July 2013

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Citizens urged to prepare for hurricane

Council member Adrian Gaspar recognized

Council considers Citizens Watch Program

Council meets County Commissioner Candidate Ryan Cade

Comprehensive Plan Committee discusses future development

Jack-in-the-Box Grand Re-opening

Council discusses fireworks ordinance

Council receives quarterly department updates

 

Citizens urged to prepare for hurricane

July 3, 2013

 

Manvel city officials met with representatives from the Brazoria County Emergency Management office and local emergency service providers last week to discuss emergency preparedness should a hurricane disturb the city. City Manager Kyle Jung said a Hurricane Preparedness Guide will be mailed to all county residents to help citizens be ready for a storm. The Guide emphasizes the importance of pre-storm planning, explaining it as the key to protecting your family and property. Making plans in advance will “help ensure that you and your family will survive any hurricane that may threaten the area. Knowing your vulnerability and what actions to take will prepare you to handle most emergency situations.”

The Guide will also include information on the 2-1-1 registry which is designed to assist “Gulf coast residents with special health care needs (including those who are disabled or medically fragile) who live in evacuation zones and do not have friends or family to help in an evacuation.” Those citizens should register for a ride in advance by dialing 2-1-1. County officials emphasize the importance of calling 2-1-1 before a storm is in the Gulf and stress the service is for people who cannot drive themselves or make transportation arrangements. In the event of an evacuation, individuals who have registered with 2-1-1 will need to meet at one of two evacuation hubs, either in Pearland or Angleton.

The Guide explains the rules that must be followed in the event of an evacuation: “Local officials will make mandatory evacuation decisions before a storm makes landfall. Hurricanes are extremely unpredictable and can become much more dangerous in a matter of hours. It is not safe to wait. Plan to leave early. Citizens may evacuate to any city of choice but if hotel reservations are not secured or family is not an option, citizens should evacuate to public shelters in Belton, Texas, which has been assigned to Brazoria County residents.” Belton is located in Central Texas south of Waco.

There are no mandatory routes when evacuating and in fact there are several different routes that may be taken. The Guide suggests investigating the routes to become familiar with the roadways. The states designated evacuation routes include SH-36, SH-288, SH-6, I-10, I-45, SH-290, and HWY-59. If an alternate route is chosen, essential services such as food, fuel, etc. are not guaranteed. The Guide emphasizes that should a resident choose to ignore an evacuation order and stay in their home that there are no shelters designated in Brazoria County and that there will be no services available (sewer/water, etc.). Hospitals will close, ambulances will not run, and police and fire cannot respond until the storm passes.

The Guide offers a “Family Disaster Checklist” and suggestions on other important considerations, such as how to prepare for storm water, how to prepare your home and vehicle, and what to do if you live in a flood prone area. Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.

Please contact Manvel’s Emergency Management Coordinator, David Smith, with questions or concerns at 281-814-3233. Other city officials can be contacted as well. The Guide can be accessed from the Brazoria County website at http://www.brazoria-county.com/em/.

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Council member Adrian Gaspar recognized

July 3, 2013

 

Manvel city council member and Houston Police Officer Adrian Gaspar received commendations last week for talking down a possible suicide victim while on patrol. Gaspar was on patrol when he received a call to investigate a suspicious male on the 8th floor ledge of a parking garage.

After some encouragement the young man was eventually persuaded to get off the ledge and walk toward Gaspar’s police cruiser where they continued to talk. The man explained that he was thinking about jumping and also indicated that he considered using a pair of scissors that he had in his pocket to cut his wrist. Gaspar convinced the man that he would get help, leading to him surrendering to handcuffs.

The man had marks on his hand from previous attempts to cut himself and was residing at the Star of Hope mission. Gaspar said he seemed depressed and was difficult to hear due to a low tone of voice and his keeping his head down while talking. The man blamed his actions on family trouble.

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Council considers Citizens Watch Program

July 10, 2013

 

Manvel city council heard from Police Chief Keith Traylor regarding the implementation of a Citizens Watch Program for the city. The issue was brought to the attention of council at a previous council workshop after Council Member Lew Shuffler requested it be discussed. Shuffler feels city residents have concerns as the city grows with the inevitable crime that will follow. He wanted to get it going “at least in the talk stages”. Shuffler spent almost seven years as a member of the New York City auxiliary police and found it very rewarding saying it “really gives the citizens some sense of security.” Recognizing that Manvel has limited police resources, he feels getting the idea of a citizens watch program up and going will return benefits as the growth comes.

He also suggested a “Community Emergency Response Team” (CERT Team) be considered describing it as a national organization. He said Brazoria County has a CERT Team, as does Pearland and Alvin. CERT Teams are certified by FEMA with the purpose of assisting fellow citizens “following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.”

Mayor Martin said that past efforts to start citizen programs have been unsuccessful. An effort by Manvel EMS to start a citizen program last year required a minimum of ten people to commit to a ten-week training program. Only the mayor, city secretary, and the city’s fire marshal signed up. Martin said the EMS would do it again if the minimum number of ten people would commit to the program.

Chief Traylor told council that there are “several different ways we can go with this thing.” He thinks a Neighborhood Watch program should be looked at as a good starting point. The Citizens on Patrol program, or COPS, does much the same thing where “citizens provide an extra set of eyes on the streets, can respond to assist on accidents, can assist with traffic and parking enforcement,” and can help the police in other ways. Traylor said his intention was to start a “Citizens Academy” in the future once the department is sufficiently staffed to “take off and run with it.” He said sufficient staffing would also be required for the other citizen programs under consideration so that there is a liaison between the police department and the group.

Traylor presented council with more specific information on the various programs and indicated he continues to develop and look at various options. “We just need to figure out which way we want to go” in order to get started. He feels a Citizens Watch Program would be the best place to start in different neighborhoods. He expressed willingness to go out to the neighborhoods and to Home Owner Associations to offer help in getting the programs started; who would be involved, how it would be managed, the number of people required to run the program, and what would need to be done to get it going. Better staffing would then allow the consideration of a COPS type program and eventually the Citizens Academy that he espouses. Traylor said that neighborhoods in the city’s Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) would be more difficult to accommodate due to the city not being the primary law enforcement agency handling those areas. Typically the Brazoria County Sheriff’s office looks after those areas.

Council was unanimous in its support of a citizen program. Traylor said he has requested additional information on various programs and will submit them to council for their consideration. Council Member Lew Shuffler admits it would likely be six months to a year before any program could realistically begin. He also expressed confidence that there are good resources in the city to draw on for the programs, such as church’s and businesses. “If citizens are really concerned about the future and the safety of their families you should find a fair amount of willing participants,” he believes. Traylor responded that “you will in the beginning, but it has been my experience that you will have everybody wanting to come out and do it for a while but there will only be a dedicated few who start the program and continue to come out. The attrition rate is horrible,” he said, saying that 50 volunteers began the program he was previously involved in with only 8 remaining today.

Shuffler feels a citizens program would serve as an effective deterrent to crime and it is expected that he and his fellow council members will take up the issue with increased earnestness in the months ahead.

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Council meets County Commissioner Candidate Ryan Cade

July 10, 2013

 

Ryan Cade, candidate for Precinct 2 Brazoria County Commissioner, introduced himself to Manvel city council at this week’s meeting. Cade describes himself as a small business owner from Angleton who currently resides in Bailey’s Prairie. He is a fourth generation Brazoria County resident and described the county as a “great place to grow up.” He told council that he considers it time for his generation to step up and continue the tradition of excellent leadership that afforded him great schools, incredible churches and outstanding neighbors in making this county a “great one to live in.” He boasts a “passion for the county and a passion for making this the best place in the world to live in.”

Cade is the owner/agent of Ryan Cade State Farm Insurance in Angleton, TX, and RC Development, a small construction company that develops properties in the county. He is involved in many community organizations and civic groups around the county and feels strongly that business owners should be good corporate citizens. As a small business owner, he claims to have experience with budgets and employee issues and “figuring ways to just get the job done.” He wants to put those capabilities to work for the people of Brazoria County and says he is excited about the opportunity. He describes Precinct 2 as large and diverse, “going from the north end of the county in the Silver Lake area in Pearland all the way down to Angleton, that not only is large in square miles but also different in the types of people and what their needs and desires are. I want to be a commissioner who is available to all and be sensitive to the different needs of the various areas of the precinct.”

Cade feels the next five to ten years will shape the landscape in Brazoria County for future generations with projections of $20 to $25 billion in new growth that the county will see. “It is going to look a lot different than it does right now and we need leadership willing to give their time and effort and prepared to make the courageous decisions to get things right.”

The election is scheduled for May 2014 with the Republican primary scheduled for March 4. Cade admits he is starting early but wants the opportunity “to meet everyone.”

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Comprehensive Plan Committee discusses future development

July 10, 2013

 

A meeting of Manvel’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee was held at City Hall Monday evening. The City’s Comprehensive Plan lays out the goals and vision of Manvel and will be the guiding principle for Manvel’s future on issues such as transportation, parks & trails, drainage, and future land uses. The original Plan was developed in 2007. A review process occurs every five years in order to update the Plan’s tenets to reflect the current needs and wishes of the city’s residents.

The committee has been meeting twice each month since its inception earlier this year and is likely to continue through mid-September in anticipation of multiple Public Meetings to present its vision for Manvel’s future. The Public Meetings will be announced well in advance and citizen attendance is encouraged to review the committee’s ideas and to offer comments. The Public Meetings are expected to be complete by the end of October at which time a final Plan will be submitted for City Council approval.

The meeting began with a presentation from the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). MEDC member and city council member Melody Hanson described the Corporation as “kind of a silent partner with the city” and explained that “for many years there wasn’t really a project or sufficient funds available, so members were conservative in just holding the money and letting it accrue which has allowed the opportunity to do a major project.” MEDC is currently funding and/or coordinating the installation of water and sewer infrastructure to service future development along Hwy 6 to Hwy 288. Planning and engineering is on-going and the Mayor has obtained most of the needed easements to allow the project to move forward, according to City Manager Kyle Jung. Other projects moved by the group include the installation of a water/sewer line to service the ProBuild Lumber facility on the south side of Hwy 6 from FM 1128, water and sewer lines servicing the eastern portion of Hwy 6 from FM 1128 to roughly the Burger barn location, and a water line along 1128 to service a dance studio.

Hanson reminded the committee that voters’ approval of a change in sales tax allocations in 2010 resulted in lower funding for MEDC. She hopes that prior funding levels will be restored at some point while conceding the benefit of the increased money put toward roads and bridges. “In the long run, spending money like we are on projects such as the water/sewer installation down Hwy 6 will be far better for the city,” Hanson believes. On the subject of sales tax, Mayor Delores Martin informed the committee that sales tax estimates through July show an increase of over $200,000 from last year “even though we did give more money to roads that was desperately needed at the time, it appears God is blessing us with added sales tax, so the way it is going I would think by the time December comes we will have achieved over $1 million in sales tax revenue.”

A good part of the meeting was focused on the type of retail-commercial development the city should encourage. Committee Chairperson Dorothy Wynne asked the committee “do we want to look like Pearland (with Big Box stores like Walmart or Target) or do we want to have a rural look where you are trying to attract maybe a smaller mom & pop type grocery store that could offer just as much? There are a lot of people who do not necessarily want or agree with Walmart.” Member Debbie Harrison expressed her thought that a smaller specialty type store will not do as much business because you are still going to have people who go to the Walmart’s and the HEB’s.” Melody Hanson explained reality as she sees it, saying “if we want the more exclusive stores, we don’t currently fit that demographic;” our vision on lot and home sizes will have to change to attract that exclusive store, she said. Wynne posited her feeling that the exclusive stores would be less of an attraction to the criminal element than would a Walmart type Big Box store. The discussion resulted in a general goal, as written by the city’s consultant Kim Mickelson, and apparently generally agreed to by committee members, states the following: “Explore regulatory options to incentivize higher end residential development.”

Citizen participation in the Committee meetings is welcomed and encouraged. The committee meets generally on the first and third Monday of the month at 6 PM.

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Jack-in-the-Box Grand Re-opening

July 17, 2013

 

Jack-in-the-Box restaurant, located at 288 and 6 in Manvel, celebrated a grand re-opening last week after undergoing substantial renovations to both the interior and exterior of the building. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held with numerous city officials in attendance. Shown in the photograph with Jack-in-the-Box personnel are Mayor Delores Martin, Council Members Melody Hanson, Adrian Gaspar, Larry Akery, and Lew Shuffler along with his wife Mary Ann. Also shown is City Secretary Tammy Bell, Fire Marshall Aaron Bell, Police Chief Keith Traylor, and candidate for County Commissioner Precinct 2, Ryan Cade.

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Council discusses fireworks ordinance

July 24, 2013

 

Manvel City Council Member Melody Hanson requested council consider an amendment to the city’s ordinance that bans fireworks in the city. She feels if sufficient land is present and safeguards are in place that a change to the ban should be discussed.

Hanson believes residents with a valid burn permit should be allowed to discharge fireworks within Manvel city limits. She says Brazoria County currently allows all citizens to discharge fireworks and told council that she drives down her street every year to attend neighbors’ fireworks because they are legal. She feels the safeguards in effect for burning can apply to fireworks as well. Among the requirements she suggests is that citizens with a valid burn permit must call the Police and Fire Departments ahead of time to inform them of their intention to exhibit fireworks; any fireworks discharge must be at least 300 feet from a sensitive receptor, such as a structure that could catch fire from a wayward rocket; and a garden hose with available water supply must be present. She espouses the disallowance of fireworks during a burn ban or during high winds and would require the burn site to be subject to periodic inspections by the city’s Fire Marshal. If the above requirements are not met, a fine may be assessed and if a permit holder is non-compliant their burn permit can be revoked. She also would impose specific time restrictions, such as from 6PM to 2AM.

Mayor Delores Martin expressed opposition to the idea saying she has neighbors that discharge fireworks and “a lot of times it ends up on my property. If it is dry a fire can start; I have a heavily wooded section in the back (of my property) and this is a hindrance for me. Not a garden hose in the world is going to put that out.” Hanson responded that the neighbor is a law breaker and should be fined but Martin came back to say “if he burns my property down and he gets a fine that is not going to do me any good.” Further refuting concerns of the fire danger, she pointed out that all the houses around her in the county are still standing; “nobody has burned down and everybody does fireworks. If it was a problem those homes would be gone. I have seen no instance in the years I have lived here of any problems in those homes so I don’t know why county residents are allowable but we think Manvel people can’t fire them off. I just think if it was that dangerous the county would have stopped it.”

Member Lew Shuffler contributed to the discussion saying “I have experienced in my family my little niece being blinded for life, another situation that resulted in the death of two police officers when fireworks exploded right in their faces. The injuries from some of these things are just so horrible. People die from those fireworks.” Some members also disapproved of the noise created from fireworks, to which Hanson responded, “Twice a year, so what, it’s fun, I’ll stay up and listen to the noise.”

Hanson expressed angst that “we put so many restrictions on the community. We stranglehold so often in our ordinances; this would be a good thing. I have fond memories of doing fireworks. Fireworks are fun, traditional, and American, and I just think it is horrible that if they trust me to have a fire they don’t trust me to do a Roman Candle. To me, I think the safeguards are present if the guidelines are followed.” She went on to say that “I am just tired of the people who break the law prevent the law abiding citizens from doing things. If they are doing it wrong that go fine them.” She concedes that it may be wise to restrict certain types of fireworks, such as high aerial devices that could more easily violate a neighbor’s property and to perhaps limit the dates and times they could be discharged.

Hanson suggested doing a trial for a year; “if it is an unsuccessful program then we can revoke it.” She claims there are people who illegally do it every year anyway. Member Adrian Gaspar sided with Hanson saying “man, people died for this country and we don’t even allow them to pop a firecracker; give me a break.”

City Manager Kyle Jung advised that “if you are going to allow fireworks I wouldn’t want a burn permit to be the thing that the city issues.” He feels it better to either allow it or not. He agrees to a limit of the size and type by perhaps regulating devices that don’t go above a certain number of feet so that they “don’t carry a distance and create more of a fire hazard.” He explained that sales could remain prohibited in the city even if their use is allowed. He also suggested giving deference to the Fire Marshal if conditions are dangerous due to a burn ban or too high winds.” He feels if you allow fireworks just two days, “the city could deal with that by posting a notice on the city’s website and getting word out through different businesses to let people know that fireworks would not be permitted.

Council ultimately agreed to revisit the issue at a future council meeting after city staff works on a proposed ordinance for consideration.

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Council receives quarterly department updates

July 31, 2013

 

Manvel city council received updates from the various city departments at the last council meeting. Dave Ferguson from Manvel EMS began the presentations, telling council that in 14 of the previous 18 months EMS responded to more than 80 calls. Compared to three years ago the average call volume was between 65 and 75, which Ferguson claims “may not sound like a lot but is a fairly significant piece of growth.” More impressive, he says, is that 9 of the last 12 months saw EMS respond to more than 90 calls in the service area. Ferguson explained that it is not yet time for an additional ambulance to be added to the fleet as the average calls per day is just a little over 3 at present. “We are not there yet but are headed that direction,” he said.

Ferguson went on to explain the department’s response times. He reminded council that the last meeting saw response times as “being a little volatile.” The department has a self-imposed standard of nine minutes, 59 seconds or less. After breaking it for three consecutive months, Ferguson said it is due “primarily to responses that are further south in the District’s 85 mile area. He intends to break the data down to see additional detail on the southern areas. Ferguson also told of a “significant increase in the number of Life Flight responses, most of which are due to trauma.” He did say two stroke patients were flown out of the city in the last month. “We were able to recognize early the patients had stroke symptoms and because the helicopter carries a particular drug that helps restore blood flow to the brain,” EMS called for their assistance. In addition to the drug being administered, the helicopter saved transport time and an evaluation in the Emergency Room so that the patients were able to see minimal detriment from the stroke indications.

The Manvel EMS budget was subsidized last year with $308,472 from District taxpayers. An additional $284,000 was earned from service calls. Ferguson said incoming mutual aid is had about 4 to 6 times a month with outgoing aid about 2 to 3 times a month. Mutual aid is a backup system that relies on neighboring services to respond to a call should the local service be occupied with an event.

Steve DelBello gave the Fire Department’s report. From October 2012 through June 2013 the Department had 198 runs. He explained that all of the city of Manvel and its ETJ have a 4 rating from the ISO protection classification program as additional stations were added from the Mutual Aid contract the city has in place with neighboring cities. The ISO (Insurance Services Offices) program provides an objective, countrywide standard that helps establish appropriate fire insurance premiums for residential and commercial properties. ISO analyzes relevant data using their Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS) to assign a Public Protection Classification from 1 to 10. Class 1 generally represents superior property fire protection and Class 10 indicates that the area's fire-suppression program doesn't meet ISO’s minimum criteria. By classifying communities' ability to suppress fires, ISO helps the communities evaluate their public fire-protection services and by securing lower fire insurance premiums for communities with better public protection, the PPC program provides incentives and rewards for communities that choose to improve their firefighting services. It also helps fire departments in planning and budgeting for facilities, equipment, and training.

The Fire Department budget for the fiscal year is $212,400. Last year the Department received just $4,700 from billing for services. Average response time in the city is right at 6 or 7 minutes. In the big outlying subdivisions it could be up to 8 minutes. One fire fighter is on duty 24 hours every day with 20 volunteers helping to complete the Department’s staffing.

Keith Traylor, Manvel’s new Chief of Police, provided the report for the Police Department. He told council recent months have been busy with three patrol officers being hired and one communications specialist since his being hired last May. Two patrol officers were promoted to sergeants and supervisory positions. The Department enjoyed a full staff for only one week before receiving a resignation. Communications Director Michelle Vela and newly appointed Sergeant Scott Karpowitz developed new training programs that are currently being used in the department. The wrecked patrol car form last April was replaced from insurance funds with a “new used vehicle” and came in under budget. Traylor said June was a bad month for the community with two significant events: the loss of a young man due to a self-inflicted gunshot and another young man in a drowning at the Twin Lakes.

Traylor said he has not had the time to look further into the request from council member Lew Shuffler on the implementation of a COPS (Cops on Patrol) program. He feels the best way to begin a citizens involvement outreach is through a community Neighborhood Watch program “because the Department’s staffing right now would not allow us to start a COPS program. We would need someone who would be able to work with them. I see it in the future.” A neighborhood Watch program is organized at a local community level, such as a Homeowners Association (HOA), who sign up individuals who drive around at scheduled times to be seen as a security presence. A COPS program would “require citizens to go through a Citizens Academy and actually drive a vehicle equipped with lights and radios that serve as another set of eyes that actually come out an assist the officers in their daily duties.” Traylor indicated a willingness to “come out and visit with a community group to show them where we need to go to get a program started.”

City Manager Kyle Jung spelled out the differences in the programs: “I think the first step is to actually approach the HOA’s; they’re the ones who are going to provide the volunteers that would be doing that. There are three tiers, the Neighborhood Watch which deals with their neighborhood where they know the cars that are in the area and they know the people that are there. They specifically focus on their own neighborhood. After a well-established Neighborhood Watch program is when we step to the next level which is the COPS program. It is a city funded volunteer program where citizens go out and patrol different parts of the city, they won’t just stay in their own neighborhood, but they will be driving around as another set of eyes for the police department. Much more training is involved in the COPS program. The third step would be a Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) which definitely is a much more training intensive program.”

Council took up the issue of a CERT program in its regular agenda and heard from EMS Director Dave Ferguson on the issue. Ferguson described a CERT team as a “group of people throughout the community that choose to be involved in helping first responders in times of disaster or system overflows and that sort of thing. It is typically 2 ½ hours a night for seven weeks but can be structured based on the needs of the attendees. They cover very basic fire suppression and how to assist the fire department before they arrive. They cover basic search and rescue, first aid, and then probably the most interesting part is they cover how to develop, build, and organize volunteers in a disaster situation. They would be able to help with everything from traffic control to search and rescue operations and they would also be able to apply first aid and life-saving skills. They really are there to provide preliminary help or support to the professional rescuers.”

Ferguson explained that classes would be free should sufficient volunteers come forward to participate. The training would be received through the Homeland Preparedness Project. According to their website, their mission is to “provide the basic knowledge to members of the community to keep them safe and help them to respond to emergencies. By building community-based volunteer organizations of trained, prepared Teams, we help to make communities more resilient and able to recover from emergencies and disasters. Our Teams provide immediate neighborhood response when they are involved in an emergency and supplement uniformed responders on larger responses.”

A class was attempted last year but did not receive the minimum number of ten participants required to make a class. Ferguson said he did not know if it was due to “a failure of exposure or a lack of interest” but only three volunteers came forward. “We are certainly willing to organize that and host it for the community but we need to come up with a much better recruitment plan,” he said. He indicated a willingness to try again this fall but would have to coordinate through the Homeland Preparedness Project.

Lew Shuffler indicated a desire to approach the various HOA’s around the area to make presentations to try and stir up enough interest. Ferguson said the Homeland Preparedness folks would likely be willing to help with that effort as well. In response to an inquiry on other CERT programs in the area, Ferguson said there are several with Pearland having a very large and successful program as does Alvin. A Brazoria County CERT serves as an umbrella organization with the individual cities comprising the group. Neighboring Harris, Fort Bend and Galveston Counties also have active programs.

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