorized the mayor to execute an Earnest
Money Contract to acquire approximately 108 acres on CR 58 (Croix Road). At
last week’s council meeting final approval was granted for the city to
complete the purchase.
City Manager Kyle Jung said the property will be obtained for $2,160,000 and
will be paid through a Certificate of Obligation owed over 20 years. He
described possible uses as detention for storm water, storage of surface
water, a possible location of a surface water treatment plant, storage of
water from the Gulf Coast Water Authority, and/or a city recreational
Jung cited a water study funded by the Texas Water Development Board that is
being conducted to help identify possible future resell water infrastructure
plants. “There are three possible scenarios that will identify how
municipal, industrial, agricultural, and other water users can design and
build regional infrastructure to provide treated surface water for future
water needs around the entire county.”
Martin made reference at the recent council meeting of a possible joint
venture of some kind with Pearland. Jung explained that Pearland will
construct a water plant somewhere west of the Pearland Town Center on a sand
pit which will be incorporated into the regional plan. How regional
cooperation among municipalities will evolve will be determined as on-going
studies are completed and accepted by likely participants. Currently, Jung
says, there are no formal plans or specific details on any joint efforts the
city may involve itself in.
Last December, Jung claimed another benefit to the acquisition is that it
would prevent its possible use as a landfill. It was explained at that time
that 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 last December, 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.
City officials have time to decide on the land’s best use as a sand mining
contract currently exists on the land with approximately two years
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February 27, 2013
The Board of Trustees of the Alvin Independent School District (AISD)
conducted a Public Hearing at its recent meeting on the 2011-2012 Academic
Excellence Indicator System (AEIS). Each year AISD is required to make
public an annual report that describes the educational performance of the
district and each of its campuses.
Included in the report are results from TAKS testing, student attendance,
and graduation rates. Also part of the report is student demographic
information; staff demographic information; teacher experience and salary
information; budget, revenue, and tax information; and student enrollment
TAKS results for Reading/English Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social
Studies all saw an overall performance result within 2% of state averages.
The lone standout from TAKS results was in 10th grade science which was 6%
above the state average.
Student attendance for the school year 2010-2011 was 96% with the state
average at 95.7%. The 2009-2010 school year saw attendance at 95.5%. The
four year graduation rate for 2011 was 83.6% compared to 2010 at 84.8%. The
five year extended graduation rate saw an increase in 2010 of more than 5
points to 89.9% which was 1.9% above the state average and higher than the
class of 2009 at 88%.
The student population numbered 18,018 in the 2011-2012 school year. The
demographic break down showed Hispanics in the majority at 44.5%, Whites at
32.1%, African Americans at 13.2%, Asians at 8%, and miscellaneous others
comprising the balance. The five-year demographic trend from 2007 to 2012
saw the Hispanic population increase by 2.2%, African Americans by 2.3%, and
whites decrease by 9.1%. Economically disadvantaged students amounted to
53.1% of the student population in 2011-2012, which represents an increase
of 5.5% from 2007.
Staff information showed AISD to have fewer teachers and professional
support as a percentage of the total staff when compared to the state
average. AISD saw a combined 54.8% for those positions compared to 59.9% for
the state. Administrators equaled the state average at 3.9%. Both
Educational Aides (9.6% v 9.1%) and Auxiliary Staff (31.7% v 27.1%) exceeded
the state averages. AISD showed a higher percentage when compared to state
averages of teachers with five or fewer years’ experience (41.6% v 33.3%)
and 6-10 years’ experience (24.0% v 22.3%). They were below the state
average for teachers with 11-20 years’ experience (24.1% v 26.6%) and with
more than 20 years’ experience (10.3% v 17.9%).
AISD teachers enjoy higher salaries than their state counterparts. Beginning
teachers earn $46,290 compared to the state average of $40,911 and
experienced teachers earned more than the state average in all categories of
tenure. The District also enjoys a lower turnover rate for teachers than the
state average (10.7% v 12.6%).
The AEIS showed the AISD tax rate to be higher than the state average at
$1.344 compared to $1.244. Revenues were derived from four primary sources
broken down as follows: local tax at 29% (state average 40.7%), other local
and intermediate sources at 12.9% (state average 4.0%), State at 49.1%
(state average 43.4%), and Federal at 8.9% (state average 11.9%).
Program enrollments saw a decrease in Special Education from 10.8% in
2007-2008 to 8.9% in 2011-2012; an increase in Bilingual/ESL to 14.2% in
2011-2012 from 11.6% in 2007-2008; an increase in Career/Technical to 17.7%
from 16.8%; and an increase in Gifted and Talented to 9.0% from 7.4%.
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Brazoria County Dedicates
February 27, 2013
Brazoria County Commissioners and other local dignitaries dedicated a new
Ring of Honor on February 22, 2013 in Angleton. The new Ring of Honor
replaces the former Wall of Honor that was inside the atrium of the Brazoria
County Courthouse. The former memorial went mostly unnoticed by visitors due
to the courthouse’s security checkpoint equipment and decorative foliage
inhibiting its visibility and access.
In 2007 Commissioner’s Court authorized a committee to generate ideas and
raise funds for the new memorial. Committee Chair Arthur Velasquez, who
works as County Judge Joe King’s Chief Administrator, explained that the
committee met every other month to achieve the culmination of the $650,000
The memorial contains names of Brazoria County citizens who died in action
in various American conflicts from World War 1 through Afghanistan and Iraq.
The memorial consists of a six-foot main wall flanked by two flagpoles and 3
three-foot walls which altogether form the ring.
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