March 2013

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Council refuses project loan request

Candidates set for May 11 election

School Districts Update

Proposed 288 Improvements

Manvel Council News

Library Donation

Council receives racial profiling report

AISD approves District expansion programs

 

Council refuses project loan request

March 6, 2013

 

Manvel city council refused to consider an $82,500 loan commitment request submitted by Blazer Building, Inc, a general contractor desiring to construct a senior living community at Southfork Parkway and CR 59 in the city’s Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). The loan would have assisted the company in making an application to receive tax credits from a state agency that would provide close to 65% of the development’s project costs.

In making the case for the commitment, a spokesman for Blazer Building referenced other county and regional qualified Political Sub-divisions that have assisted like projects with this type of funding activity. Council was also told that the commitment was required on February 25, the same day as the council meeting.

Despite the company’s contention that the loan would be without recourse or liability to the city, and that all costs associated with the loan would be borne by the borrower, council members were concerned about the city having to make good on the funds should the developer default for some reason.

Mayor Delores Martin expressed her discomfort with the proposal and Member John Cox suggested tabling the matter to allow Manvel’s City Attorney, Bobby Gervais, to closer examine the city’s risk exposure. Gervais told council of a similar financial arrangement in a neighboring city where the project operators defaulted and creditors looked to the city to make good on the loan. Gervais said he “could never guarantee that there would never be any liability.”

The Blazer spokesman admitted that without the city’s loan commitment it would be unlikely that state tax credits would be earned and would most probably end the project. Ultimately council chose to not move forward with Cox’s tabling recommendation and voted to outright deny the resolution.

In other council news, members approved the first of two readings that will amend the Code of Ordinances by adding a new Article XI “Rental Registration and Inspection.” The goal of the ordinance is to establish regulations pertaining to the licensing and inspection of rental residential properties within the city.

Motivating the additional Article is a plan for a Rodeo Palms developer to build two sections of approximately 200 homes that are intended to be rental homes. City Manager Kyle Jung said “there is no way the city can have any impact unless we have an ordinance.” The ordinance will require rental properties to be registered with the city and would provide for an annual percentage of randomly selected properties to be inspected; thereby ensuring city codes are being adhered to. Jung said it would “at least allow the city to monitor those properties.”

Approval was given for the re-appointment of three board members on the Manvel Economic Development Commission (MEDC). Melody Hanson, Bradley Gardner, and Karen Kinlaw were re-appointed with terms to expire in December 2015.

Authorization was granted to approve an Interlocal Agreement between the City of Manvel and Brazoria County Appraisal District No 4 for the installation of culverts on Rogers Road, east of Cemetery Road, and on Jordan Lane east of Masters. The agreement provides for matching amounts to meet new TxDOT requirements.

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Candidates set for May 11 election

March 6, 2013

 

March 1 was the deadline for both the City of Manvel and the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) to accept applications for a place on the May 11 ballot.

Manvel will see Melody Hanson seek her fourth term as a member of City Council unopposed. She holds the Place 4 seat. Hanson is the senior member on council and currently serves as Mayor Pro-tem. The Place 6 seat will see incumbent Lew Shuffler challenged by former council member Gary Garnett. Garnett says he wants to once more involve himself in city affairs as he expresses intent to challenge Mayor Delores Martin in 2014.

AISD will see the Position 4 seat, currently held by Board President Tiffany Wennerstrom, challenged by former Board member Mark Patterson. Patterson was elected to the Board in 2009 and declined to seek reelection last May. Cheryl Harris was voted in to his former Position 3 seat. Wennerstrom was elected in 2010 and became President of the Board of Trustees last year.

The Position 5 seat, currently held by Eddie Martinez, will be challenged by Shadow Creek Ranch resident Nicole Tonini. Tonini narrowly lost the Position 1 seat last May by two votes to current Trustee Mike Lansford. Martinez has served as Trustee twice, first elected in 1999 for a three year term, and again elected in 2007 and 2010.

Early voting begins April 29 and runs through May 7.

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School Districts Update

March 13, 2013

 

The Pearland Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Pearland and Alvin School District Update last week. Pearland Independent School District (PISD) was represented by its Superintendent Dr. John Kelly. Before taking the Pearland job in August 2011, Kelly led the Boerne and Pearsall School Districts for twenty years. He is a former US Air Force sergeant and earned his undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degrees from Texas A&M University.

Alvin Independent School District (AISD) was represented by its Superintendent Dr. Fred Brent. Brent assumed the Alvin leadership in December 2010 after leading the Anderson-Shiro Consolidated ISD. Brent is a former teacher and principal in various school districts in Oklahoma and Texas. He earned his doctoral degree from Texas A&M University.

Both districts are comparable in administration and student enrollment size. PISD claims 2,300 employees and 19,650 enrolled students this year with a growth rate of about 300 to 350 per year. AISD has approximately 2,500 employees and 18,945 current students. It has seen growth of about 900 students per year, ranking it as the fourth fastest growing district in the area and the highest percentage growth rate at 27.7%.

PISD includes 23 campuses comprised of eleven elementary schools, four middle schools, four junior high schools, the Searcy Ninth Grade Center, two high schools, and one specialty campus. AISD has 23 campuses as well, including fourteen elementary schools, five junior high schools, two high schools, and two specialty campuses. AISD encompasses 250 square miles including the part of Pearland west of state highway 288. AISD covers numerous other communities in northern Brazoria County including Alvin, Manvel, Iowa Colony, Liverpool, Rosharon, and Arcola.

PISD operates with an annual budget of approximately $130 million; AISD approximately $143 million. PISD’s Kelly explained that his district lost $12 million over the past two years due to state funding cuts and claims the district would have had an additional $24 million in the past years budget if PISD had received the average amount per child in Texas. AISD’s Brent said his district lost more than $11 million from the previous biennium. Both districts enjoy healthy fund balances intended to cover costs for at least 90 days should funding shortages arise. PISD imposes a tax rate of $1.4194 per $100 valuation; AISD $1.3291 per $100 valuation.

Both Superintendents shared the sentiment that Texas’ requirement that fifteen tests be needed for graduation is excessive, claiming it is more than three times what any other state in the nation requires. The fifteen tests are in addition to the national tests for higher education admissions such as the SAT and ACT. Both expect that number to reduce to five or less pending current legislative efforts underway in Austin. Among the five subject areas likely to be tested are reading, writing, biology, Algebra 1, and US History.

Both districts are placing greater emphasis on Advanced Placement and dual credit courses that allow a student to earn credit toward their college degree while in high school. Both are also offering increased vocational programs. PISD is expecting 600 students to enroll in its Turner College and Career School that will provide work-force training resulting in certificates and/or college associates degrees before graduating from high school. Kelly explained the program will provide local businesses with a well-trained work force and will serve to relieve the current and potential overcrowding at Pearland and Dawson High Schools.

AISD is in the process of converting the currently vacant Manvel Junior High facility to a Career and Technology Education campus. Recommendations for the facility include a cosmetology program, HVAC, Agricultural Mechanics, Metal and Construction Technology, Manufacturing, Veterinary Technician, and Information Technology. Additional options will be considered as part of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee report expected this summer. Programs are set to commence for the 2013-2014 school year.

PISD has current capital improvement programs underway for a satellite bus barn, providing WiFi for the entire district, installing artificial turf at both high schools, and various maintenance projects. AISD just began construction on a new elementary school on CR 59 near its intersection with Kirby Drive. It also has acquired 72 acres of land near the intersection of Kirby Drive and Broadway to house the district’s third high school. Brent explained that design of the facility is underway and the timeline for construction depends on the results of a Citizens Advisory Committee report due this summer and would require a subsequent bond referendum.

Both districts have incorporated a Bring Your Own Device initiative that encourages students to utilize their personal smartphones, laptops, and tablets to help relieve hardware and software costs borne by the districts. Kelly explained that many students already have capable devices to use.

Each Superintendent addressed security concerns. PISD is adding additional security guards at the elementary level, is working on enhanced security for school entrance ways, and is conducting drills and providing staff training. AISD recently contracted with an outside firm to conduct a security audit and Brent was proud to announce the district received the highest scores. He explained that the Citizens Advisory Committee is “currently conducting an internal security audit to ensure we are proactive and put student and staff safety at the front of everything we do.”

Both districts are accredited with a “Recognized” rating from the Texas Education Agency. Beginning teacher salaries for PISD is $44,600 with a Bachelor’s degree and $46,000 with a Master’s degree. AISD pays $46,700 and $47,700 respectively. Ethnic distribution for PISD is 42.8% white, 28% Hispanic, 16.3% African American, 9.6% Asian, and 3.2% other. AISD is 44.5% Hispanic, 34% white, 12% African American, 8% Asian, and 1% other.

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Proposed 288 Improvements

March 13, 2013

 

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) held a public hearing last week in Pearland to present its proposed SH 288 improvements from US 59 to County Road 60 in Harris and Brazoria Counties. The improvements are proposed to provide additional roadway capacity, to increase mobility, and to improve access to the Texas Medical Center.

Population along the SH 288 corridor has been projected to increase 60% from 2005 to 2025. Residential and commercial development along with associated employment will increase resulting in deteriorating mobility and unacceptable levels of traffic. TxDOT studies project traffic to increase along the corridor 32% to 74% from 2011 to 2035.

Schematic and environmental studies for the project commenced in 2006 with public meetings beginning in 2007. The initial phase of the program will provide two reversible toll lanes from US 59 to SH 6. Construction would begin in 2014 and the lanes would be operational by 2017. The estimated construction cost is $300 million. TxDOT officials indicated that four toll lanes, two dedicated in each direction, may be constructed in Phase 1 if sufficient funding is available.

The ultimate phase of the project would include four toll lanes from US 59 to CR 60. They would be operational by 2035 and would bear an estimated cost of $1.4 billion. Existing lanes would not be tolled and current plans call for the toll lanes to utilize an electronic toll collection system with no traditional toll booths. Interchange upgrades are planned at IH 610, a connector from SH 288 to FM 521 will be constructed to improve access to the Texas Medical Center, and ultimately 8 direct connectors are expected at the SH 288/Beltway 8 interchange.

Public comments will be accepted via email until March 21, 2013 at hou-piowebmail@txdot.gov. A decision on the Environmental Assessment is anticipated this summer.

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Manvel Council News

March 20, 2013

 

Manvel city council approved the first of two readings of an ordinance that would change the zoning classification of 1.455 acres located at 7355 McCoy from Light Commercial to Light Commercial with a specific use permit that would authorize the use of the property for a religious organization (church). Part of the approval provides a waiver from a city ordinance requiring a fire sprinkler system. Fire Marshall Aaron Bell explained that the code requires sprinklers in a structure that accommodates an occupancy load of greater than 300 people. A fire alarm system will be required and adequate fire exits will be available.

Bell explained that the lessee intends to purchase the building within three years and at that time it will be required that the building be brought to code and a sprinkler system installed. Currently the congregation of the church is approximately fifty people which places it well under the mandated 300 occupancy load as provided in the code. Bell told council that the cost of installation for a sprinkler system would be approximately $100,000 and his recommendation to waive the sprinkler requirement is partly an effort to “work with them to get into the building.”

Council member Maureen DelBello expressed concern for the city’s liability should a fire occur and the sprinkler requirement was waived. City Attorney Bobby Gervais suggested a Hold Harmless Agreement and an Indemnity Clause be included in any lease and insurance contracts. Council was satisfied and approved the first reading with Member DelBello casting the lone dissenting vote.

The church currently holds services at a Pearland elementary school and is looking for a permanent location.

Tabled was another zoning change ordinance for 1.1941 acres located at 19422 Hwy 6 that would provide for a specific use permit authorizing the use of the property for self-serve storage units and for truck, utility, trailer and RV rental and leasing. Council requested a site plan to provide greater detail on where the rental vehicles would be parked and to show the location of other structures on the property. Council wants to set specific conditions on the permit before it agrees to its authorization.

Council also approved a preliminary replat for the Southfork Subdivision that will expand a detention pond to service in part the five acre tract that will house a Pappa’s Restaurant to be located on the southeast corner of Southfork Parkway and County Road 59.

In other council news approval was given for a resolution authorizing the submission of a grant application for a Police Vehicle and Equipment Replacement Program Grant to the Criminal Justice Division of the Governor’s Office. City Manager Kyle Jung explained that the grant, if earned, would provide for three new vehicles, bullet proof vests for patrol officers, and various other equipment.

Approval was given for the re-appointment of Board Members to the South Manvel Development Authority. Phyllis Herbst, Mike Pyburn, and Delores Martin were re-appointed with terms to expire in May 2014. Also approved for re-appointment to the TIRZ 3 Board was Phyllis Herbst, Mike Pyburn, and Frank Hagdorn with terms to expire in May 2014. Both Boards include the area proposed to include the Seven Oaks development. Mike Pyburn was re-appointed as Chairman of both Boards.

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Library Donation

March 20, 2013

 

Harry Opliger of the now defunct Manvel Community Alliance presented a donation of $6,000 to the Manvel Community Library Association at a recent city council meeting. Opliger told council that the Manvel Community Alliance was formed in 2000 when the library was housed at the old school building. The Alliance was formed as a result of the school being closed which created significant interest in establishing a permanent library facility in Manvel. Opliger says they had big plans with visions of acquiring land and a building. A lack of success in their efforts, as well as the establishment of a stable city library, resulted in a declining membership.

Having funds in the bank with no ultimate purpose, it was decided that a donation to the Manvel Library would be the right thing to do for the city. Oplliger considers the library as a key part of the community and says they “do good things for the community; they have the summer reading programs and things like that.”

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Council receives racial profiling report

March 27, 2013

 

Manvel City Council received a report delivered by interim Police Chief Art Chapa regarding the Department’s 2012 Racial Profiling Report. Chapa said the presentation of the report to city council is a State requirement. He told Council that his report was filed with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards (TCLEOSE) and was accepted as submitted. TCLEOSE is a state agency that establishes and enforces standards to ensure Texans are served by highly trained and ethical law enforcement personnel.

Chapa explained that city police officers have specific guidelines that must be followed and may not pull over a driver just because of their race or color. He went on to say that any car used by patrol officers, of which Manvel has five, must have audio/video capabilities in working condition. Should a camera go down for any reason, that particular patrol car would not be allowed for the purpose of pulling drivers over.

Chapa reported a total number of citations issued in 2012 at 868, from which 57 resulted in arrests. Of the 868 citations issued, 185 were African-American, 43 Asian, 405 Caucasian, 280 Hispanic, 13 of Middle-Eastern descent and 1 Native American. The question of whether or not the officer executing the citation was aware of the driver’s ethnicity prior to the stop was addressed as well. From 927 total stops in 2012, Chapa claims that none of the officers had prior awareness of the driver’s ethnicity.

Ninety-nine searches were conducted from the traffic stops with all consented to by the drivers.

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AISD approves District expansion programs

March 27, 2013

 

The Alvin Independent School District (AISD) Board of Trustees approved a Guaranteed Maximum Price Contract for the renovations previously authorized for the Lewis Lane Annex Building that is part of the currently unused Manvel Junior High School property. The Annex will be prepared to house the District’s Career and Technology Programs.

The guaranteed amount exceeds the previously approved construction budget of $443,385; the newly authorized amount is $604,425. Jeff Couvillion, AISD’s Director of Building Programs, explained the escalation as required due to an overall increase in construction costs since the first of the year, an increased scope in the Cosmetology area due to clarification of state requirements for program certification, an increased scope in the ventilation and electrical service needs to accommodate the Building Trades and HVAC programs and to accommodate the addition of the Ag Mechanical & Metal Program to the same area, and to allow $25,000 as a contingency to cover any additional costs that may be imposed by the City of Manvel resulting from its plan review process. Another $450,000 was previously authorized to pay for furniture, fixtures, and equipment for the facility.

The approval of the revised contract will allow the project’s builder to begin work as soon as final permitting is complete.

In January of this year the AISD Board received recommendations for a Career Technical Education (CTE) program that determined the need for lab space for new programs such as cosmetology and additional facilities for programs such as HVAC, Agricultural Mechanics and Metal, Construction Technology, Manufacturing, Veterinarian Technician, and Information Technology. A CTE Advisory Committee made up of CTE teachers and community members agreed with the district’s administration that more courses leading to certifications were of significant value for AISD students.

The District wants to begin course offerings at the Annex for the 2013-2014 school year.

The Board also approved a contract valued at $3,194,953 for architectural and engineering services for the design of High School #3, to be located in Pearland near the southwest corner of Broadway and Kirby. The scope of the work would cover design services for Phase 1 of a two phase project. SHW Group, recipient of the contract, has worked with the district to perform preliminary land studies and site layout options during the purchase and early planning of site developing and platting.

A Citizens Advisory Committee appointed by the Board of Trustees earlier this year is currently preparing a recommendation for Board consideration that will include among its findings the prospects of a bond referendum for voters to decide this November. Funding for the new High School is anticipated to be part of any bond proposal. The Board is expecting the committee’s recommendations early this summer.

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