November 2014

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Brazoria County Judge and long-time sheriff retiring

Pomona development soon to see model homes

Police chief defends cruiser markings

Thomas Pfeiffer appointed as alternate Municipal Court Judge

Mayor delivers State of the City address

Alvin Community College looks to future

 

 

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Brazoria County Judge and long-time sheriff retiring

November 5, 2014

 

After eight years as Brazoria County’s top public official, County Judge Joe King will be retiring at the conclusion of his second term at the end of the year. King has demonstrated outstanding service to Brazoria County for nearly 50 years, most recently as its county judge, but also as its county sheriff for 24 years, a DPS trooper for 12 years, and a lieutenant in the Brazoria Police Department for two years.

King was recognized for his long and distinguished career at a dinner last week sponsored by the Brazoria County Library System Foundation. For seven years the Foundation has sponsored an annual dinner featuring an author discussing their work. This year’s event welcomed former college roommates Ron Rozelle and Jim Willett discussing Willet’s history of a thirty-year career in Texas prisons. Willett voiced poignant descriptions of prisoner executions during his tenure as warden; the efficient actions of the tie-down team, the prisoner's often meandering last words, and the way that he himself lifted his glasses from his nose to signal the executioner to start the IV flow.”

After the author’s finished their presentation, Congressman Randy Weber, District Attorney Jeri Yenne, former county commissioner Mary Ruth Rhodenbaugh, and the four sitting county commissioners each had a few minutes to acknowledge the judge and what he has meant to them personally and to the county.

In acknowledging the accolades, King said he has had a good career and credited it to the “good people with me” and his family “who were always there to support me.” He told the crowd that the best job he ever had was as a DPS trooper. The worst job, he said, was as county judge. He explained: “In my past I have always been able to do something when I saw it needed to be done. Either I would take care of it myself or tell somebody to take care of it. Now, I have to wait till the second or fourth Tuesday of every month and get two people to agree with me before I can make a decision.” King ended his part saying something familiar to those who have heard him before: “It was a pleasure to work for the people in the greatest county in the greatest state in the most wonderful country in the world.”

King has been honored with outstanding alumni awards from both Alvin Community College, from where he earned an Associate’s Degree in Law Enforcement in 1974, and from the University Of Houston at Clear Lake, from where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Criminal Justice in 1977. He is married and has two children, a daughter working for Pearland ISD and a son who is following his dad’s footsteps as a DPS Trooper in Brazoria County. He also enjoys four grandsons. King resides in Angleton and will continue to serve the community for many years with involvement in numerous Associations, Organizations and Boards.

 

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Pomona development soon to see model homes

November 12, 2014

 

Manvel city council approved two final plats in the Pomona Master Planned development that is currently under construction west of Hwy 288 at CR 101. The plats encompass over 38 acres and will include a model home section and the first phase of 75-foot lots.

Pomona was the name first given to Manvel when it was settled more than a century ago. The name was changed to Manvel when it was determined another Pomona already existed in far west Texas. The development comprises 1000 acres and is expected to eventually contain approximately 2,100 single family homes.

Hillwood Communities and McGuyer Homebuilders Inc. are partnering in the development and describe their vision for the project as bridging “today’s modern lifestyle conveniences to a simpler, laid-back character found in the charming Gulf Coast communities of the South.” Mustang Bayou is expected to define the community which will “feature amenities, schools and gathering spaces linked by an extensive trail system. More than 300 acres of the property will remain open space in the form of wetlands and protective waters. Improvements to the bayou include planting native grasses and trees.”

The model homes should be available for public viewing early next year. Current builders in the community include Highland Homes, David Weekley Homes, Coventry Homes, Plantation Homes and Trendmaker Homes. Pomona’s residents will enjoy access to retail and major employment areas like The Pearland Town Center, The Houston Medical Center, Houston Hobby Airport, Downtown Houston, The Galleria and Greenway Plaza.

 

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Police chief defends cruiser markings

November 12, 2014

 

Manvel’s Chief of Police defended the markings of the city’s fleet of Tahoe cruisers at this week’s city council meeting. Council member Adrian Gaspar asked council to consider directing the city manager to press the chief to use larger, more conspicuous markings for the vehicles. Gaspar has been a police officer for the City of Houston for years and in his appeal used a photo history of Houston’s experience with the issue.

Gaspar feels the markings are not “as bold and big” as previous city cruisers and those used by nearby jurisdictions. He believes when they drive through town people are not clear that it is a police vehicle: “I don’t want any doubt in people’s mind that when that patrol car drives down the street it is not mistaken for being anything else than a police car.”

Mayor Delores Martin disagreed with Gaspar saying she has not heard one negative comment. Citizens have expressed to her “a comfort level when our police Tahoes do come by, they do recognize the car.” She does not feel the same level of conspicuity evident on ambulances and fire trucks is needed on a police vehicle. “Are we going to be so visible that we are going to look like a neon sign?”

Police Chief Keith Traylor explained to council that several officers requested modifying the graphics when the Tahoe’s were ordered last year. What is currently on the vehicles is what they came up with. Traylor said he “let the officers choose (the graphics), they drive it every day, I let them make the decision what they wanted to do.”

Traylor went on to say the members of the department believe “the graphics we have are clean, they look professional, they are not gaudy, they are community oriented, and believe me, they do see them. I have had nothing but positive comments from people in the community on how these cars look. When I drive through the neighborhoods people wave at me, I wave back, and they know I am a police officer. I think the cars show a positive and professional image.”

Member Lew Shuffler conceded there have been several times when he required a second look “to make sure that is a police car.” Saying he is not sure what difference it makes he did say it “is sometimes difficult to tell.” Other members did not see the need to take any action on Gaspar’s request and the matter was closed.

 

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Thomas Pfeiffer appointed as alternate Municipal Court Judge

November 12, 2014

 

Manvel City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Thomas L Pfeiffer as an alternate Municipal Court Judge for the city. Pfeiffer has been an Assistant District Attorney for Fort Bend County since 2007. He also serves as the Municipal Court prosecutor for the city of Hedwig Village, a small residential enclave in Houston’s Memorial area.

Pfeiffer says he does not like judges who have a 9 to 5 approach to their jobs. Saying the worst cases happen after hours, he thinks judges need to be available 24/7 to local law enforcement; “crime is not something that is stagnant,” he says. Pfeiffer loves being a prosecutor saying he did not choose his profession to achieve a “particular tax bracket.” He thinks people are “best at the things they enjoy” and he says he enjoys being a prosecutor and representing criminal victims. He used the same argument in explaining to city council why he wants to be a Municipal Court Judge.

Municipal courts handle criminal cases rated as Class C misdemeanors and include traffic violations for which the maximum fine upon conviction does not exceed $500, and for which no jail term may be assessed. Cases involving violations of city ordinances are also tried in the Municipal Court.

Michael Culling is the city’s primary Municipal Court Judge for Manvel and has served the city since 1996. In addition to his work as a judge Culling operates a private law practice in the city. Pfeiffer would fill in for Culling on the occasions he was unable to make a court date.

 

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Mayor delivers State of the City address

November 19, 2014

 

Manvel Mayor Delores Martin delivered the annual State of the City address last week to an audience sponsored by the Alvin-Manvel Area Chamber of Commerce. The mayor presented an encouraging report on the city and expressed optimism for its future.

Sales tax revenue continues to see an upward trend with 2014 estimates at $1.34 million. Benefiting from the overall strength of the regional economy and an increased tax base from new development, particularly the Lakeland build-out, the city saw an increase in property valuations which allowed the council to decrease its tax rate to .58 per $100 of valuation and still realize a gain in revenue. The fiscal year budget for 2015 projects income and expenditures of $4,840,360, an increase of approximately 19.5% from the previous year. The mayor also boasted of the city’s AA+ bond rating, an indication the city has been managed with good fiscal stewardship in recent years.

The city issued a total of 1,144 permits through the end of September. Among those was 295 residential building permits with a valuation of $72,582,362 and 17 commercial building permits valued at $32,291,036.

Prospects for future development look bright as Lakeland continues to build homes at a steady pace of about 8 each month. To date, Lakeland has completed 146 homes and is currently building in two additional sections with 122 lots. Lakeland is located just north of Manvel High School. Sedona Lakes, just east of state Highway 288 at County Road 101 has 346 competed homes and is also expanding their offerings with additional sections under development. The Pomona project is across 288 from Sedona Lakes, also to be accessed from CR 101, and just this month received permit approval to build model homes. Four sections will soon be ready for building and ultimately the development will see 2100 homes as well as multi-family and commercial development. Home sales will begin in 2015. The Southfork development, north of Pomona and just south of County Road 59 is built out with 850 homes.

The residential growth is stressing area schools and the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) is working to keep pace. A new elementary school opened on County Road 59 and began educating children this school year. A new junior high school continues its construction just north of Manvel High School and is scheduled to open in time for the next school year. A new high school is under construction in Shadow Creek Ranch and while not in Manvel’s ETJ its opening will relieve enrollment pressures at Manvel High School. The scheduled opening is August 2016.

AISD has also begun work on the old Manvel Junior High facility on Lewis Lane for a district wide Career and Technical Education Center (CTE). Design work is underway that will likely lead to a substantial redevelopment of the main junior high structure that will accommodate a more complete CTE facility. It is expected AISD will ask voters to approve a bond referendum in 2015 to fund that project as well as other construction needs the district requires to meet the fast growing areas of west Pearland and Manvel.

The Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has funded the major part of a water and sewer line infrastructure project that will service both the north and south sides along state Highway 6, generally from 1128 to 288. Prospects for commercial and retail development will be greatly enhanced once the infrastructure is in place early in 2015. The MEDC will likely see a more pivotal role as Manvel’s potential for growth becomes ever more attractive to developers and the organization is considering opportunities to increase its revenue base so that additional resources could be used to provide real long-term benefits to Manvel’s citizens.

New businesses opening in the city in 2014 include the Lucky 6 Cut and Shave, Cube Smart, Piece by Piece, H&H Sports Memorabilia, Bierwirth Insurance Agency, Bryson Monument & Lettering, Quilters Corner, Beaver Creek Smokehouse, and Bobbi’s Doggy Day Spa. The CR 58 storage was sold and renamed to Diamond and the storage/CrossFit Manvel expanded their location. John Cox assumed ownership of the Manvel Barber Shop after the passing of his long-time partner Steve Moore and EZ Line expanded with another building of 48,750 square feet added to their campus on Hwy 6.

Currently on-going among city council and the city’s Planning, Development, and Zoning Commission (PD&Z) is a review and rework of the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Thoroughfare Plan. Council also just approved a Charter Review Commission that will be charged with reviewing and tweaking the city charter that was approved by voters in 2011.

Public Works repaired 4.5 miles of roads, completely rebuilding 13,407 feet and overlaying 10,389 feet. Water billings from the city have more than doubled from 2013 levels, attributable to the Lakeland subdivision, and are now at over 350 accounts. Electronic meters have been installed significantly increasing the efficiency of the water department. Infrastructure was increased with 20 new fire hydrants, 7,535 feet of additional water lines, and 6,164 feet of additional sanitary sewer line. New air drops were added at the wastewater treatment facility and repairs were required for just three water leaks and 1 sewer leak this year.

The police department will see three new Tahoe vehicles added to its fleet before the end of the year. Radios are being upgraded and that process is expected to be complete by the end of 2016. All patrol officers are now equipped with tasers, thanks to donations provided by local businesses. A new canine short-term holding facility was constructed at the back of the station on Masters Road and the city continues its inter-local arrangement with the City of Alvin to manage its stray animal issues. Chief Traylor explained that Brazoria County SPCA no longer accepts animals form the city and that the contract with Alvin will help citizens be more easily reunited with their animals and will allow officers to be on the streets more by not having to take animals to Lake Jackson.

Traylor explained an increase in traffic enforcement in school zones and neighborhoods and an increased load in assisting with ordinance enforcement after the resignation of the City Fire Marshal/Code Enforcement Officer earlier in the year. Police responded to 16,849 calls for service and had an average response time to Priority 1 calls of 4 minutes 42 seconds. Traffic stops totaled 4,005 resulting in 2,945 citations/warnings being issued. On accidents, 1 fatality, 41 major, and 220 minor were handled. Officers responded to 321 criminal cases resulting in 125 arrests, 361 animal complaints, and 136 ordinance violations.

Mayor Martin thanked the many people who help the city operate and ended with the promise of a bright future for the city she has presided over for more than 13 years.

 

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Alvin Community College looks to future

November 26, 2014

 

Chosen from more than forty applicants, Dr. Christal Albrecht assumed the presidency of Alvin Community College (ACC) in May of this year. She succeeded Dr. A. Rodney Allbright who had served 38 years as president. Albrecht takes leadership at a time Community Colleges and High School Career and Technical programs are receiving increased emphasis among young people and those looking to change careers. Skyrocketing costs associated with earning a college degree, a more generally recognized notion that not all students are suited for higher education, and increasing confirmation that skilled trades are the hardest jobs to fill are all driving the renewed focus on what was previously known as vocational training.

One of Albrecht’s aims upon assuming the presidency is working to build relationships with local business and industry and to increase the college’s visibility among the communities it serves. Albrecht says she is “shocked by the number of people who don’t know there is a community college here. For me I am on an awareness building campaign, just trying to get the word out that we are here and this college has so much to offer the community and has played and can continue to have a big impact on economic development for this whole region.” In that regard she was invited to make a presentation to Manvel City Council this month. Manvel Mayor Delores Martin introduced Dr. Albrecht as “one of the finest women I have ever met and she is going to do wonderful things with the college. I am blown away by all the opportunities that Alvin College affords.”

Albrecht promotes the college explaining “we pride ourselves on meeting the needs of our community by offering a wide variety of programs, courses, and services to help you build your future, achieve your dreams, and contribute to the continued prosperity of our community.” In fact, the college offers thirteen Associate in Arts, seven Associate of Science, and twenty-two Associate in Applied Science degree programs. It provides over thirty certificate programs and the college’s workforce training division operates over thirty programs for area businesses and industry. Albrecht believes Community Colleges are a “pathway to success” and describes Alvin College as “an investment in the community, we are here for business and industry to provide a trained workforce, and we provide a great return on investment for the communities we serve.”

The college graduated 1100 students in May. The average age of an ACC student is 23 and range in age from 13 to 82. 58% of students are women. According to a college report 83% of enrolled students plan to earn an Associate’s Degree or transfer to a local university to complete bachelor’s degree program. Class sizes are small relative to the state average at a level of about 17 students per each faculty member and the school enjoys excellent pass rates on state license exams.

Albrecht touts the college as “top ranked” as the institution was named three years successively as being among America’s top 10% of community colleges by the Aspen Institute. She describes that “as quite an honor when you consider there are 1,132 community colleges in the US and that ACC was named in that top group.” The recognition is based on student success in retention and completion, performance and improvement over time, and performance of underrepresented minorities and institutions in low-income service areas.

In addition to academic degree programs, which students typically use as a step to higher education, the college offers many technical degree programs that allow students to complete a year or two of study and be able to enter the workforce with a good paying and stable job. Technical degree programs include law enforcement, allied health and nursing, business and technology, and process technology, which Albrecht boasts as very popular for people who want to work in area chemical and refinery plants.

Workforce development programs offer still quicker paths to enter the workforce. People can in just a few months get training in areas like commercial truck driving, massage therapy, and even helicopter flight training. Other workforce development programs include fields such as machinist, computer technician, dental assistant, welding, and a variety of courses in health care.

More than 100 classes are offered online and five academic degrees can be earned entirely online so that students would not have to attend classes on a regular schedule. Various continuing education and workforce development courses can be completed online as well such as real estate and medical transcription.

Dual credit programs are offered to students at area high schools that allow students to enroll in college courses and earn credit that can be applied to their college degrees. Dual credit enrollment in the fall of 2014 showed 523 students from Alvin ISD and 605 students from Pearland ISD. In May of last year 31 students graduated from college with a two-year degree a week before graduating from high school. As Albrecht describes it, “these students are transferring off to colleges and universities as a junior. Pretty phenomenal. We expect that number to continue to grow as more students are fed through the pipeline. Even if they don’t earn a full degree, many of them earn valuable hours that gives them a jump-start on their college career.” Studies show these students are far more likely to complete their college education, which means they will get better jobs and earn more money.

The college offers various leisure and non-degree activities such as computer and software training, personal enrichment, physical fitness, and safety education in areas such as motorcycle riding and concealed handgun training. Additionally, the college provides other areas of cultural enrichment for the community. Performing and visual arts, music, and sports are all part of campus life that are made available for community enjoyment.

The college’s taxing area is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the area comprised by the Alvin Independent School District. In addition to the taxing area, the college has a service area that is legislatively determined that is above and beyond the taxing area. Danbury ISD and parts of Pearland comprise that service area. Students of the college who reside outside the taxing area pay a higher tuition, which is about double the rate for students in district. 45% of students live in the district. Albrecht explains the higher cost “does not cover the full cost of tuition but it does help us recoup some.” In addition to student tuition and fees, the college is funded by local property taxes and money from the state.

The college originated in 1948 when voters in the Alvin Independent School District authorized its creation. In 1971 a separate administration, tax district, and College Board was established to manage a newly created Alvin Junior College District. Up to that time the college’s management was borne by the school district. Initially the college was part of Alvin High School and shared facilities with grades 11 through 14. In 1959 the college successfully met the standards of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and was better supported by additional facilities and a larger faculty.

Alvin Community College moved to its present campus in the summer of 1963 with the construction of buildings to house Academics, Science, and a Student Center. In 1974 voters approved an expansion of the college district that nearly doubled its geographical size and in 1975 voters approved an $8 million bond issue that provided funding for the facilities that generally comprise the campus as it exists today. In 2004 voters approved a $19.2 million bond for the Science/Health Science Building which opened in 2007.

In 2008 the campus experienced significant devastation resulting from Hurricane Ike. College administrators used the misfortune as opportunity, however, and completed a substantial renovation of the campus which had grown tired after more than forty years of service. The Alvin campus today comprises 113 acres and 15 buildings. Enrollment has grown from 134 students in 1949 to nearly 5,000 students in 2014.

In looking toward the future, Albrecht explained the Board of Regents approved the preparation of a facilities master plan that will look at current facilities to determine what should be renovated or repaired, consider possible new buildings for the main Alvin campus, and look toward where the demographic trends are taking the college as it looks to potentially expand to the fast growing west side of the college’s service area. “We think there could really be a need for us to be over there,” she says. She also will be looking at what services the college should be offering at the Alvin campus and at a potential second location. She does expect the college to consider a bond election as funding would be required to realize any expansion of facilities.

Albrecht is hopeful of soon selling the college’s Pearland campus which was abandoned due to a lack of economic viability. That campus has been for sale for some time but only recently has a more determined effort been undertaken with the hiring of a professional broker to effectively market the site. Funds from that sale could be used to perhaps acquire the land for a new location.

 

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