May 2014

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MHS students experience "Shattered Dreams"

Aaron Bell to leave city employment

Incumbents win mayor and council seats

City to improve road maintenance

City adopts Master Drainage Plan

Council considers sidewalk repairs

Infrastructure improvements prodding along

 

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MHS students experience "Shattered Dreams"

May 7, 2014

 

Juniors and seniors at Manvel High School (MHS) witnessed a life-like mockup of a deadly car crash in an attempt to bring attention to the dangers of driving while drinking and/or texting. Alcohol and drug related accidents are the leading cause of death and serious injury for youth 15 to 19 years of age. Every other year the simulated crash, known as “Shattered Dreams”, is presented “to help kids realize they should not be drinking and driving or texting and driving,” explained MHS Assistant Principal Tiffany Mathews. The Shattered Dreams program is described as a youth-led community collaborative designed to prevent underage drinking and alcohol related deaths. Principal Charlotte Liptack explained, “Shattered Deams is a national program that is sponsored by law enforcement agencies to help get the word out to students so that we protect their lives. It teaches students about the dangers of making irresponsible choices of texting and driving or drinking and driving. We hope to educate our students so that they make responsible choices in the future.”

In addition to the actual crashed cars, real life victims were in the vehicles experiencing various levels of injuries and in one instance even death. Some 900 to 1000 students watched the rescue efforts unfold over a period of about forty-five minutes.

As the students were settling in, distant sirens grew nearer until two police vehicles appeared. With a microphone allowing those in attendance to hear the dialog, the officers assessed the situation with their dispatcher. More sirens were heard approaching, this time bringing two ambulances to the scene. As the EMT’s were gathering their equipment yet more sirens approached bringing fire trucks and various rescue apparatuses. The quiet among the students well indicated the profound impact the scene produced as the First Responders gently placed a blanket over the dead victim’s body and worked with “jaws of life” and other equipment to free the injured. The silence was broken by a LifeFlight helicopter as it circled around the scene before landing on the road some 300 feet from the onlookers. One of the victims was transferred to the helicopter after which it took off with much noise and turbulence. The ambulances fled the scene and as First Responders were clearing their gear a hearse appeared in which the dead victim was transported away. The crash scenario was followed the next day with a realistic enactment of a memorial service for the victim that perished in the crash. The service was complete with a hearse, casket, and eulogy.

Senior student Taylor Grant thinks the simulation will have an effect on her fellow students: “I think it is helpful because it really gets people to see what the consequences of drinking and driving are.” LaKisha Holloway coordinated the event for the school. She explained that this was the third time the event has been played out at MHS. “Our students get a lot out of it and we are very excited to bring this to the community because we want to make sure our kids are knowledgeable about the dangers associated with drinking and driving and texting and driving, especially leading into prom season as that is when we see this type of fatality happening. We want to prevent that if at all possible.”

AISD’s Director of Communication Daniel Combs said “this is an outstanding opportunity for juniors and seniors to be able to confront the serious implications of the decisions they make. We would like to thank ESD #3, volunteer fire departments from Manvel and Iowa Colony, AISD Police, Manvel PD, Brazoria County Sheriff’s Department, Texas DPS, Memorial Hermann LifeFlight, Scott Funeral Home, and Ron Carter Automotive Group for making this possible.”

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Aaron Bell to leave city employment

May 7, 2014

 

Manvel Fire Marshall and Code Enforcement Officer Aaron Bell has accepted a position with the City of Pasadena as an assistant Fire Marshall and will be leaving the City of Manvel after 16 years of service. Last week the city honored his years of dedication by hosting a going-away event in his honor. City Manager Kyle Jung indicated that the process to name a replacement has already begun and that resumes have been received.

Bell was appointed as the first Fire Marshall/Code Enforcement Officer for the city in January 2010. Mayor Delores Martin and former Chief of Police Ralph Garcia considered it difficult then to meet growing call volumes for service as an officer would too often be called on to handle non law enforcement issues, such as code violations. As a dedicated Fire Marshall and Code Enforcement Officer, Bell’s duties required him to follow up on code enforcement complaints and to make certain buildings were in compliance with city ordinances. He also would investigate fires as they occurred.

Bell grew up in East Texas where he worked in various law enforcement capacities before moving to the Manvel Police Department in 1998. When former Police Chief Ralph Garcia assumed the chief’s position in 1999, Bell quickly moved up the ranks in various supervisory roles and served as a captain in the department for three years before being named to the Fire Marshall/Code Enforcement position. Through his work with the city, Bell met and eventually married Manvel’s City Secretary, Tammy, in 2006.

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Incumbents win mayor and council seats

May 14, 2014

 

Manvel voters re-elected Delores Martin to her seventh consecutive term as the city’s mayor in last week’s general election. Martin is currently serving her thirteenth year as mayor. Former city council member Gary Garnett campaigned against her on a theme of change and offered voters a viable alternative. The election results showed a separation of just ten votes with Martin earning 223 total votes to Garnett’s 213. Martin was pleased to win saying, “I feel so blessed to be given the opportunity to continue to promote my city for the next three years.”

Both council incumbents will return for another three-year term. John Cox defeated his challenger John Aucoin earning just under 66% of the vote while Larry Akery bested Jerome Hudson with just over 56% of the vote. Manvel turned out 442 voters from 5,061 registered in the District, or 8.73% of registered voters. County-wide totals showed the total number of voters at 7.08%.

The election for Position 6 and Position 7 on the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) Board of Trustees saw two tight races. Earl Humbird defeated the incumbent Sue Stringer by just 30 votes out of nearly 3,300 cast. Humbird will be returning as a Trustee having served in the position before. The Position 7 seat was also close with two new-comers vying for the seat. Vivian Scheibel from Shadow Creek Ranch in Pearland defeated Long-time Alvinite Chad Dudley by 52 votes. Scheibel works in the software industry, serves as a Sunday school teacher, and is active in various youth activities. She claims to “be passionate about education and community service.”

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City to improve road maintenance

May 14, 2014

 

Manvel residents will likely soon see an improvement in city road maintenance. For years a recurring grievance expressed by Manvel citizens has been the inadequate maintenance of city roads. The backlog of work will see relief soon as city council authorized the expenditure of $355,360 for the acquisition of a paver lay-down machine, a pneumatic roller, and a steel wheel roller. Formerly the city’s public works department has depended on Brazoria County to provide the necessary equipment and machinery to maintain its roads.

Public Works Director Jay White told council that he thinks “we should get into the pavement business ourselves.” He explained that in 2012 his department was “budgeted for five miles of roads. The county only paved about a mile and a half. In 2013 we had the same five miles of road budgeted and they were only able to do two. And this year, they were here the past couple of weeks and they only did a mile and a half. I’m not even sure they will be back before the fiscal year is out. So right now we are five miles in arrears on paving.” White went on to say that the county now wants to limit their contribution of the equipment to no more than two miles each year.

White says his staff does most all the ground work anyway and that his workers will be trained on the use of the machinery. “While my guys don’t actually run the machine, they are doing everything except for the actual running of the machine.” The county will continue to do the road rebuilding which is more intensive than the typical paving overlays that White’s crews normally do. White estimates that about 60% of city road maintenance entails just an overlay and not the grinding and tearing up that is required for rebuilding.

City Controller Phyllis Herbst explained to council where the money is coming from. She explained that beginning back in 2007, much of the road budget was not being spent. A policy was approved by a former city council that allowed whatever funds that were unspent to be rolled into a dedicated road fund that could only be used for that purpose. Additional funds have been added each year subsequent so that currently it holds about $370,000. Herbst claims the expenditure is justified as it is a road department expense.

A couple of members expressed some angst in how the city seems to find significant amounts of money that council is unaware of. Similar concerns were expressed when the city purchased the current city hall building and when the sand pit on CR 58 was acquired. Lew Shuffler wondered where in the budget numbers that he sees does it show that money. He recalled a suggested purchase in last year’s budget negotiations that would have provided some type of equipment for the road department but was told there was insufficient money available. City Controller Herbst explained the amount is shown on audit papers but is not shown on the regular financial reports provided to council members.

Adrian Gaspar elaborated on Shufflers point expressing the sentiment that “when he asked for something, oh we don’t have the money for that, but when somebody else comes out with a request, oh sure, here is the money, let’s do it. He was told we don’t have the money when in reality we did. And that is a problem that we the council need to solve.” Gaspar has encouraged council on two previous occasions to appoint a charter review commission to address some issues that allow this type of “miscommunication” to occur. Both times council decided to put off any charter review for a later date. Gaspar feels council should be better informed of the decisions made and the information passing through the city manager’s office.

Despite the questioning of the funds, council was unanimous in its approval of the purchase. Shuffler acknowledged that the equipment should “go a long way as we have heard a lot of people say that we don’t take care of our roads. If we can do two and a half times what we’ve been doing the last couple of years that will make an impact.”

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City adopts Master Drainage Plan

May 21, 2014

 

Manvel city council voted unanimously to adopt a Master Drainage Plan at a recent meeting. Klotz Associates was retained by the city to prepare the Plan with the underlying objective to provide recommendations for drainage improvements to the city in order to meet continued growth and future needs. The Plan involves two scenario recommendations for future drainage improvements.

Gary Struzik from Klotz Associates explained that they evaluated the areas watershed and determined the cost and right-of-way that will be required to improve the city’s drainage “not only to handle todays flows, but ultimate development flow. The Master Drainage Plan allows you to size the channels and detention ponds so that when future developers come through they get a sense of how big these ditches need to be to convey these waters.” New developments will be required to meet the specifications of the Plan as part of their development agreement with the city, thereby ensuring they don’t flood the next person downstream.

Manvel’s consulting civil engineer, Dan Johnson, explained a benefit to the Plan adoption today is that “right now we actually have an opportunity to be able to get easements and rights-of-way as opposed to trying to do it after development when infrastructure is already in the way. This will allow us to get in the driver’s seat to make sure that since we do have so many different drainage districts and scenarios where there is no drainage district that we don’t have the situation where a really big ditch flows into a really small ditch, for instance. This will be the first time that we have been on the offensive. In the past we had nothing to go by.”

Manvel must deal with three unique Drainage Districts. Pearland Drainage District 4 oversees 27% of the area primarily in the central northern and some of the western portions of Manvel. Brazoria County Drainage District 5 oversees 15% of the area primarily in the southern portion of the city. And the Conservation and Reclamation District 3oversees 55% of the area primarily in the eastern portion. Three percent of the city has no Drainage District authority.

Analysis of the area shows that 34% of the city is in a floodplain and 3% is in a floodway based on FEMA criteria. A floodplain is an area near a river, stream, or bayou which floods when the water level reaches flood stage. A floodway consists of the stream channel and adjacent areas that actively carry the flood flows downstream.

Two scenarios were proposed in the Plan. One deals with currently existing flows within the banks of all major channels, and ultimately within the proposed right-of-way. This scenario reflects an option for the city to prepare for and promote future channel improvements primarily by adding sub-regional detention ponds located at areas north of Hwy 6 or by on-site detention. A second scenario reflects an option for the city to prepare for and promote future detention mitigation that would convey the 100-year flows within the banks of all major channels and ultimately within the proposed right-of-way.

Proposed costs for each scenario approximates more than $125 million in today’s dollars. The bulk of the costs would be borne by future developers though the city will be required to fund some improvements as well. Several funding strategies were proposed including external funding sources, utility or special districts, impact fees, and various types of internal funding mechanisms. Funding will be the primary key to implementation of drainage infrastructure in the future. Manvel can slowly accomplish all necessary infrastructure improvements by continually working with drainage districts, developers, and other entities to ensure that the planning phases, roles, and responsibilities to resolve drainage issues are assigned and implemented.

Mayor Delores Martin considers the Plan a valuable tool that is only as good as how it is used. Johnson says developers may not like the costs associated with the Plan, but they will appreciate the rights-of-ways already figured out and knowing the parameters they have to work within. He considers it a huge help as opposed to a moving target and says, “In a weird way this will actually benefit development just so they know what they are up against.”

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Council considers sidewalk repairs

May 21, 2014

 

Manvel city council will discuss to what extent the city should bear the responsibility for repairing sidewalks within the city’s jurisdiction. Member Larry Akery requested the consideration after hearing from citizens in Rodeo Palms that some sidewalks are posing a danger to residents. Member John Cox wondered “why are things like this going under the table without being brought to the council’s attention so we can try to address it for our citizens? If we have a problem shouldn’t the council be aware of this instead of someone at a campaign event telling us? This has been going on for more than a year and I find out about it just last week. I’ve got a problem with that.”

Member Adrian Gaspar used the question to renew his plea to fellow council members to authorize a charter review process. He reminded council that it voted against a review on two occasions in recent months. “We need to modify the charter so we the council will get more information. The way the charter is written the city manager does not have to bring it to us.”

City Manager Kyle Jung explained that the city has adopted the International Property Management Code which says the “owner of the property is required to maintain and repair sidewalks that are under their control. Unless you want to change the code it’s just like any of the other building codes the city has adopted and the staff implements.” Member Melody Hanson asked why sidewalks are considered a public space if they are the responsibility of the homeowner. Jung explained that sidewalks are actually in the city’s road right-of-way and their maintenance and repair is spelled out in the developments deed restrictions.

City council can modify the ordinance if it chooses to do so and that is what will be discussed at the May 27 council meeting. Dan Johnson, Manvel’s consulting civil engineer made clear to council that sidewalks will fail due to the expansion of tree roots, leaking underground pipes, droughts, and just natural settlement that occurs over time. “This isn’t going to be just in Rodeo Palms, this is a much bigger issue.” There are sidewalks in other developments and there will be many in future developments.

Former council member and Rodeo Palms resident Mack Ivy feels the city should be responsible for the sidewalks. Ivy says he approached the city manager with an interpretation of the code that supports the notion that the city is responsible. He expresses “concern that he (Jung) made his decision for the City of Manvel very quickly and final. Later when I spoke to him in person about how my interpretation of the law differed from his, he did not seem open to discuss it with me or others. When I brought up this concern along with the safety hazard to the mayor and other members of council individually, they were also concerned. Their concern centered on the desire for decisions to be fair, well thought out considering all the issues and the thought process to be open and transparent. They were also concerned with the lack of communication as demonstrated that if a law could be interpreted differently, why weren't the city attorney, engineer and councilmembers consulted before citizens begin to ask them why a decision was made.”

Ivy makes the case that because the sidewalk is in a city right-of-way or easement that are not under the homeowners control that the city should bear the responsibility to perform needed maintenance and repair. He explains, “If the sidewalk was on the resident's property and under his/her control such as coming from his/her driveway to the door, then I think the sidewalk's repair would be the responsibility of the occupant. However if a sidewalk is on an easement or greenbelt area, then I think it should be made safe with the tax dollars that our resident's pay to the city to keep our streets and public sidewalks safe. Since an occupant cannot stop the city or MUD from digging up property including public sidewalks on the easement, then I do not think the city can say that the easement property is under an occupant's control. If they say that the sidewalk is under the control of a resident, ask if they could dig up the sidewalk and plant shrubs there.... Of course they would say that the sidewalk would have to remain, and therefore the sidewalk is not under the resident/occupant's control.”

Ivy went on to say, “When we lived in Pearland, a neighbor tripped on a sidewalk that was nowhere near this dangerous. She fractured her wrist and unfortunately the sidewalk was fixed only after she filed legal actions. They just poured a new side walk at the first home on Rodeo Drive coming from the 288 entrance due to a fire hydrant problem. Because this drop off is severe, it may be due to the mandatory water restrictions or a water line problem in the past. If so, MUD29 or the developer may be the responsible party to fix the sidewalk. Either way, it would be good to investigate the cause so that the responsible party could fix the damage, as well as finding out how we can prevent this from occurring again.”

In preparation for the next council meeting, Jung will direct city staff to make an assessment of the number of areas that need to be fixed. Council will consider adding a line item to next year’s budget that would be dedicated to sidewalk repairs and maintenance. Next week’s council meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 27 due to Monday being the Memorial Day national holiday.

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Infrastructure improvements prodding along

May 28, 2014

 

In 2012 the Manvel Economic Development Council (MEDC) agreed to finance the cost to expand water and sewer infrastructure improvements along Hwy 6. As a member of both MEDC and city council, Melody Hanson said at the time that “the infrastructure improvements are key and that if we can’t provide services to proposed businesses they won’t come.” She told council that over a million dollars had been collected to finance suitable projects and that this plan was a “perfect fit for the city”.

Most recognize the improvements as vital if the city is to realize the development of sizeable retail and commercial businesses along its primary thoroughfare. The plan appears to have strong and unanimous support. More than two years later the city appears to be in position to move forward with the project, though not before hurt feelings can be soothed. At a recent council meeting, the President of the MEDC essentially complained that his group has been left out of the loop in any plans and decisions that are being made and that the scope of the project as it is envisioned today is barely similar to the project as originally contemplated.

It was April 2012 that Manvel city council approved an authorization for the city manager to develop engineering plans and specifications for the extension of water and sewer utilities on state highway 6. As part of MEDC’s agreement to underwrite the project it asked the city to have prepared the necessary engineering plans so that the feasibility of the project, its cost, and how best to finance the work could be determined. City Manager Kyle Jung explained that the plans and specifications would be the first step in getting the project authorized and underway. He estimated construction would require four to six months once the plans had been prepared, approved, and financing established.

Mayor Delores Martin said at the time that in the many years she had been in office various types of businesses have come to Manvel excited about establishing operations only to be discouraged once it is realized that the city does not have the water and sewer infrastructure to accommodate their needs. She explained that council wants to expand business activity in the city to stimulate economic growth and that this infrastructure project would be the first step toward that end.

In fact, the design has undergone four changes. Dan Johnson serves as Manvel’s consulting civil engineer. He provided a brief history on the project at a prior council meeting. On December 4, 2012, contracts were signed with his company, Daniel Scott Engineering, to begin surveying and designing the project. The first design was submitted for the city’s consideration in April, 2013. That plan showed a 16” waterline on the south side of Hwy 6 and a 15” gravity line on the north side along with a force main and a lift station “to just on the other side of Burger King.” Johnson explained that the plan did not go all the way to the frontage road due to the high cost of boring under existing utilities. A future user would be expected to front that cost as part of their development agreement.

Efforts were then begun by the city, Mayor Delores Martin primarily, to secure the required easements. Martin told council that only one easement required remuneration at the southeast corner of Hwy 6 and Hwy 288 at a cost of $24,000. As the mayor explains it, the seller was 88 years old and residing in Florida. There was concern that if she passed away the inheritor of the land may not want to work with the city. ”It was foolish to not go ahead and get it done.”

On June 19, 2013, a meeting was held with the landowners upon which the lift station would have been located. They were not agreeable to the notion of having it along Hwy 6 but did suggest placing it further back on their property. A second design was developed to show that change but the costs proved to be impractical. A third re-design was necessitated due to the inconsistent placement of easements along the south side. According to Johnson, the city “was not able to get consecutive easements on the south side of the road.” The new design called for all improvements, both water and sewer, to be on the north side of Hwy 6. A fourth re-design was then crafted from a new water model that the city acquired. The city paid to have the original Lakeland water model expanded and the results showed that the originally proposed 16” water line could be reduced to a 12” line. Johnson describes that as “fantastic” as it would save considerable money and space in the easement, which is crowded when combining both lines on the north side of the road.

Another factor in the fourth and current design resulted from a meeting in executive session that exposed a difficulty with one large landowner and their reluctance to grant the city a needed easement. The easement has subsequently been secured, but at that time it was thought unlikely to acquire it. The land in question encompassed about 1000 feet west of Iowa Lane to the original ending near 288. All of the affected land was controlled by the uncooperative land owner which led council to direct Johnson to stop the improvements at their property. That decision led Johnson to study the possibility of removing the lift station that had caused previous challenges. He determined the sewage line could be designed with a larger 24” pipe that would flow from gravity saving substantial dollars in not having to build and maintain a lift station.

So the current design calls for a 12” water line and a 24” gravity line both in the same easement on the north side of the road. Discussions with related agencies have earned full approval for the plan. Johnson said he can complete another design if council desires that would encompass the easement that was previously considered unavailable, though he admits it presents challenges:, “It’s very tight to fit both a water line and a sewer line in the same easement because by state regulations we have to keep at least nine feet separation. We can go further west with gravity but we will need a lift station. And I don’t know if we can get a 40” by 40” spot. That part has never changed. It’s just a matter of having to obtain that from somebody.” Johnson explained that his firm has not charged the city for the multiple redesigns

Hanson said to council that “I think you are all understanding the complexity of this project. I know the city has worked extremely hard, and it has been very difficult to secure these easements, you can see how the scope has changed. I know that it has been a very complicated process but what concerns me as both a member of council and MEDC is that council is hearing this before MEDC is and MEDC is what put forth the funding for this; $1.6 million. It is by far the most ambitious project the city has ever undertaken and it just feels like we are putting the cart before the horse. Nobody wants this to be accomplished more than MEDC. I feel like it needs to be done in the appropriate order. Tonight we have authority to vote on something that MEDC is not fully aware of.”

City Manager Jung feels the council “needs to determine the role of the city council and the role of MEDC in this project. Because the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) shows MEDC as the funding source and that is all. It’s a city project and it is spelled out that way.” Hanson countered that MEDC understood the project was going clear to 288. “It no longer is,” she said. “The general scope of work has changed. We in good faith approved this document because we thought it was a partnership and we feel that the city is taking the reins too early. This is such a radical departure. We want to pass the baton but we don’t want it snatched up out of our hands before we’ve had a chance to define where the finish line is. I think it is going to leave a really bad taste and I guarantee most of them do not know that council is voting on this tonight. We are not taking the recommendations of MEDC into account and we are talking about $1.6 million. This really concerns me.” Hanson said she appreciates the work that has been done by city staff and consultants and admits the MEDC might even approve the current design as is. She feels the process is proceeding out of order and considers it a matter of courtesy to allow MEDC to provide the recommendation to city council.

Hanson wants MEDC to have an opportunity to review the current plan and to at least give it their blessing. “MEDC has been instrumental in making this happen and I really don’t feel like they should be pushed aside.” Mayor Martin added that “without their full support this would never have happened. We’d still be sitting saying woe is me, we need infrastructure and we can’t pay for it. So they came forward and offered the money in an effort to work together and accomplish the goal.”

Member Lew Shuffler wondered “how did we wind up here? We thought we were going to break ground last year, and we didn’t because we had these easement issues and now we are talking about a different approach. Why is this only surfacing tonight as an issue? We’ve been talking about this for two years. I wish this would have been brought up months and months ago.”

Council ultimately agreed to table the items to give MEDC an opportunity to discuss the plans and provide a recommendation to council for further action. If at their next meeting council is able to authorize the project to move forward, it is possible to see the construction commence within a few months.

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